Wish You Were Here
It goes like this: you fall in love with music. You listen to the radio like the DJ is pouring the music right into your head. One day you think "How hard can it be to do this myself?" and you pick up a guitar. If you're Jeff Eaton, you're only nine years old when you get that guitar, and you're in your first band by the seventh grade. Jeff grew up in Oregon - "wild, to put it mildly" - and stayed wild into adulthood. He partied hard, and music was always there. "We'd go to the bars, get drunk, go home and get our guitars, go back to the bar and play," he says of his days in Mississippi. So when it was time to clean up his life and ditch the drugs and the drinking, music had to go, too. Cleaning up meant leaving his old life: the people, the places he used to hang out, and the music. "When you're getting away from something, when you're trying to get to a safe zone, you go as far as you can in the opposite direction," he says. It was eight years before Jeff could come back to music without worrying it might pull him back over to the wrong side of the road. When he did, he was tougher and wiser, and had a deep wish to reach people, relate to them and comfort them through music. Deciding that "music isn't just a bunch of fun and games," he teamed up with Top-40 producer Ken Mary (who has worked with Trik Turner, Alice Cooper, The Phunk Junkeez, and LaRue) for his debut release, the approachable, thoughtful "Wish You Were Here." The album is polished, warm and distinctly American: rootsy guitar, soaring harmonies and earnest vocals layered over driving rock. The album's candid lyrics and passionate, yearning songs tap into Jeff's struggle of getting his life back under control: "They're about some of the helplessness and powerlessness I felt when I was trying to walk away from that life," he says. They're also intimately connected with his own faith, which gave him the strength he needed to clean up his life. "I don't want to just preach to the choir," he says. "I like to write songs you can't pigeonhole, not just praise and worship songs. That's where the subtlety comes in. People can take a lot from the songs - there's enough there that when they think about it, they think 'Hey, he wasn't just talking about my relationship with my girlfriend,' or whatever." Ultimately, though, the songs are meant to make a connection. "People get overwhelmed sometimes by an emotion, and they can only feel relieved if they can find music that completely captures it. I know how they feel; I've been there."