Musically speaking, Cris Jacobs is hard to pigeonhole. Throughout his decade with his band The Bridge and now as a solo artist, Jacobs has covered several different genres, including funk, soul, blues and Americana.
Jmore recently caught up with Jacobs to discuss his upcoming record, “Dust to Gold,” his perspective on the music industry and how faith impacts his work.
“Dust to Gold” is your second solo album. What was the process making this record?
It’s been a very busy time so we were just trying to find the time between touring, and we cranked it out in three trips. Some of the songs were sitting around for a year or two; some of them are more recent. As for the band itself, John Ginty plays keyboards, the rhythm section [Todd Harrington on bass and Dusty Ray Simmons on drums] are old buddies of mine.
You posted a new song on Facebook, “Turn Into Gold.” It’s got a raw, stripped-down sound to it.
It’s always weird to release just one song because I think they all fit together, and it can give people a wrong picture of the whole record. That particular song has that feel because of the way we recorded it, and we didn’t feel the need to add anything to it. “Turn Into Gold” is about the lyrics, so I wanted that to be more of the focus.
What do you want to achieve with this record?
As an artist, I just want to keep making music, and this is just a piece to that puzzle. It’s a snapshot of what I’ve been doing, and it’s new material to go out and play. It’s a bunch of songs that really captured the past few years of my life.
You found out your wife was pregnant right before recording the album. Did this affect your songwriting process?
There is a song on the record called “Little Dreamer.” It began as just a musical framework, and I ended up writing it as a lullaby to my unborn child. Having a child for me is a wonderful and beautiful next chapter. I don’t know what I’m in for [laughs] but I’m just trying to stay open-hearted.
You have some upcoming Bridge shows. Outside of the occasional show, can we expect anything more from The Bridge?
I love those guys, but no there are no long-term future plans, except to have fun. I still play with them all in different settings. When you’re in a band with someone for 10 years, it’s a connection that runs deeper than any connection you make in your life. We’re fortunate that people in Baltimore appreciate us. As far as getting back together, you’d have to ask the other guys, but I’ll never say never.
What’s your take on today’s music industry?
We used to feel pressure because record companies have all the power to fit you into their mold. Now, with the accessibility an independent artist can have for free with the internet, it’s a wide-open game. Artists are now much more self-sufficient and starting their own labels. The power has shifted, and it’s liberating.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue music?
It was around when I was 15. I remember playing alone in my room to [Eric] Clapton’s records. I went to college and it stayed in the back of my mind.
Describe Baltimore’s contemporary music scene.
It’s great! People are so appreciative of live music in this city. There are a lot of really talented people in this city. Baltimore can hang with some of the bigger and well-known music cities.
Baltimore means a lot to me. There’s such a strong sense of roots here, which I don’t see in many other places. It has heart and character. As far as how the city has supported me, it’s been the biggest support system starting from The Bridge to my own thing. I’ve thought about moving away but at the same time, I feel honest and humble here.
Does your spirituality affect your music?
I wouldn’t call myself a super observant or a devout Jew. However, growing up Jewish, a lot of those values resonate with me. I was raised on that, and it formed me as a person.
Music is my source of prayer, and it really connects me to the closest thing I’ll experience to God.
Cris Jacobs’ album “Dust to Gold” will be released Oct. 21 on American Showplace Records. You can pre-order the album on his website, crisjacobs.com. The Cris Jacobs Band will perform Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills, with Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers. For information, call 410-356-7489 or visit gordoncenter.com.
Brett Kurpit is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
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