INTERVIEWS JEFFREY HALFORD
HOW DO YOU SPELL CAJONES?It was a sweet relief catching up to JEFFREY HALFORD. We had tried getting together for an interview before, but there had been some kind of over sight, due to the demands of being a father of two children. The interview was rescheduled. I waited by the phone. It never rang. I looked to the e-mail that confirmed the interview for five in the evening, but it was confirmed with the guy's manager and not JEFFREY. That can be a problem at times. Rather than wait around, I had other pieces to write. At 5:35, I get a call. It's JEFFREY, calling from an all-star game for one of his kids."It's good to finally talk to you!"
ROOTS ROCK TROUBADOUR JEFFERY HALFORD
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HIS CD 'BROKEN CHORD'
GROWING UP ALL OVER THE PLACE
AND THE LIGHTNING ROD OF INSPIRATION
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
As a child, HALFORD grew up from town to town, up and down the state of California, as his a father, COLIN, was always looking for the next great opportunity, in terms of work. The constant moving proved difficult on the family and difficult for the young HALFORD, yet he looks back on it with a smile. "It was pretty crazy and always moving around was a drag," says HALFORD. "but on the other hand I look back and that's who you are. Thats who I am."
One can deduce that it was the music of his youth that got him through. Alongside the jazz music that his father got lost in with complete abandon, there was the music of the sixties and seventies from the likes of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, JONI MITCHELL, and numerous others. "When I was a kid, AM radio was playing fantastic shit. Anywhere from MARVIN GAYE to whatever." reminisces HALFORD. "It was so diverse. Now, it's really bizzare."
JEFFERY HALFORD and his band THE HEALERS have released their latest CD 'BROKEN CHORD' (SHOELESS RECORDS) to widespread acclaim with MIKE BERRICK of NO DEPRESSION declaring that "Broken Chord again highlights his strengths as a talented wordsmith with the soul of a rugged roadhouse rocker." BRIAN BAKER of HARP MAGAZINE writes "After five critically acclaimed albums, Jeffrey Halford has little to prove at this point. He's got a crack band in the Healers, he plays viseral guitar with slinky abandon and writes rootsy swampy blues songs that sting and soothe equally. Halford continues his quality streak with 'Broken Chord.'"
In speaking with HALFORD, he confessed that he had never written anything political before, but had felt inspired to write songs with a political slant once he and millions of others had witnessed the devastation in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina and the devastatingly slow response of our own Government. "I wrote two tunes about the whole situation because I was pissed." remembers HALFORD. "Everybody was pissed. At least I hoped that everyone was pissed at how our Government responded to that whole thing. New Oreleans is like our musical sacred ground, right?"
Aside from the critical acclaim generated by 'BROKEN CHORD', HALFORD is pleased with how this labour of love - recorded in four days - is doing saleswise. "It went up to number twelve on the Americana Charts, which is great!
ROCKWIRED was keeping JEFFREY from a game so we got as much out of fifteen minutes as we could. Here is how it went.
Well the CD is doing well! How do you feel about the work you've put into it now that it's behind you in a sense?
That's good question. I wrote tunes at that time and that was what came out. It was a different period for me. I sat around for a couple of years and I wrote those tunes. Now that it's behind me, you look back and you think if you can make a better record. What was interesting about BROKEN CHORD is that it was done live, so I look back on it and I think "hey, that was great!" It was a great experience. I went into FANTASY STUDIOS to record it. That was where CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL and SANTANA cut their stuff. I did a live recording and I hired AUGGIE MEYERS to come in and record it with me. He's a good friend of mine who I play out with quite a bit. That album just had a great live vibe. That's the best part about rock n roll for me. You kind of have an idea of what it's going to be and then all of a sudden - bam! It's like a painter. You start out with an idea and you never know how it's going to be and I love that. That's how it was for this record. I had a really good producer to help with the fidelity of it. BROKEN CHORD was the best record for me as far as fidelity was concerned
Why the title BROKEN CHORD?
At the time that whole HURRICANE KATRINA thing had pissed me off so bad and I just kind of felt like needed to write something about that. It was the first time that I had ever written anything political. I've never written politically. So I wrote two tunes about the whole situation because I was pissed. Everybody was pissed. At least I hoped that everyone was pissed at how our Government responded to that whole thing. New Oreleans is like our musical sacred ground, right? I kind of felt BROKEN CHORD tied in with the music and it tied in with how things fell apart. I tried coming up with something enticing for a title and that was what I got. It just seemed natural.
It sounds natural. Is your band THE HEALERS a set group of people or does it change with time and the release of every album?
My bass player (PAUL OLGUIN) is this cat I always use. He's been on all of the records. As far as drummers go, on BROKEN CHORD, I used the same drummer (JIM NORRIS) that I use for my live shows. On all of the other albums, I had kind of switched around drummers, just because there are so many good drummers up here in the Bay Area. It's a real nice treat to be able to bring a new feel everytime, but for BROKEN CHORD, I thought 'why don't I use the same drummer?' It was very important to me that this album have a strong live vibe to it. I didn't do a ton of overdubs. I got really tired of that and I just did it. I did go back and redo a few vocals, but in general it was pretty much live.
You're originally from Texas.
Yeah, I was born in Dallas.
In what I've read, it was mentioned that growing up, your family moved around, constantly.
Oh god, yeah! I did spend a long period of time in Southern California from elementary school up until my first year in high school. My old man was a pretty big drinker but he was a smaart cat and he really loved music, but he was up and down with shit. It was pretty crazy and always moving around was a drag, but on the other hand, I look back and that's who you are. Thats who I am.
I was really about to compliment your parents on what their interest were. Despite the poverty and the fucked up situations, they actually sounded like very cool people.
They sound like the kind of people I'd love to have as nextdoor neighbors, if they stayed long enough.
When I was growing up, my parents would throw these fantastic cocktail parties. The music would go all night long. My dad was just full of stories. He was a character. He probably started me off. He'll keep you up until four in the morning drinking and telling you stories. He knew alot. The guy was smart. He got an economic degree from SOUTH METHODIST UNIVERSITY in Texas, but he grew up in Vancouver and was a sports guy. He actually saw LOUIS JORDAN play. You know LOUIS JORDAN?
LOUIS JORDAN was the guy that did shit like 'CALDONIA' or 'AIN'T NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS'. He was like this big swing guy that played the saxophone. If you ever look him up, his songs were fantastic. My dad also liked guys like BENNY GOODMAN and he was a huge RAY CHARLES freak. We lived in L.A. at the time. While we were listening to BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD, he was listening to DAVE BRUBECK which was cool. That west coast jazz thing was kind of a cool movement. We had really cool paintings in the house and that wierd BRUBECK jazz playing. I think at that time, America was really at this high art level.
It was, and now it's like non-existent.
I know. It was like we were listening to our music and we listened to his music but there was this really high level of creativity. It was a nice time to grow up. When I was a kid, AM radio was playing fantastic shit. Anywhere from MARVIN GAYE to whatever. It was so diverse. Now, it's really bizare.
It's not albums anymore. It's i-pods.
I've heard that vinyl's coming back real heavy.
I hadn't noticed.
My distributor was telling me that. There are a bunch of young bands putting there stuff out on vinyl. That's cool! I might want to release one of my records on vinyl.
That would be interesting and just by looking at the number of tracks that you have on 'BROKEN CHORD', I think it would work. You've got ten songs on it and I remember that vinyl would have five songs on one side and five songs on the other. Twenty songs on a CD is too much.
It is. BROKEN CHORD was one of those cool old records where we did it in four days, did a little touch up and it was done. It was a nice vibe. Unlike alot of my other records, that I had spent so much time on. Sometimes spending too much time on a record can be your demise.
Four days! Wow!
It was recorded very quickly. I think the key to making a great record is to go have a band or a songwriter go in for two weeks of solid rehearsal. Just get really rehearsed. Get really queued up and then go into the studio and record it. Go in really tuned up as opposed to going in like "Aw man! I don't know what I'm doing! What should we do here?" When you have a real concrete idea about what you're going to do, you save money and your tracks are kick ass. Then when you have a new idea in the studio you can add it on later. That's my advice. It's called pre-production instead of going and pissing away all of that money. It was great! We went into the studio for three or four days and it was done. I'm forty six years old now and being that old that didn't hurt.
How does a song get written for you? Is it something that can be explained?
It happens in a lot of ways. I'm going to take a song as an example, like ROCK-A-BILLY BRIDE. I wrote this poem and I noticed that it had this fun sort of comedic bounce to it and then I matched the music up to it. I had written that poem a year before I had put any music to it. A couple of my songs were written that way. Then there are songs are songs like RUNNING CRAZY which were written in nine minutes. Then there are the ones that sit around for years where you write half of the song and it sits around for three or four years, and then it's finally finished. Those are the ways a song gets written. I kind of enjoy the constant quest of trying to get a song written. I just wrote a song recently that I'm going to put out on my website. It's song of hope and I wrote it pretty quickly. It was actually music that I had written years ago that had a great groove. That's what is cool about being an artist. Let's say that I had written a song before and part of the song worked and it didn't come to fruition. Later, you can go back and say 'oh that riff was kind of cool!' So you put that riff on the shelf and that riff becomes a keeper and maybe it can be used for something else in the future. I had originally written a song during the first Gulf War. Remember that war?
Oh yeah. With the first BUSH. Funny how that stuff seems to run in the family.
Absolutely. Anyway, I had this song written called 'LOVE SONGS (NOT WAR SONGS)'. I only played it out a couple of times. It didn't really work, but it had this great chord progression and now that OBAMA is running, there are all of these great things that can possibly happen with this country. It's really empowering. He's basically saying that we can do this together and shit. So anyway, I used a piece of that music and made something new out of it. It was actually inspired by an interesting situation where I was up in Sonoma Valley. Have you ever been up there?
Actually, I haven't.
You're down there by Southern California?
Well, if you ever get the chance, go on up there. It's beautiful! Anyway, I was cruising down the road and I saw this guy on top of this eucalyptus tree, which was kind of chopped up, and he tied this giant American flag on top. It was big and it was windy that day and it was kind of a tattered flag and I thought 'Fuck! That's amazing!' It was windy and it was very dramatic and I thought to myself 'Hey, you know? We were a country that was respectable. Lets act like it.' So that was what inspired this new song. The bottom line for getting a song written is that I have to have a lightning rod of inspiration. It's gotta be something that really gets underneath my cajones. You know what I mean?
I think I've got a title for this interview.
(Laughs) I knew if I said something it would come back and hit me.
Don't worry, I can't even spell cajones.
Well, I've gotta get back to this all-star game.
One more question. What would like a person to come away with after hearing this CD?
What I tried to do on this CD is put in some pieces to make them think about the whole Louisiana situation and about how I felt, but I didn't want to overwhelm them with that. So they're going to come away feeling like they were on a journey. You're going to think some, you're going to laugh some, and you might cry some.