Four months ago, when I quit my job to focus on music journalism, I set myself the goal of going on a digital adventure to search for people like me. Those who prioritize the love of art and creativity above everything else, especially cheap fame. Despite the financial troubles these past few months I have come to the conclusion that this experience was a blessing in disguise. This risk has had given me the opportunity to talk to and get to know some of the most inspiring people, one of those people is Jeff Gladstone.
Jeff Gladstone is a singer, songwriter, actor and overall fantastic human being, who has an abundance of amazing projects under his belt that has all honestly blown me out of the water. A particular project of his that has really moved me is Jeff Gladstone & The Bad Ideas with his album “WANTED”.
I initially learned about Jeff Gladstone through his work in the Summer Shakespeare festival that is held here in Vancouver called Bard on The Beach. Right off the bat, I hold huge respect towards anyone who is able to brilliantly present Shakespeare, I have been attending this festival in particular for many years now, but have only recently stumbled across Jeff and his brilliance just this summer — side note: if you’re ever in the Vancouver area in the summer, be sure to check out a show or two, they are so well done and amazing (even if you’re not a Shakespeare nerd like me). By connecting on social media, it was then when I learned that not only is he an actor, but also a brilliant singer-songwriter.
Being the nosey gal I am, I had to learn more about “Jeff Gladstone & The Bad Ideas”, what are these bad ideas? and thank god I am not the only one making them. Thankfully, Jeff was kind enough to share, and alas it flowed into this really cool conversation about life, love, art and Cowboy Noir. I was quick to discover that Cowboy Noir is exactly what it sounds like, sultry-bluesy-jazz with a twist, a focus that I found to be on the vulnerability of human emotions. The strength it takes to not only be vulnerable with another person, but with the world when sharing your art. This is something I truly appreciate and has coincidentally been the “thesis” of my summer discovering myself as a writer. Safe to say I was excited to learn more about what another person’s thoughts and experience with this topic.
Before we get into my mini interview with the man himself, I want to discuss the album attached to “Jeff Gladstone & The Bad Ideas” and why I am so intrigued by it. For starters, no, it’s not hard-rock, metal or even rock for that matter. The album would fall more into the jazz-bluesy category with heavy theatre-like-influences, so why am I so into it? probably my love for powerful writing, as well as my other love of bluesy-folk. The opener of the album,“How Big Is Your Heart?”, sets the tone of dark, sultry, and vulnerability that I mentioned before — it breaks down the idea of no matter how painful and scary love is, its something we crave, and well, it hit the feels for me. That’s a very relatable topic to me, so I was ready to buckle down and on this Cowboy Noir ride.
The record proceeds to take you on this journey of heartache and self-reflection, two well-known themes in a good blues record. However, the cleverness of this album is that unlike most albums, Jeff has collaborated with musician and songstress Bonnie Northgraves, giving this male vs female dichotomy that ultimately teaches us the vulnerability of love is a trait in all genders.
With songs like “I Never Say No” and “The Smoking Gun” (one of my favourites on the album), there’s this tug and pull between both lovers that create a blur of who is really the victim in the torments of love, is there really a specific victim or do both partners typically end up burned when caught up the fire of love?
Over the course of a month I got the opportunity to not only dissect the album “WANTED”, but as well as get to know the creative brain behind this cowboy noir aesthetic. This album opened a whole new door of music that I did not know existed, I wanted to know more. Sadly half the interview is missing because I was unaware that iPhones only screen record facetime/skype and not regular phone calls — forever kicking my own ass over this. Thankfully, Jeff is a kind soul who guided me back to this missing pieces of our conversation.
DA: I read on your page, that you started writing when travelling around Europe and The Middle East, had you already been writing and performing before these travels? or was it the cultural experiences that inspired you to pick up the pen?
JG: “I had written a handful of songs before this trip.. that I went on with my brother .. 5 months around Europe and the Middle East. After weighing the pros and cons I decided to bring my guitar on the trip. Carried it everywhere. We made change busking in Europe.. and met some of our favourite people that way. I wrote, with my brother mostly, about 12 songs on that trip… was so inspired by the various cultures we were immersed in.. especially in Turkey and Egypt.. we met some fellow travellers who were from B.C. and travelled 2 weeks with them, I wrote a few songs with them too. When I came home, two things happened. I played the songs for some friends in a band and they suggested I get a weekly at this local cafe. Then… I had taken African drum lessons before I left, and that teacher, Dr.Onyee Nwankpaa, invited me to start a new band with him: Odiche: Afro Folk Ensemble. But that kind of launched me into playing more music and writing more songs. This was all while I was at the University of Calgary where I studied theatre.”
DA: if you don’t mind me asking… since that was while you were studying theatre, did it ever occur to you to change your major to music? or were you enjoying the contrast of studying theatre while playing music?
JG: Of course, I don’t mind. It’s been the dilemma that’s kinda followed me my whole life. After 2 years of general studies, I took this trip and planned to decide where I wanted to focus by the end. I was on a beach in Eilat… and decided that I wanted to get back travelling as soon as possible and if I did a drama major I’d be done in 2 years!
That was also when I started doing improv… my other love. So all through those years I was studying acting at uni, some jazz classes and writing music, and joined the improv theatre, Loose Moose, where I learned about making theatre…
My musician friends were always telling me I should focus on acting, my theatre friends would tell me I should focus on music. So I never felt fully a part of either group..”
DA: So was it this “outsider” feeling, for the lack of a better word, what inspired “cowboy noir”? Which by the way, I didn’t know I needed in my life before hearing your album. It honestly blew my mind, the sultry jazz mixture with an essence of a theatre-like-storytelling is damn cool. What is Cowboy Noir to you?
He agreed that cowboy noir captures the balance of feeling like an outsider in both the music scene and acting world. “also as a way to combine my interest in theatre and music, to present the music as a character… I also found writing songs based in an alternate reality, imagine a different world where classical and gothic motifs interact with contemporary feelings…”
On top of “Jeff Gladstone & The Bad Ideas”, and Bard on The Beach, Jeff will be in the upcoming Canadian film “Kingsway” that will premier at the Toronto Film Festival this September! The Canadian Rom-Com is directed and written by fellow Vancouverite Bruce Sweeney. Jeff shares “ Bruce Sweeney is a Vancouver filmmaker who uses a lot of improv in developing his scripts and shooting them. I was part of giving input into the script all along the process. It was so great to be able to use my improv background in a feature film… it also features original songs by Colleen Rennison (No Sinner) and a ton of other local bands like The Zolas, Destroyer…” Yup, not only is he in the film, but he also helped produce it and the film Kingsway will also feature a song from the album “WANTED”!
Keep up with the film Kingsway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to find out when you can watch it outside of the festival!
“Sweeney’s acidic domestic comedy/drama Kingsway is a hilarious portrait of a family minding everybody’s business.
Matt (Jeff Gladstone) drives by a motel and spots a motorcycle belonging to his wife Lori (Colleen Rennison). Later, at a birthday dinner for his mom Marion (Gabrielle Rose), Lori explains she was visiting a friend who was in town to attend to her dying mother.
The anxiety prone Matt happily buys the story. Marion and her no-nonsense car mechanic daughter Jess (Camille Sullivan) do not. And they’ll be the judge of the truth and what’s to be done about it.
Before this war of mixed signals is over, there’ll be a suicide attempt, a pregnancy of uncertain paternity, multiple sexual awakenings, and some kick-ass blues rock tunes.”
Film, music, improv, art. This was what I was on a quest for this summer! People who have been to make a living with their creativity, I need this inspiration in my life to remind me that wanting to be a writer isn’t far-fetched. I wish I was able to quote Jeff by verbatim, but he shared with me that he was interested in recording a more rock album one day, as he doesn’t restrict himself to a genre. Knowing that people are out there fulfilling their creative fantasies by doing film, theatre, music, every art under the stars, as well as be willing to delve into genres/categories they haven’t done before, reminded me that both art and artists are not restricted to one element.
Whether it be writing, music, acting, photography, etc, we, as a society, are lucky to not only live in a time to have access to such things but to practice them freely — so when times get tough, pick up another creative tool, just don’t stop expressing yourself! Creative people are the pinnacle of existence, and I am a firm believer that everyone has a creative side if they allow themselves to try new things and let themselves make mistakes along the way.
Thank you to Jeff Gladstone for taking the time out of his crazy busy schedule to have a chat with me! Thank you to every other artist who has done the same this summer and a massive thank you to everyone who has been reading, liking, following and donating!! You have all majorly contributed to my will to keep writing and keeping my blog functioning these past few months. It’s been rough at times but, again, it’s all of you who legitimize my aspirations to be a writer. Like Jim Morrison sang, “Music is your only friend until the end…”
Stream “WANTED” on Spotify
Until next time interwebs 🕸