In our latest installment of ’11 Questions with…’ column, we are excited to feature Jeffrey Dean Foster. We reached out to him a few months ago with 11 questions for this column. He is a gifted songwriter, singer, guitarist and more. We want to publicly thank him for taking the time out of his schedule to answer these questions for us here at YTAA!
Jeffrey has been making some of the most thoughtful and energetic music being made anywhere over four decades. His music encompasses a compassion that is direct and reflective. Jeffrey is able to create rock, folk, alt-country among other genres that feels inviting and invigorating. His touch with a lyric demonstrates both his fresh insight and a call for recognizing the connection and community that we all have a place we can call home together. Add the swirl of electric guitars, bass, drums and keyboards to the mix and then the music feels like an invocation!
Jeffrey Dean Foster has been making music in a prestigious list of bands for quite some time: The Right Profile, The Carneys and The Pinetops are on his resume! He has had an active solo career as well. The Right Profile was sought after and signed by Clive Davis for Arista Records. In these groups and in his solo work, he has created music that tells stories about the social bonds that hold us together even when we do not feel that comfort. His latest record, ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ is being released on vinyl this weekend for Record Store Day (on Saturday, June 12 this year). All proceeds from vinyl sales will go to support The Shalom Project based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina – an organization that supports families in need. Chris Stamey, The Veldt and The Backsliders are all releasing EPs for The Shalom Project as well. On July 30th ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ will be made available on CD and on all streaming platforms.
‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ channels an inner dialogue over how to combat cruelty and a loss of compassion. Like so many of us, Jeffrey Dean Foster watched the social protests following George Floyd’s murder and he felt the need to respond to the inhumanity and hostility of that senseless death. ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ is a musical response to that loss. While wide-eyed and recognizing the challenge in creating change and reimagining healthy communities, the songs on this record move between an almost pastoral, agrarian feel to passionate Big Star and Kinks influenced rock and roll. Several of the songs, while hopeful, carry the weight of the difficult worlds we find ourselves challenged to change and remake.
Dr. J: What can you share with us about when and how you started writing your latest music?
Jeffrey Dean Foster (JDF): I never really stopped writing but this past pandemic year did give me some impetus to focus a few things. Having the world kind of stop and be still had it’s good points.
Dr. J: You worked closely with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, what led to your recording with them?
JFD: I’ve known them for 35 years. Dixon was one of the first “rock stars” that would talk to me when I’d go see his totally rocking band Arrogance. They had really great songs AND they were gloriously loud in the clubs. Mitch produced the very first record that I ever made around 1982. Since then Mitch and Don have been involved in almost every record I’ve ever made in one form or another. Dixon produced a tape that ultimately got my first band [The Right Profile] signed to Arista Records. Mitch has mixed my last two albums (‘Million Star Hotel’ and ‘The Arrow’) They are just trusted friends that I can call on for musical or life advice.
Dr. J: Tell Somebody is a personal favorite, so I am naturally curious about it. The song is compelling and driving musically. The lyrics seem very optimistic. Did you set out to write a song about human connection when starting to work on that song?
JDF: I think I was alone at home one night and some fave musician had just died. That of course is going to keep happening with more and more frequency as time marches on. My last album The Arrow seemed to have a lot to do with mortality and we lost a lot of friends in the years leading up to it. Most of Tell Somebody came really quickly as just a wake up call to reach out to your pals and loved ones before you can’t.
Dr. J: Headin’ Home also addresses other connection and the comfort of home – is that a correct interpretation of some of the lyrics and feel of the song? In addition, if that is correct, did you intend to address connection, love, and community or did the song evolve in that direction over time?
JFD: Headin’ Home was definitely a product of the pandemic lock down way of life. I just started playing and singing about homebound snapshots. It’s a bit of a laugh. I recorded it all real quick and then made an entire video on my iPhone in several hours. It was pretty tossed off but it kind of inspired me to see that I could do that, record something at home that folks might wanna hear.
Dr. J: How did the ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’ record come together musically for you?
JDF: After week after week of police brutality last spring and summer I wanted to get something out of me. I didn’t know if anyone would ever hear it or even if they should hear what a white singer songwriter had to say about any part of the black experience. I thought a lot about that and almost thought that it shouldn’t see the light of day. After talking to some friends I came to terms with it. Michael Kurtz from Record Store Day heard the song and came back with the idea of putting it out as a vinyl EP for Record Store Day. We decided that it would be a benefit for The Shalom Project where I work. I help run a free medical clinic, food pantry and clothing closet there. We even talked some of my other NC friends into contributing an EP for the cause. My old friend Tabitha Soren of MTV News fame had the perfect photo for the album cover too.
Dr. J: Where do you often derive inspiration to make music?
JDF: I live out in the woods on a lake and every window I look out shows me some kind of nature and wildlife. I don’t end up writing songs about that wildlife but I think it makes me feel part of something larger than me. A lot of my songs can be pretty internal and puzzling and I like that. The songs that are making up the ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ record are probably the most straightforward and external that I’ve written. More outward looking than inward.
Dr. J: How would you describe the music that you typically create? How has that process evolved or changed over time (especially as you think about your journey from ‘I’m Starting To Bleed’)?
JDF: I’m not the one to tell you much about the songs that I come up with. I’ve think people that I like write songs because they can’t talk about the ideas or emotions in them. I’m totally fine with art not spelling things out for me, whether it’s Bob Dylan or David Lynch. I’ll tell you one bit of trivia though. When I was writing and recording I’m Starting to Bleed I wanted something almost like a Smokey Robinson song but with a healthy shadow of dread. Of course, I can’t come anywhere close to Smokey but that was something to shoot for.
Dr. J: What is next for you musically? How would you describe your thoughts at this point for your next project after I’m Starting To Bleed? You can read an early review from The Big Takeover.
JDF: I have some other tracks already mixed and I’d like to finish a few more and make a new full length JDF album. ‘I’m Starting to Bleed’ feels like a kind of special record. Everything about it could have only happened in this weird time of 2020/2021.
Dr. J: What is your favorite song to perform? What makes it a current favorite in your performances?
JDF: Well nobody is performing much these days. I have a song called ‘So Lonesome I Could Fly’ that I’ve probably played more than any other. It’s had a full life, from being covered by Marti Jones to being included in the soundtrack to the Ang Lee film ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ I still don’t get tired of playing it.
Dr. J: What is one message you would hope that listeners find in the unique nature of your latest music?
JDF: Any message that listeners can tune into is fine with me. If they feel anything, you’ve succeeded in some way. I just know that music that affected me during my life just got under my skin and now is just part of me. I mean ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by The Kinks might as well be tattooed on me. It’s that much a part of me.
Dr. J: As a musician, how are you adapting to the challenges of the Coronavirus?
JDF: I’ve done some streaming shows that some very professional and careful people having arranged. Playing on good looking stages and filming and recording the happening and then beaming it out to the internet. I have no desire to try and take some dumb shortcut and try and get folks packed into a club scene. I’m comfortable out here in the woods too!
You can follow Jeffery Dean Foster on various social media including:
We want to extend our sincere gratitude to Jeffrey for answering our questions and continuing to make some really excellent music! Click on the links throughout the article to visit Jeffrey’s Bandcamp page! If any musicians or artists would like to participate in future ’11 Questions’ columns, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos and images courtesy of Jeffrey Dean Foster.