Jer Coons is a bright and talented musician with a great sense of humor. If you get the chance I highly recommend that you check out his bio. It’s on his website and it begins with the sentence: “Jer Coons would have won American Idol, but he slept thru the audition.” His music is light, catchy, and really gets in your head. Lyrically he draws on his personal experiences and his album “Speak” will win you over with his honest words about life. He will be playing at the Ann Arbor folk music festival on Friday, January 29th at the Hill Auditorium. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and was able to find out a bit more about who Jer Coons is.
What made you want to pick up a guitar and learn to play?
My dad always played guitar in bands when he was growing up and was a total gear head. There were always guitars lying around the house and my mother played piano. I just gravitated more toward the guitar. I really liked the aesthetics of it and I really liked the idea of rock n’ roll. So when I was around 5 years old I started begging my dad for a guitar and for my 6th birthday he surprised me with a little Fender guitar that was a three quarter scale. But I was 6 and really didn’t have the dexterity or any sort of attention span to stick with it. Then it pretty much collected dust till I was 11 and then I finally got bit by the bug and fell for it and I’ve been playing ever since.
So you came from a pretty musical family.
Yeah, definitely everyone in my family plays music and my mom’s entire family they all sing. So I definitely grew up with a lot of music in the house. I loved all the early Beatles music so that definitely shaped my ear for sugary sweet melodies and harmony.
Are the Beatles one of your major influences?
Yeah Absolutely, I think what’s funny about the Beatles is they were so massively influential and so big and so broad and covered such a large range of sound. Even the people who say they’re not influenced by the Beatles are because the bands that they’re influenced by were influenced by the Beatles. It’s funny to trace so much of it back to just one singular band that really made such a dent in music in an 8 year time period. I am definitely shaped by them and am not afraid to admit it.
On your website, did you write your own bio? It was pretty funny.
Yeah I did. It was out of necessity to begin with. I’ve always tried to write silly bios because for one, I don’t take myself too seriously. Reason two, because I think it’s more fun and if someone were to read it on a listing on a website for a venue in their town, it might influence them if they were on the fence about coming to the show. I wrote the bio because it’s really your only ability to make a statement to the crowd and I want it to be indicative to my personality.
Is this your first album?
Yeah, this is my first full length record. I had a couple of independent releases that were shorter and I played everything on them. This time I put a band together with some Vermont musicians that I really respected and I really succumbed to the idea. So I wanted to put together a really solid band and I circled the reality of being a solo artist where my name is also the band name. You’re not allowed to really say hey I’m gonna rock you as a solo artist. So I’ve always loved the idea of being in a band. I put this band together for my solo project. I really wanted to make it a full band effort and I really wanted the sound to be influenced by all the band members. So this is my first official release and I’m really, really proud of it.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
I just got back from LA and went to this thing called NAMM which is the National Association of Music Merchants. I played in this booth for a friend of mine who builds analog guitar pedals. It’s full of every guitar brand and every manufacturer in the world and they have the best and latest gear. I’m walking around and I see the likes of Bootsy Collins and Ricky Scaggs that was hugely inspiring and also humbling. So my first guitar from when I was six it was signed by Nelson; you know, the twin sons of Ricky Nelson. My dad had it signed he had got me the guitar in Nashville and had it signed by them and it said; To Jeremy, Happy Birthday from Nelson. They signed it and had written their names on it. When I was in LA this past weekend, I walked out of the show and I was tired and had been in the booth playing guitar all day. I walk out and Matthew and Gunnar Nelson are sitting on a bench like four feet from me and I’m like you guys are Nelson! They’re like yeah, yeah we are Nelson. I told them my first guitar is signed by you. It sort of blew my mind because they signed it on my 6th birthday and said Happy Birthday keep playing or something like that. They introduced themselves, they were super nice and they asked if I was still playing and I said yes definitely. Then I sort of had that moment where I was like wow, I’m 3000 miles from my house and I ran into the guys who signed my first guitar. But then other than that I’ve had the good fortune of touring around and the second I decided to make music my full time gig I have never had to hold a full time job. I’m lucky now to be at 21 to be in a position where music is all I have to do and it’s exactly what I want to do. I’m able to sustain and thrive as a guitarist, it’s really awesome. I’m so excited to be doing what I’m doing and so grateful to be in the position that I’m in. Part of me is just as much in disbelief and in awe of the fact that it’s happening.
Besides music what else do you like to do?
I’m an artist across the board. I’m really passionate about graphic design and I’m a total geek I love Typography and I’m really into fonts and am particular about certain fonts that I like. I laid out the artwork for my CD and I try and have a hand in the visual design. I design all my t-shirts. I definitely feel like graphic design and visual art are tumultuous and unpredictable and certainly not a fall back in conventional means. I think that if I were not to play music I would definitely do design all the time. So I paint a lot, I do a lot of drawing, and I do a lot of computer design stuff.
Now for the most important question; if you could have a super power what would it be?
It would be time travel related because I think everyone has a little desire to travel throughout time. But I also think that largely time travel is a bit of a lazy sort of excuse for someone that doesn’t want to make change in their day to day. So in that sense I don’t regret not being able to time travel.
Come see Jer Coons play at the Hill Auditorium for the Ann Arbor Folk Music Festival on Friday, January 29th. Get your tickets online at http://tinyurl.com/yknokpd. Tickets are also on sale by phone at (734)763-TKTS or in person at the Michigan Union Ticket Office, Herb David Guitar Studio, the Ark box office, or any TicketMaster outlet.
For more info on Jer Coons go to http://www.jercoons.com