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August 21, 2014, 12:18 am

Music was natural path for local singer

Jeffrey Gaines to perform at Tin Angel


When he was a little boy, everyone loved his voice and encouraged him to keep on singing.

“My cousins and I would imitate the Jackson 5 and sing for the whole family,” says singer/songwriter Jeffrey Gaines, about to take the stage at the Tin Angel on June 29.

“I think that was the beauty of it. Because everybody was so encouraging, in some ways I feel that maybe I didn’t have to fight to make music my career. However, once I got into the music business I realized there was a lot of fight you have to have in order to make it.”

Born and raised in Harrisburg and now living in the Philadelphia area, Gaines said his musical interest was sparked at a very young age, owing largely in part to his parents’ collection of soul records — and the fact, he adds, that they gave him the freedom to seek his own identity.

But, he adds, it was his discovery of Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie that truly sealed his fate, leading to his participation in local bands.

Mostly self-taught, Gaines explains that he took whatever music classes he could in public school because they were free. “But I never had strict lessons as such,” he explains. ”So what I do is natural in many ways.”

After high school, Gaines was offered the singer slot for a New York rock and roll band, but turned it down to move to Philadelphia, where he signed with Chrysalis Records, the thing that many young artists wait for.

“Things started happening so fast, and unfortunately, I had never learned why what I was involved in was called a business. Everyone around me got caught up in the excitement of it all. Even the people who were supposed to be helping me figure it all out didn’t always point out what was best for me.”

Fortunately, Gaines came through it all in one piece. In fact, over the years he has been heralded for his soul-searching lyrics and his powerful live performances. He was once described as “the man who sounds like Otis Redding, Elvis Costello and David Bowie, wrapped up in one amazing package.”

His newly-released CD, titled “Live in Europe,” was recorded during his 25-day tour of Europe with Joe Jackson in the autumn of 2010. The CD features Gaines’ classics and fan favorites, including the hit ballad “Beyond the Beginning” and the powerful anthem “Headmasters of Mine.”

Gaines writes his own music, and bases much of it on his own experiences and what he sees around him. He says of the song “Fear,” the first song on his CD, “I can get very personal about things. The idea for ‘Fear’ came to me when I was looking at some file footage of integration in the school system in the l960s.”

The footage was in black and white and concentrated on the townspeople screaming at little kids being escorted by the military. “The kids just wanted to go to school to get an education. And with all the screaming, the kids had the calmest look on their faces when all around them there was nothing but anger. They didn’t want to ignite the situation anymore so they had to play possum in a sense, going against their natural instincts because they knew they could not react.”

While not facing such problems himself, Gaines does say that he often faces white audiences who are trying to figure him out. “The come to my shows with stereotypical thoughts of what they’re going to hear. Hopefully, by the time they leave, they’ve not only enjoyed my music, but I’ve managed to expand their conventional wisdom. I know I have to convince the crowd I’m good every time I go up on stage. But usually it works.”

For times and ticket information, call (215) 928-0770.