Radford brings Nashville to NEPA

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First Posted: 8/12/2013

A little bit of Nashville flavor (though it originally comes from St. Louis) is taking a mini-weekend tour through Northeastern Pennsylvania at the end of August.

Jeff Radford recently released his debut album, “Taken,” and will be hitting up both Bottlenecks locations in Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.

The Weekender recently spoke with the down-to-earth singer, who was stuck in a traffic jam in downtown Nashville but not letting it damper his spirits. The vibrant crooner spoke of family, love, and what makes a memorable career.

THE WEEKENDER: How did you get into the music business? Was it a family influence?

JEFF RADFORD: It wasn’t something that was necessarily brought on by my family, though music does run in my family. My mom and her sisters could sing, and I could remember them all singing together in harmony, none of them having vocal training. I didn’t grow up around my father; we started developing a relationship when I was 16. Being around him then, I saw that he was the type that, any instrument he wanted to play, he could pick up and play. I’m very fortunate. I have a lot of the vocal capabilities coming from my mother’s side, and the musical talent and know-how from my dad’s. I didn’t grow up singing and playing guitar; I didn’t get into that until high school.

W: What pushed you to finally pick it up?

JR: I went to a really small school, where my mother was a teacher. Unfortunately, she got very sick and had cancer and ended up passing away when I was 15. When she passed, I had to switch schools. The first school I went to had a band, but no real music program. My new school had things like choir, so I found myself getting into that. That’s when I started taking it seriously. I probably didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 21, 22, and I did it for the simple fact that, any time I wanted to play a show, I’d have to find someone to play with me. I just finally said, “Hey, you need to pick up a guitar and just learn to play for yourself.”

W: How would you describe the sound of the album?

JR: The album is emotionally driven. It’s a pretty straight popular Top 40 record. I think the tracks, themselves, from title to title, vary. There are a lot of different moods and stages. The one thing that I feel brings it all together are my vocals.

W: You wrote or were a co-writer on every song on the album but one. Where did the influence for the lyrics come from, personal experiences or made-up scenarios?

JR: It’s a little bit of both. The title track from the record, “Taken,” is based on a friend I had that had just broken up with this girl and just couldn’t get over it. I put myself in his shoes. On the other side of the spectrum, the song “It’s Me” is a very personal one, a true story. When I moved to Nashville, I had a great girlfriend that did all she could to help me get here. Eventually, we went our separate ways. The premise of the song is how I really loved that person and who she was, but felt she wasn’t necessarily the one, even though I knew how great she was. She deserved better than what I was providing for her and, at the end of the day, it had nothing to do with her – it was just me. It’s funny because people can look at that statement as an excuse, but a lot of times we all live that story and there’s really a lot of truth to it.

W: What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far?

JR: It’s not always necessarily the biggest thing. The most memorable things are the little things in the journey. Some of the most memorable things that got me this far, made me continue when I wanted to quit, are as simple as playing a concert at a high school and singing a Christmas song and someone coming up to me and saying it reminded them of this or that.

I also do Musicians on Call, where I go to hospitals and sing to patients. Last night, I sang a song for an elderly woman who asked me to play “Desperado” by the Eagles, and she just started crying. I don’t know for sure who the song reminded her of, but she kept going on about how it was someone’s favorite song, and when I was walking out, she received a phone call and she was telling the person on the other end, “Hey, this guy came in and just played so-and-so’s favorite song,” and she was crying. It’s those things. It’s hard being a musician because you feel like a lot of people don’t value what you do, that no one cares and you’re just background music, but then you can go into a hospital room and you can play a song and it’s something that means something to that person.