Below, you can read our interview with artist Jerome Lee, and listen to his single, First Peace After The Rain. Check out our full music review of First Peace After The Rain HERE.
Q: Thrilled to be speaking with you, Jerome! You’re originally from Long Island, NY – did growing up in such a musically diverse part of the country influence your development as an artist?
A: Yes, growing up there did influence my early musical development. There was so much music available to listen to that was new to so many people. I am originally from Chicago, but growing up on Long Island placed my family just far enough away from New York City to be considered living “out in the sticks”, yet, New York City was still fairly close enough to access at any time. I went to a public school system in Nassau County where I first met my acoustic upright bass teacher, and I took all of the music classes available to me as a student from third grade through my high school graduation.
Simultaneously, I was able to study classical music in school on the acoustic upright bass as well as play in the school orchestras; and at home, I was able to play my first electric bass guitar along with all of the records that my older sisters would buy. In my neighborhood, there was a great man who was a music teacher and he taught the neighborhood kids how to play musical instruments, and it is from him where I took my first real electric bass guitar lessons. Also, in the mid-to-late-1960’s the advent of FM radio made it possible to hear entire recordings released by artists at that time, and that was so revealing to me. AM radio during that time played some of the same songs that FM radio did, but sometimes I was surprised to hear certain songs played at their original recording length on FM radio that was longer than their AM radio versions.
Q: Your biography tells the story of an impressively well-traveled musician. Is there a particular place where you felt your music resonated particularly well, or anywhere you hope to return to?
A: I am truly thankful that my music has resonated well in some kind of way with other people where I have lived around the planet. I wrote my first song, an instrumental one, while I was stationed in Japan and I felt honored that the band there wanted to play it live. While living in the States, I wrote songs, again mostly instrumental ones, in a band that I started in southern California and those songs found their own resonance with the community there. And while I lived in Europe in the Netherlands, I recorded my first CD and released it there. One day I was quietly sitting in a cafe in Amsterdam after I had released my CD, and I heard a waitress who was working in that cafe singing along to one of my songs. I will never forget that moment.
I would like to return to both Japan and the Netherlands one day because both countries were ones that I got an opportunity to share my inner musical self with those nations’ residents, and those were very special once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me.
Q: You’ve been a musician for almost the entirety of your life and have worked with so many different artists and groups. Now that you’re in a solo stretch, do you prefer it?
A: It’s different for me to work as a solo artist than to work with a group of musicians.
Recording and mixing music when I’m working alone is challenging because there is often nobody else there to bounce ideas off of. So, the decision making about each project or song carries a different sphere of responsibility. But that also means that I can carry out some of the definite musical ideas that I come up with, and within that I see a bit of an advantage with the recording process. Now, do I prefer working solo? Well, it can be pretty good most of the time.
But I can also say this, years ago when I had the opportunity to record in great recording studios with other musicians in the same room at the same time there was an essence to the music that to me will always produce a different feel and result.
Q: As a solo artist, what does your recording process look like?
A: I actually do a few things from time to time that lead up to the actual recording process itself.
One is to mess around with the simple drum playback sequencer in my bass guitar effects unit, and I have come up with some bass lines that I’ve ended up re-recording into a DAW that way.
Sometimes I’ll record the bass line and drum pattern onto a small digital recorder, doing different takes so that I can hear back what I’ve experimented with without opening a DAW in a computer. But if a song is already well formulated in my mind, I often open up my computer DAW program and begin working right away because the software has so many elements loaded into it that I can get those sounds and rhythm patterns out of my head and onto my computer hard drive much faster. There are some songs that seem to take me forever to finish, and yet there are other songs that begin and finish rather quickly. I think that when all of my ideas are in place before I begin the recording process, that process moves along at a pretty good pace.
Q: You’ve been releasing music for five decades, an impressive accomplishment. Has your music changed as you’ve progressed through your career?
A: My music has changed some over the years, but what I love to play and hear seems to remain close to me. I think it has gotten better, and so have the digital recording mediums that we use these days. The biggest change is that I hear more complex and better parts in my mind for the music before I record and release it. And my audio recording, mixing and mastering skills and techniques have become better as well.
Q: “First Peace After the Rain” is a truly beautiful track with an uplifting message. Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind the song?
A: “First Peace After The Rain” is a song that emerged rather quickly from me once the song’s spirit told me what it was trying to say. I had been in touch with my own as well as other people’s feelings throughout my life, and there is so much that we share as human beings. I spent a lot of time outdoors in my youth, including several camping trips. I began to notice how when the rain came straight down and very hard, it brought about thoughts in my mind that I found challenging with staying positive in the moment. When I grew older, I began to make the connection between the rain that fell in my own life, and how those moments also challenged me to think positively. Then I saw and learned how many other people are affected in the same way.
The rain finally stops, and it always does. Remembering those moments while I was outdoors, a sudden stop to a downpour brought a peace in those moments that I think are universal. For a few moments after a hard rain suddenly stops, one does not even hear the animals and birds in the forest. Just quiet, and peace. When a hard rain brought about by the issues in our own lives suddenly stops, we feel a peace within ourselves. It’s a quieting peace that can be felt on a deep emotional level. This music originated in me as a hopeful reminder to us that there is peace after the rain in our lives. I released this song on the first day of spring 2019, but in these troubling times that we are currently going through it is my hope that some comfort may be found in this song.
Q: Can you tell us about the first moment you picked up an instrument?
A: In my school’s third-grade class while living on Long Island I was handed a fluteophone, also known as a recorder to some. But that’s what the teacher called it back then. It was a plastic thing that had a flute pipe mouthpiece and a flared bell on the end of it like a clarinet. I played it in that third-grade class, and that was the first music notation that I read. At home, it was a Magnus Chord Organ that was there for us kids to mess around and learn some music on. It had a small piano keyboard on the right to play the song melodies, and some “chord buttons” on the left that you’d press to hold down a chord pad that accompanies the song. Once I learned how to play the song called ‘Long Long Ago’ on that thing, I just laughed out loud.
Q: We talk to a lot of young musicians who are looking for advice on how to grow their careers. Do you have any words of wisdom for someone just starting out?
A: Yes, know that the business of music is important, and that the love of playing a musical instrument or singing is also important. But if one wishes to combine those two things into a serious career, then the business side of music must be paid close attention to. One thing that I am glad about these days is that there are so many periodicals, guides and courses to help people steer their entertainment careers in the direction or directions that they wish.
I come from a time of living in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s when it was important for bands to showcase as often as possible in the many clubs in the city in front of record label staff members. A few bands back then did get signed to a record label, but the vast majority of bands who were seeking to be signed with a record label were not. In the 1990’s, that was when I first began to see artists and musicians start their own record labels and control their own publishing.
The advent of the Internet created a movement of independent artists and independent record labels that now spans the world. That movement has grown into something that has a decent music industry market share today. Independent labels and artists have found ways to connect with their own particular fan bases and create a niche market for themselves. Without a doubt, there are independent artists today who are both self-contained and also allow a small organization of people to support their efforts. It is difficult and time-consuming to do everything on your own business-wise, that’s why asking other people to help you can go a long way. As an artist, try to find the people who will love and support your music in the music business. Doing so can potentially create the time for you to make the music that you really want to make, and give you a better chance to have a successful music career.
Q: You get to collaborate with anyone of your choosing. Who is it?
A: Michael Manring, because I think he is one of the most compelling and gifted electric bass musicians of our time.
Q: Your favorite album of all time? (Yup, you gotta choose one.)
A: Only one? Wow. When pressed, I go with “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis because it brings me to a beautiful space when I listen to it. I have really liked that record for many years. (But a “1a” for me could be “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder.)
Q: Your favorite song of all time? (Again, only one!)
A: Only one? Again? Wow(again). There are too many songs for me to think about to call any one of them my all-time favorite, but here I could go with”What a Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong for now. (And again, a “1a” for me could be “A Change Is Gonna Come” sung by Sam Cooke.)
Q: What would you like fans to know about you that they’re most likely unaware of?
A: That my first stringed instrument was the viola in my fourth-grade year in elementary school, and the fact that I thought that I would play the viola professionally when I got older. The radio airplay for the music from my CD “Life This Time” has now reached from Adelaide to the Azores and beyond, and I send out my thanks and appreciation to all of the radio programmers and radio station owners for their support of my music.
Q: Any shout-outs you wanna make?
A: To my Family; to my mom and dad, who let me play the bass; to my older brothers, who told me to play my best every time (and my oldest brother who told me way back then to read all of the manuals); to my older sisters, who bought all of the records that I would play along with when I got my first electric bass; to my younger brother and sister for their love and the fun we had growing up, I love you all very much.
To my Teachers; to Mr. Peter Tomforde from my school district, thank you for telling me that you thought that I could be a good acoustic upright bass player while I was still playing a different stringed instrument in the orchestra at the time. You were right and I am grateful to have studied with you. And to Mr. Hart from my neighborhood where I grew up; thank you for my first formal electric bass guitar lessons, and thank you for that run that you showed me on the fretboard that I taught to my students for years. You were one of the very special musicians who as a sax player played in both Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s great bands. I am forever in awe and grateful that I was able to get my musical start in life with you.
To my fellow Artists; I will always remember the music that we made together, and how it magically allowed people who attended the live shows to forget their daily concerns for a moment, and to give people something that they can turn to over and over again with the wonderful recordings that we created. Around the world, I will always cherish the great musicians that I was given an opportunity to make music with.
To my Friends; I have loved you all very much and I continue to do so.
To my Fans; Thank you for being there with me over all of these years, and know that the journey is not yet over, there is still more music to come.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: “If you have a talent, use it in every which way possible.
Don’t hoard it.
Don’t dole it out like a miser.
Spend it lavishly like a millionaire intent on going broke.”
(Want to be interviewed by The Ark of Music? Click HERE.)
Listen to FIRST PEACE AFTER THE RAIN by JEROME LEE: