June 27th, 2014 11:33 EST
Judyth Piazza interviews Multi-talented Singer-Songwriter jimi Fitz
Injecting a much needed burst of optimism into our increasingly cynical cultural conversation, jimi FITZ brings his infectious brand of rockin` contemporary Americana to a dynamic new self titled full length album that marks a true creative breakthrough for the well traveled artist.
Produced by Fitz with Ronnie King (2Pac, Mariah Carey, Snoop Dogg, The Offspring) and Lewis Richards (Dirty Heads, Sublime), the multi-faceted 10 track set features nine originals and a powerful re-imagining of The Chambers Brothers` landmark psychedelic rocker Time Has Come Today. "
For the multi-talented singer-songwriter, the release of jimi FITZ is a new beginning in a multi-faceted career that has included hugely popular bands based in NYC and Nashville from the 80s to the 2000s; two hit music videos (including AUDIO/VIDEO, " also a #2 hit in Italy and Top 50 track throughout Europe) in the heyday of MTV; and sharing bills with The Ramones, James Brown, Mitch Ryder and Johnny Cash " the legend whose low, haunting voice Fitz`s is often favorably compared to.
It`s the most honest and organic album I`ve ever recorded, " says Fitz. Many of the songs were spawned from real life encounters with family and friends, and observations about what`s happening in society and the world. Lyrically, it`s a collection of observations on the world today. Musically, it`s a bit of all my musical influences, and vocally, it`s an homage to my extra-musical career as an on air radio personality. "
One of the emotional cornerstones of jimi FITZ is American Dream, " an unabashedly patriotic tune that doubles beautifully as a heartfelt reflection of the singer-songwriter`s own musical journey in a country that remains a glorious beacon of opportunity. Co-written by Fitz with his wife Wendy, aka the insightful and incisive lyricist WJ Rene, the track " driven by the hypnotic refrain, Don`t tell me there`s no American Dream/`Cause I left home when I was 17 " " was featured as a lead story in the Coachella Music Festival and Stagecoach blog MyCoachella.com as The New 4th of July Anthem. " Its popular YouTube video includes beautiful, inspirational images of America and its people at our best, tempered by stark, solemn moments honoring veterans that illuminate WJ`s words, cause the souls way before me/laid their souls down to rest. "
One night, " Fitz says, Wendy and I were watching CNN and someone being interviewed was knocking America, saying there`s no American Dream anymore. I literally started screaming at the television. That really tweaked us and we decided to get creative about it. We wrote the song to reignite hope and remind people about what a great country we have " and that we`re all in this together. "
With tracks co-written by Fitz, WJ and collaborators Ronnie King, Wilson Gil, Pete Cummings and Patrick Bostrom, jimi FITZ includes other songs that contain biting social commentary. On the edgy rocker Quick, " the singer laments about the way we make angry snap judgments and point fingers so easily. On Hey Mister, " he personalizes the struggle for economic survival while masking our underlying hurt. This is balanced by the brooding rumble of the opening Go On, " in which Fitz details the fine line between passion and struggle; it`s worth it for the promise of that hard earned prize. " In the midst of modern day chaos is the call to find time to celebrate life on the whimsical Don`t Waste My Champagne. " The set also includes Song For Dad, " a poignant tribute to WJ`s recently departed father and the memory of Fitz`s, who died many years ago.
The seeds of the recording sessions that evolved into jimi FITZ began with the singer woodshedding " in 2011 with Ronnie King, a longtime fan of Audio/Video " who was introduced to Fitz by King`s brother. As the two began working on new material at King`s Chateau Relaxo Studios Fitz`s vision crystallized. He wanted to record a real album " with live instruments, putting his vocals front and center so that the power of WJ`s lyrics could shine through. Once Fitz and King had the direction, they teamed up with Lewis Richards, owner of 17th Street Recording in Costa Mesa, California who has carved out a powerful niche on the indie reggae rock surf music scene in SoCal. The three brought in a powerhouse crew of musicians, complementing King`s keyboards with Patrick Bostrom (guitar), Francis Cronin (bass), Steve Monroe (drums), Jennifer Argenti (violin) and Arianah Harville (backing vocals on American Dream ") with Richards` contributing additional guitar and bass. John Stanley King contributed guitar to the cover of Time Has Come Today, " while Roy Orbison`s onetime guitarist Bucky Barrett plays in the American Dream " video.
A native of the Washington, DC area, Fitz brings an explosive amount of musical history to these new sessions. Working his craft over the years between NYC and Nashville, touring regularly up and down the East Coast, he has played some of the country`s top venues, including The Bitter End, CBGB`s, Limelight, The Cat Club, The Red Parrot, Exit/In and The Cannery, among countless others. In the 80s, he led Fitz and The New York Band ", and in the 90s, he fronted the alternative group Baby Bam Boo! " which performed regularly and recorded a self titled album. He spent the 2000s shuttling between NYC and Music City, playing mostly with his band of Nashville musicians. His most recent album before the current one was the retro 80`s-90s` driven Alter Ego in 2010.
Fitz`s eclectic recording and performing career is only one part of his life as a musical Renaissance Man, which includes successful stints as a radio and TV personality, concert promoter, producer and director. As a radio personality, Fitz " whose fascination for the medium began with race track announcers " has worked in rock, country, R&B and jazz. He has been syndicated nationally on Westwood One Radio Networks, Unistar Radio Networks and Sony`s SW Networks. He has also produced and hosted programs for ABC and NBC radio networks.
In his early days as an agent with Agency for the Performing Arts (APA), he worked with Johnny Cash, Rodney Dangerfield, The Manhattan Transfer and Tina Turner. A seasoned veteran of network and cable TV, Fitz produced and directed, among other shows, Howard Stern`s Negligee and Underpants Party " for Pay-Per-View. He later produced a 10 hour PPV concert celebrating the roots of modern music, featuring Ted Nugent, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Dwight Yoakum, Carl Perkins, The Stray Cats, Etta James, The Greg Allman Band and others.
I grew up and later worked with artists who played real music with meaningful messages, and I`m encouraged to see more and more young people discovering and responding to greats from that era like Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Bob Dylan, " says Fitz. I also see them making strong emotional connections to contemporary music that is about more than great production and cool studio toys. That`s what I`m doing now, creating music the way it used to be made, singing lyrics that demand to be heard and responded to. I enjoyed the camaraderie I shared with all these great musicians who helped bring my vision to life. I can honestly say that I`m at the top of my game, and believe I have more to bring to the musical banquet table now than ever before. "