Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chapter 4.0 - Going solo

(Pic: 1996 - "Concert against poverty")

Slowing down wasn’t an option for me as a solo artist now. I had worked quite hard for the brushes of success I had experienced with Digital Dreams and I was not prepared to let go of all that.

I noticed straight away that the trend of writing more and more slow love songs continued after finishing work on the 1996 “Digital Dreams – Vesicula”.

Many people, including myself, are convinced that the Vesicula could have well been the breakthrough album for me, but because it was only released as an audiocassette it literally had no impact whatsoever.
Anyway, I had no intention to revive Digital Dreams but I also did not know where to go from here. In early 1997 I was completely lost. My girlfriend at the time wasn’t helpful either as she hated my music and thought it was a lot of crap.

I loved Depeche Mode´s 1997 release: “Ultra” very much and got back into the groove again but having no support seemed to break me and I really gave up making music for a six months period in 1997.

Putting Digital Dreams to rest meant more to me than I was willing to admit and I wanted to change my whole ME if you will so I collaborated with guitar players for the first time in my career. I also felt it is about time to record somewhere else.

A very good friend of mine, with whom I had composed and collaborated since 1993, Thomas Racz, told me about this studio in his hometown Langen and I went to check it out.

Owner and engineer Christian Meyer and me clicked immediately and I decided, in the middle of the production to my very first TJ (T-Jay at that stage) CD, not to continue working with Frank anymore. It had nothing to do with Frank at all. I just wanted to completely move on.

Clearly, Franks studio was way better equipped but that wasn’t what I was about in 1997, I wanted purity and in October 1997, with financial help from a friend of mine, I released my first solo CD: “T-Jay – Pure Love”.

I dedicated it to my son Kevin, whom I missed deeply after my divorce, and even today I think the songs have captured my in my finest musical moments. I had so much to say and songs like: “I still believe in love” or “Shadows of the past” still hurt.

It went straight to # 1 at the DRMV charts and I was so proud. I am convinced, if this CD would have flopped that could have well been the end of my career, although I never really had much of a career, at least in comparison to a signed artist.

In all fairness, I do believe that there is a straight forward logic in that you can only achieve something if you dare trying. Over the years I sent a sheer unreal amount of CDs to numerous record companies, radio stations, TV stations, newspapers and so on – and although the positive outcome of that was rather slim, there would have been no response to my music without me trying to get exposure in the first place.

I often had to defend myself for being so damn selfish and putting my music over everything else but that’s sometimes what it takes. If you believe in something you must be willing to stand your ground. I see a value in my music. It is designed to make people release emotions and I guess that’s also the “downfall” of it – it can be pretty uncomfortable to be confronted with stories of love, hate and loss and sometimes my music is very emotional and melancholic.

Not everybody is up to that. And then you have an awful lot of people who aren’t able to feel that deep and they don’t get me at all.

In my experience music has no boundaries whatsoever and it can do an awful lot of good. Performing for a good cause for instance is one of the things that made my career or my “following the dream” worthwhile.

When I first performed for the children’s home in Offenbach in November 1987 I couldn’t feel much of a vibe but when I got back there in 1995 the energy that came off the audience was unbelievable.

The kids invited me to the institution shortly after the concert and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
They had baked a cake for me and they had decorated the table and one of the boys, who was in his teens back then, told me that he is going to buy himself a guitar and he wants to be like me – reaching people through music.

Up to that point I wasn’t even aware that I would reach anyone.

Music can also be therapy – it is for me at least. The Pure Love EP was initially planned as an album but the more songs you record the more costs you have and so on, and I was happy with just the 6-track CD. Better than nothing I like to believe.

Looking back at it, it is a mirror of my emotions at the time and even though most of my songs aren’t necessarily autobiographical - some of them are, only that I won’t reveal which ones I am talking about.

I was pretty confident (as always) that my Pure Love is good enough to compete with the rest of the world and I was quite disappointed that the industry never really bought into it.

Someone then invented a niche for my music: Easy Listening – in fact, people called it all kinds of things and all I knew was that I would always refer to it as “romantic pop” and if
I am asked how my music sounds, I jokingly refer to it as “George Michael for the poor” – haha.

In early 1998 I moved in with my new girlfriend who eventually became my second wife.

I started looking for ways to spread the costs. I put up adds in the local papers and I got inundated with offers and I met quite a few musicians, perhaps 95% of them were only in there for the fun, if at all, but I was looking for people to push me and the music forward.

Quite disappointed I sat there the other night and listened back to what I had created over the years and I was surprised to see and hear that I had really developed. I was a damn good songwriter, I thought, my vocals aren’t that bad anymore and I could even do 4-part harmonies if needs be.

That gave me confidence and I decided to buy a keyboard with an in-build 16 track sequencer and floppy drive, so that I could record all my material, excluding the vocals, “in one go” so to speak.

I always had plenty of ideas but I always seemed to be broke, so buying this rather expensive instrument, fortunately payable in instalments, was the best option.


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