Interview with Jerry Dale McFadden, October 2001
Q: You're currently on tour with SWAG: how's that going?
A: It's been fun. There's nothing like touring with some of your best friends. Tom Petersson has been unable to do dates with us because of his commitments with Cheap Trick so he recommended we use a dear old friend of his, Warren Pash. Warren rocks the house! What a great guy to hang with and an exceptional musician. We give him a hard time 'cause he wrote "Private Eyes" for Hall & Oates. The only guy in SWAG that's written a #1 song (So Far!).
Q: How was the SXSW festival? We enjoyed the Yahoo video interview, can we expect more webcasts?
A: The show was okay as far as those kind of things go. I don't care for those kind of shows much because there's no soundcheck and its all stress till it's over and then you beat yourself up about how bad it was. Of course everyone says you were great and that no one heard the mistakes you made or noticed the technical problems, they just dig the music soooo much, thank God! I didn't hear or see the Yahoo.com bit but I heard the sound was horrible and we all sang so out of tune. Weird configuration, I thought. We were in the middle of a trade show with all the convention noise goin' on around you. This business is so funny to me because everyone expects you to be so professional and yet you're constantly thrown into very non-professional situations almost daily. I guess you just have to laugh at it all and say, "I get paid to do this!" (Though there's not much pay involved when it comes to Swag, not that I expect any.)
Q: The Tin Pan South show at the Radio Café in Nashville on 4 April - is that your first participation in an "in the round" session?
A: No. I've done things alone before, like there's a show on Monday nights here in Nashville hosted by my friend Daniel Tashien called 12 at 12th. He has 12 different songwriters get up and do two songs each. I don't guess I get asked to do those in-the-round things much because, though I've written my share of country songs, that's not what I'm known for in this town. No skin off my back. The only true in-the-round I did was in L.A. at the Troubador with Peter Tork of the Monkees and 2 other songwriters that were as forgettable as myself. It was while out on the road with The Mavs and I booked it for one of our days off. I think it surprised those guys that I had the gumption to do something on my own. Raul and his wife and a few other friends came. The funny thing was, though none of us were famous songwriters, Mr Tork was famous in his own right. Unfortunately, his songs were god-awful! I mean, so bad that Raul and our friends were laughing out loud which in turn made me laugh, though I was trying to hold it in. I had to stare down at the floor. I couldn't look up at them or I would let it slip out! What a weird night!
Q: Are you and Robert writing any more songs together?
A: Yeah, sure. Not as often as we used to 'cause we're no longer touring non-stop with each other the way we did in The Mavericks. Nowadays we have to schedule some time in to meet at my house or something and bang one out. Sometimes we get together with Doug Powell as well. The three of us like to write together. We've got a great one started right now. Not that I think it's great, per se, but it excites me which is about the only kind of songwriting I'm into right now. I definitely have had my fill of the Nashville songwriting world where you get together with a total stranger and try to be creative and the only thing that comes out is schlock because what else are you going to write with a total stranger that you know absolutely nothing about. I prefer to write songs with my friends. That's why I'm not much of a fan of contemporary country songs. I want them sung by the folks that wrote 'em and I want them written by people that feel what they're writing not just what they think radio listeners want to hear.
Q: You and your wife Julie have recently opened up an art gallery "The Attic Gallery" in Nashville - has that been a long-standing ambition or something that you suddenly decided to do? Do you have any plans for developing this side of things, expanding, etc., or is it still early days? When you're too old to tread the boards, are you going to sit by the paintings in the guise of a gallery curator?
A: Good questions! The truth is, I've been collecting outsider and contemporary folk art for some time now and have thought for a few years that opening a gallery would be fun and interesting. I would not have been able to start this little business if it weren't for my wife Julie. She's one of those get-to-it, go-getters who's not afraid to try something especially when it comes to business, having run her own PR company for several years now. That PR thing really comes in handy when it comes to promoting art. We enjoy doing this together. You know how some people love to do everything with their spouse and others prefer to keep work and their relationship separate? We're of the camp that we can't be apart for anything (well, it's not that bad, we're very independent people) and would rather start a business together than both go to a separate day job. This gallery is our first official business that we've started but we have some other projects that are brewing.
I imagine that I'll be doing many other things in my life besides music and look forward to where the path takes me. Of course I'll always play music but it's hard to say whether I'll be able to make a living doing it forever. I kind of doubt it. I do hope to make another Swag record if not many in the future. It's something I love, working on music with some of my best friends. It makes me happy.
Q: Do you paint yourself?
A: The walls of the gallery frequently! No. Julie bought me a little paint set for Christmas but I haven't tried to paint yet. I probably will soon. There's so much to try in life. Paul McCartney didn't start painting till he was 40. He's an inspiration to me in a lot of ways...his music, his love for his wife and family, his business pursuits (publishing for example). He seems like someone who has learned how to love his life and stay fairly grounded despite it all.
Q: Would you like to revert to performing solo, or do you prefer being in a band?
A: I'm much better in a band situation. When I put out my "This Girl" CD, I only played one solo show in Nashville. Performing solo is a little nerve-racking because I haven't done it in so long. It's funny how I only used to do my own thing before I started playing with The Mavericks. The side-man or member of a band thing is so much safer to me now. I never get nervous. I guess I would probably get nervous if one of the songs that I sing was chosen for our Conan O'Brien performance coming up on April 20th. It'll probably be one that Robert or Doug sings though. (Thank Goodness!)
Q: Do you plan to reissue your first album on CD?
A: The label that put it out, Reptile Records, owns the rights to it and it would be up to them to determine whether it would be re-released or not. I kind of doubt it because I'm not sure if they're around anymore and if they are, I doubt they have any money to put it out on CD.
Q: What sort of childhood did you have? Where are you from?
A: I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, the oldest of 4. My parents were very supportive of everything we wanted to do. I took lots of music lessons as well as my brother and we were in a band together when I was 11 and he was 8 (Damon played drums and was the lead singer). Later he pursued acting and I continued to play in bands. My folks even let me play in 21 and over clubs from age 14 on. I was always in professional cover bands with guys in their 20s making good money for such a young age! I never attended a high school football game because I was always gigging on Friday nights.
Q: What made you choose the accordion?
A: The accordion was something some friends and I started buying up in college at yard sales. You could find 'em for 50 bucks in all kinds of beautiful colors, some with rhinestones and others with mother-of-pearl finishes. Gorgeous instruments. I just picked it up, primarily only playing the keyboard side and never really mastering the button side. At some point I got more calls to play accordion sessions than piano or keyboards. It was a rare thing I guess to find someone in Nashville who could play simple, as more of a nice pad or texture rather than someone who knew how to play polkas. I know no polkas.
Q: Who do you rate as great rock 'n' roll piano players - who has inspired you?
A: The Killer, of course. Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Johnny Fingers from The Boomtown Rats, Devo, Charlie Rich, Ray Charles.
Q: What do you keep going back to listen to? (influential records – either consciously or sub-consciously)
A: Beatles, Louis Prima, Cheap Trick, Harry Nilsson, Frank Sinatra.
Q: When are you going to bring SWAG to Australia - to play the clubs and pubs etc!?
A: I wish I could say soon, because I love Australia and hope to get to go back there sometime. Unfortunately our little Swag record hasn't been released there yet. Maybe if it gets picked up by some Australian label and sells well, we'll be able to come play there.
Q: What's your favourite Beatles song?
A: It changes frequently but I guess right now at this moment it's "And I Love Her" (And I do!)
Q: When is your next solo record out?
A: Julie says late 2001 or early 2002. She's pushing me to continue to work on my own music. It's more like when can I afford to record again with my friend and favorite producer, Brad Jones.
Q: Are you planning on having a website soon?
A: Not really. I'm pushing for a website for our art gallery right now because Juxtapoz Magazine is doing a feature on our space for their July/August issue. It would obviously help if we had our act together and had a website to mention in the article.
Q: Do you have any long-term plans - for either the gallery or your music?
A: No. My only long term plans are to improve myself, devote myself to my family, and pursue the things that make me happy and interest me. Sometimes that includes music and sometimes that includes art but all the time it includes my love for my wife and children.
Q: Do you have a favourite track on Catchall?
A: "Different Girl" I'm proud of the song and I think the production is perfect. It just came together perfectly in my mind. I wouldn't change a thing to it.
Q: Will SWAG be promoting Catchall by visiting the UK? Has the CD been sent to UK radio stations?
A: We'd love to tour the U.K. We'll see what happens. Right now we're just trying to iron out who's putting the record out there. I think it will all come together soon. After that gets settled, we'll see if the label can get us some airplay in the U.K. I hope so. I loved coming over and touring there.
Q: How was the recent SWAG tour? Did it meet your expectations? Is there going to be another leg to the tour when Robert comes back from his UK tour with Kevin Montgomery in the band Paint?
A: It was fun. I found it to be a little harder on my old bones than I expected. We're on our own on these trips, driving our rental van and hauling our own gear. It's not that I mind huffing my own equipment, it's that I'm not as young as I used to be!We had great crowds that were there for us, which seems surprising since I have a hard time realizing that this band is really a band that people know about. SWAG was such a dream for so long that it's hard to believe that we really put out a record and people really listened and liked it. We will continue to do some more SWAG when Robert gets back. There are a few shows on the books right now including a free outdoor concert in Nashville on May 31st at a weekly concert series called Dancing In The District. We'll also return to Chicago again on May 26th to play a power pop fest at the Abbey Pub.
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