Jerry Castle and 10 Questions with TotalNtertainment. Americana songwriter. Rock & roll guitarist. Dedicated cosmic country road warrior. Producer. After a slew of critically acclaimed independent albums and thousands of cross-country shows, Jerry Castle has carved out a career that’s just as diverse and immediate as his musical influences, earning everything from chart-topping radio hits to critical acclaim from publications like Rolling Stone along the way. We got to chat with Jerry about his new album and more.
1. Thanks for your time Jerry, how is life treating you at the moment?
Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. How honest do you want me to be? Is that just a pleasantry or do you want me to spill my guts? Musically, things are really good, besides not being able to play live shows. The buzz for the new album seems to be continually growing and creative output has been great. Outside of music, it’s a bit of a cluster. Obviously the whole COVID thing makes it a strange time and on top of that, I’m dealing with some crazy folks that need to increase their meds. Other than that things are peachy!
2. Your new album “Midnight Testaments” is due out, what can fans expect from it?
The full album drops Oct 16. I’m dropping one more single, “Stars Align”, on Sept 25. I embraced my Appalachian roots on this one. There have been times that I’ve steered away from those roots and went in a more experimental direction but not on this album. I’d say the full spectrum of my brand of “Cosmic Country meets Appalachian Soul” is on display on this record. There’s ups, there’s downs, there’s Southern Rock, Country, Americana, Folk, Soul and Stomp. No two songs are the same. The thing I’m most proud of is that it’s still a cohesive album and it all makes sense.
3. Being based in Nashville, how inspirational is that for you and what prompted you to relocate there?
I was in a band back in my hometown of Abingdon, Virginia and we were pretty big fish in a small pond. Like a lot of young artists, I fell into the trap of thinking I “deserved” to be exposed to larger audiences. Little did I know that I still needed to significantly raise my level of musicianship and songwriting. I was trying to decide between moving the band to Nashville, New York, NY or Los Angeles and my guitar instructor gently nudged me towards Nashville. Several years later I spent a couple of years in Los Angeles before settling back in Nashville.
My favorite thing about Nashville is the level of musicianship that’s at your disposal for recording or playing live shows. Per capita, Nashville has the best musicians in the world. No questions asked. Everyone that played on the record lives within a mile of me.
4. The album includes the track “Pick Up Your Guitar” – do you remember the artist who had the biggest impact on your life?
Man, it would be hard to narrow it down to just one artist but if I had to, I’d say its Willie Nelson. His songwriting is great, his vocal delivery is unique, and his songs tug at my heartstrings. What’s even cooler is that he marches to the beat of his own drum. I love his philosophy on life and I admire that as a human being, he has continued to evolve all the way up until present day. Hell, I think he should run for president. Maybe I could be his campaign manager. Forget that, I’ll be his VP.
5. Music has been a massive part of your life going right back to your childhood. What are the lasting musical memories from that time in your life?
More than anything else, that’s where I learned about the healing and uniting powers of music. My extended family was a bit of a wreck and everybody would talk shit about one another but when they got together and shared songs, it was like all of that strife and insecurity miraculously disappeared into the ether. Each person had a particular “thing” that they did well in their own right. When you’re a kid, I feel like you’re less judgmental about music and you can actually see what’s beautiful about different artists, different voices, and different kinds of music. My family was often hurting and I could hear that hurt in their performances or I could hear their pleas for redemption from the depths of their souls. Music was their church and it’s much the same for me today.
6. How important were your family in supporting you when you decided you wanted to pursue a career in music?
You’re opening a can of worms here. Because my dad, uncles, and extended family were such a colourful group of characters, they weren’t exactly the role models that my mom had in mind. Most of them were broke, had a hard time keeping a job, and lived on the outskirts of society in one way or another. Their musical pursuits leaned more towards beer drinking good times than actually working hard to pursue their passion. That’s not to say that some of them weren’t good people, but my mom had me at 15 and by the time she was 21, she wanted more out of her life than to be working two jobs waiting tables just to make ends meat. She also wanted more out of life for my sister and me. When I became a teenager and asked for a guitar she was against it and wouldn’t let me get one. “You’re not going to be a broken down musician like the rest of the Castle’s” was her response. After I turned 20, she finally relented and got me a guitar for Christmas and that instantly became my life. I was in college playing American football at the time but I knew immediately that music was the path I was going to go down. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of detours along the way but in my heart, I knew.
7. Knowing what you know now, what is the one piece of advice you would give the 8 year-old Jerry Castle?
Doggedly follow your instincts at all times. Only you know the real you and what’s best for you. I’ve spent a little too much of my life trying to satisfy other people’s vision of who they think I am.
8. I read that you’re a bit of a night owl, what is your favourite setting at that time to be writing music in?
It’s usually in my home studio. It’s properly sound proofed, so the combination of that, the stillness of the night, the dim light, and the lava lamps, help me to dial out the outside world and be open to creativity. I’ll go outside on the porch sometime or change rooms to get a fresh perspective but most of my actual songwriting work is done in my studio.
9. Just for fun: on the theme of your single “Calm”, what is the one sound that has the complete opposite effect on you?
Ha! You want me to say bagpipes don’t you? Well I’m not going to take the bait. The sound of super bright 1/32 programmed hi hats are like nails on a chalkboard for me. It’s rare that I make it through a full song that has them.
10. Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Just to finish, how would you sum up 2020 for you and, looking forward then what are your hopes for 2021?
Bipolar. And to be 100% clear, I mean the year and the events, not me. Remember the “crazy folks” I referred to in the first question? So far the album is being very well received and I’m thankful for that. My streams, video views and followers have all grown significantly this year. That has helped to further fuel my creativity. As far as my hopes for 2021, I’ll keep it simple. I’m hoping to come tour the U.K., have a few pints with my new friends and play a bunch of shows. Maybe even the Long Road Festival and the C2C Festival. Cheers!
You can keep upto date with what Jerry is doing at www.jerrycastle.com