About Jeffrey Gaines
Singer-songwriter Jeffrey Gaines has gone against the grain since releasing his first folk-oriented album during the grunge rage of the early 1990s. Causing difficulties for radio programmers with his boundary-crossing music, however, Gaines spent a decade trying for a commercial breakthrough. Nevertheless, Gaines built a loyal following through passionate concert performances and a series of intensely personal albums, each based on his singular voice and distinctive song narratives. Given the acclaim for his songwriting, the success of his breakthrough hit in 2001, a cover version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” was somewhat ironic.
Gaines was born around 1966 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a carpet business. Although Harrisburg is the state’s capital, it has generally been regarded as a cultural backwater in contrast to Pennsylvania’s major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, young Gaines pursued a number of artistic programs while he was growing up, taking up painting and drawing before devoting most of his time to singing. Although his parents were not in the music business, Gaines recalled in a Rolling Stone profile that music, especially R&B, was always around the house: “Soul is easy–I’ve heard people singing that way all my life, hangin’ around under mom’s ironing board, hearing Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding.” In addition to R&B, Gaines was also influenced by the New Wave of the 1970s, particularly in his own songwriting. He later cited the Jam’s Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, as well as John Lennon among his influences.
Gaines’ love of music led him to test out his performing skills, and he sang with a number of Harrisburg bands in his teens and early twenties. Most of their repertoire was cover songs, although Gaines had already started writing his own material. An early professional breakthrough came at an unlikely time for the aspiring singer, who was working for his father’s carpeting business while he performed with cover bands. One job had Gaines and his co-workers installing carpet in a new Harrisburg recording studio. While on the job, Gaines was asked to test out the microphones in the studio. Following an enthusiastic response to his singing, Gaines began to record some demos, which led to an offer in 1989 to join the up-and-coming band Maggie’s Farm. Preferring to work as a solo artist, Gaines declined the opportunity. He moved to Philadelphia, and in 1990 his persistence paid off when he signed a contract with Chrysalis Records.
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