MICHAEL JANTZ: Michael Jantz
"I guess I'll always be grateful for my experience as a street performer," singer/songwriter Michael Jantz says when reflecting upon the events that have led up to his 2002 Ruby Records debut, Michael Jantz. "It wasn't an aspiration, but that's how I learned how to communicate as a musician. I've been completely reborn and liberated from everything I thought I knew about making music by playing on the street."
Jantz, long a fixture in the Midwest regional music scene, has spent the last few years refining his songwriting craft and extraordinary vocal style on the streets and in clubs in the United States and abroad. "I went to Europe completely frustrated with being in bands with people who didn't have a good work ethic or didn't share the same vision," he says of his artistic development. "It was only then that I figured out how I could say what I wanted through music - by myself. From there, I pretty much played wherever I could - the subways of New York, the streets of Toronto, cafes and streets in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France - anywhere anyone would listen."
It's clear that his tenacity and contentment with making music for music's sake is paying off. In the space of just over a year, Jantz has gone from busking for pocket change on the cobbled cafÃ© sidewalks of Europe to warming up audiences on the Paul Simon/Brian Wilson 2001 summer tour in giant amphitheaters on the east coast. But whether immersed in the nuances of a solo acoustic performance or entrenched in the fervor offered by his full band, his dedication to the art of the song is omnipresent. "Playing on the street was humbling but it taught me how to connect with people," says Jantz. "It was a challenge to try to get someone to stop and listen and communicate with them on a musical level. Later, on the stage, I was able to translate that experience into knowing how to work a room and really pull people into my songs. That's the environment that fueled the music I'm making now."
Noted by the Cleveland Free Times as possessing a "haunting and prolific voice," Jantz took his street experiences and spent the beginning of 2001 locked away with producer Chris Keffer in Cleveland's Magnetic North Studios, capturing the wide and sometimes disparate collection of sounds that comprise his full-length solo debut. But even as Jantz and Keffer began committing songs to tape, an evolution took root in the music that had as of yet scarcely been heard anywhere other than intimate solo settings. "I started the process of recording as a way of documenting these songs and experiences I had built up over the last few years," says Jantz. "But as we started recording, I knew the songs wanted to be bigger, and this was the first time I've had the luxury of taking time and using the studio as a tool during the recording process. I was able to try different configurations and arrangements with the songs and take them further than I could on my own."
Fleshing out his acoustic-based songs with a full band complete with organ, accordion, African instruments and everything in between, Jantz and Keffer drew on production influences from The Beatles, Lucinda Williams and Jeff Buckley, painting the album in a lush, narcotic pop setting filled with subtle aural delights. Cleveland music scene constants Justin Gorski (piano, organ and accordion), Dustin J. Elliot (upright bass) and Gregg Garlock (drums) were recruited to harvest Jantz's recorded sound as one that arrives at a decidedly melodic, accessible destination that's unabashedly full of passion and honesty.
From the infectious strains of "Roam (Motionless Tonight)" and the honky-tonk piano of "Deep Dark Night" to the Latin blend of the "The Streetcorner" and the gentle croon of "Take Me To The Stars," Michael Jantz begins, lives and ends in a world that's at once eclectic and wrought in genuine emotion. Jantz's songs journey organically through the human experience of lost and found love. Together with desire, loneliness, waiting in stride, and without wallowing in self-pity, Jantz always delivers a punch line on cue, with a positive nod toward the future.
"Artistic success comes from honesty and writing what you know," says Jantz of the songs on his debut offering. "Across the board, the things I write are all real, from what I feel now or have felt in the near past. As an artist, you have no choice but to chronicle the experiences that come with growth and being human. And at this point, I just want to get my songs out to people and know that I'm forging a path for myself to continue to grow as a songwriter and performer."
Michael Jantz, the full-length debut from Michael Jantz on Ruby Records, is now available at www.michaeljantz.com, www.amazon.com, www.cdbaby.com, www.borders.com, and all Northern Ohio Borders stores, or at all Michael Jantz performances.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Roam(Motionless Tonight)
2. Sorry I Get Sad
3. Up Above And In Between
5. Deep Dark Night
8. Containing Rain
9. The Streetcorner
10. Want Someone Badly
11. Take Me To The Stars