Gary Jules Biography
Last updated: 11/13/2011 11:00:00 AM
'He tells stories. The other thing is, he’s a captivating performer. He’s really serious about what he’s doing, he works really hard, and you throw that whole package together and you’ve got an artist who, in my opinion, could quite easily be selling out 2000 or 3000 seat venues.' Nic Harcourt, host, Morning Becomes Eclectic, KCRW, Los Angeles
Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets is Gary Jules’ second album. It gives space to Gary’s ghostly timbre, his delicate guitar playing and his vivid stories about HIS Los Angeles. Not the LA of Hollywood and shine and glitz and emptiness, but the downtown of Koreatown and the mausoleum-like Ambassador Hotel where Robert Kennedy was shot. 'A metropolitan city, more like New York than LA, where people are walking around, going about their business,' he says.
Mad World is a highlight, and the reason Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets is finally being released in the UK, but the album also contains plenty of poetic, captivating songs that recall Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens, country-influenced tunes (Patchwork G) and old European waltz/country ballads The Princess Of Hollywood Way and Barstool to the extremely pop sensible DTLA. It’s simple stuff, done elegantly and soulfully. It may have taken nearly two years for this album to make it to Europe, but no matter: these songs are in for the long-haul.
As well as appearing on Gary Jules’ second album, Mad World was originally on Donnie Darko - Music From The Original Motion Picture Score.
In December 1996, after paying his dues on the singer-songwriter scene, Gary was signed to A&M Records. He recorded his debut album, Greetings From The Side, in March 1997. After a year of waiting, at the record company’s behest, it was remixed. In August 1998 it was finally released. 'And two weeks later the record company disappeared,' he says with a dry laugh. A&M fell between the cracks of a corporate merger. 'There was nothing I could do. It disappeared so fast that I didn’t have copies of the album, so I couldn’t even go on road and sell it. And I was still signed so I couldn’t go and make a new record elsewhere. I was sold along with thousands of other people, and being near the bottom of the ladder it took a year to review my contract and for me to finally get dropped.' In the end Gary snagged 300 or 400 copies of Greetings From The Side and set about losing himself in whatever distractions came to hand - a very long weekend off the deep end. Then, weary from experience and in need of a new perspective, he went back to college and finished a degree in English literature.
In March 2001 Gary visited Michael Andrews in their hometown of San Diego. They did basic recordings of four of Gary’s new songs: Broke Window, DTLA, Pills and Patchwork G. Gary went back to LA, fired-up and back in the saddle. Over the course of the summer Gary and Michael worked on the record on and off, hammering out seven more songs that would make it on to Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets. Gary worked on two more tracks for the album - Lucky and Umbilical Town - on his own in Los Angeles while Michael was busy with his own music. Gary then took the tracks to his friend Zeke’s house in Los Angeles and mixed them on his home stereo.
Two years ago Gary released Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets himself. Donnie Darko and the response to Mad World gave his profile a shot in the arm. He is the originator of the music scene at the Hotel Café, a singer-songwriter cooperative/venue, which many consider to be the new beating heart of the Los Angeles artist community. From its humble beginnings, the Hotel has recently hosted the likes of Weezer, Ian Ball from Gomez, Damien Rice, Jewel, Lucinda, Jason Mraz, Pete Yorn, and many others. Gary has developed a strong following in various major US markets and has toured with Sheryl Crow, Todd Rundgren, Jack Johnson and Turin Breaks, managing to sell nearly 10,000 copies of Snakeoil in the U.S. - a remarkable figure for a self-released album with absolutely no advertising or marketing behind it. 'It started happening for me at the second attempt,' he says reflectively. 'Much more organically and dynamically. There was no established market for what I was doing then - David Gray hadn’t done White Ladder yet, and there was no Damien Rice model to plug me into - nobody knew how to sell a singer-songwriter in America. I figured it wasn't that big a mystery - write songs that mean something to you, sing them for whoever will listen, and hope that they mean something to them too.'
Gary Jules' first national recognition for Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets came when he was featured on VH1's new music show 'FRESH' as a 'Fresh Pick of the Week', where he was hailed as 'the best American singer-songwriter to emerge out of the late '90's -- and the only one worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence with Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Nick Drake'. Originally championed by Nic ' Harcourt, legendary host of 'Morning Becomes Eclectic' at KCRW in Los Angeles, and by Bruce Warren at WXPN in Philadelphia, 'Broke Window', 'DTLA', 'No Poetry', 'Something Else', and 'Mad World' from Snakeoil have all received regular college and public radio airplay in the U.S., England, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere. And although Snakeoil is still considered very much an independent release, 'Mad World' was even placed in rotation at KROQ in Los Angeles in the Spring of 2003.
MICHAEL ANDREWS and GARY JULES BIOGRAPHY
Michael Andrews and Gary Jules liked their British Eighties classics. Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths, Tears For Fears... Friends since they were 10 years old, they had always played music together. They have always kept in touch through music; Michael produced Gary's A&M debut and co-produced, with Gary, the Adventures/Sanctuary follow-up Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets. Gary sang on Michael’s score to a little known film called Donnie Darko.
In late-2000 Michael was working on a soundtrack for an independent film. Like many of his favourite soundtrack composers - John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Lalo Schifrin - used the 'trick' of incorporating a song into their instrumental score. The song he chose was Mad World. He sang the song to the producer, Nancy Juvonen, over the phone and she loved it and that’s how it all got started. Gary came down to Michael's place and in an hour-and-a-half they recorded a demo version of the song, with Gary on vocals. Donnie Darko creator Richard Kelly came over and loved it. Michael and Gary had nailed it in 90 minutes. From the bombastic synth-pop of Tears For Fears, they had fashioned a mesmerising, eerie, haunting lament.
While the film’s U.S. release was modestly received, Gary began performing the song on the local LA singer-songwriter circuit to overwhelming response. The track was added to the already completed Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets and local tastemaker, KCRW’s Nic Harcourt, took an interest. The film found success overseas and Mad World found itself on radio charts from Ireland to Israel.
Donnie Darko had its climactic song, and a modern cult was born around that little number. Three years on, that ad hoc demo is one of the most talked-about songs of the year. Fortunately for all those who’ve heard it pouring out of Radio One throughout November, or who consider Donnie Darko one of the greatest movies of the year, Mad World is finally available domestically on CD.
In fact it appears on two very different but equally appropriate albums - both of which are released by Adventure/Sanctuary on 19 January 2004.
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