When you hit the lottery, you take care of your momma and your dog. Those are words of wisdom from the track “I Hit the Lottery” by Real Life Heavies on their new album. We will learn more about that shortly. With lyrics like that, if you have met Jeff Lane you remember him. Jeff is just one of those people with a larger than life personality and a go-getter attitude that won’t be overlooked. And if you haven’t had a chance to hear him play music live, you just have to. His combination of songwriting, musical skill and showmanship are second to none. There is no silver spoon here either. Just a guy from a normal family who has proven hard work and positive thinking can create success right here in our region. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Jeff Lane.
BRIAN: Hey Jeff, thanks for taking time to interview with me so folks can get to know you a little better. I always like to start these by asking you to talk a little about your background. What was your life like growing up and how has that shaped you?
JEFF: I’d say that I was lucky. Although like a majority of families these days, mine had divorce in it which lead to less time with my Dad and more time with my Grandparents. That taught me a whole lot of things about life. My mother and I became a team on many things like working around the house and conserving heat so we could afford the wintertime. I learned to cook when I was very young and actually learned to use spices one winter when we were eating 50 cent boxes of macaroni and cheese for dinner every night. I could barely stand to eat any more of it until “made it taste totally different”!
Mom would work as many shifts at the hospital back then as she could and I learned to be self-directed. Luckily she was a music fanatic and had one of those 8 foot long wooden stereo cabinets loaded with vinyl. All those years of Eagles, Jackson Brown, Bob Seger, Elton John, Commodores ….. well you get it I guess, I was surrounded by what I consider to be the best generation of music in our history. My Dad (who I still have in my life) was a police officer and always helped us any way he could. He and Mom remained very respectful of each other throughout my life and when I was acting up Mom would call him up and hand me the phone. Let’s just say, I’d straighten up after those talks. He always managed to take me hunting and fishing, and interested in sports. I can remember when I was in Kindergarden and him picking me up on his chopper!
I was famous and all the kids thought it was cool that I had my own helmet. He has always been the man in my life that I strived to make proud of me because I want to go out of this world with the kind of respect folks have for him.
BRIAN: You obviously could move around and live just about anywhere you want with your works skills, but you choose to be here. What is so special about this area that makes this your choice of places to be?
JEFF: Well that’s a really long story, but I’ll sum it up quickly. I have left the area, several times in fact and have picked up some pretty amazing knowledge and experience from different ventures, but I believe the old saying about “knowing where home is” is absolutely true, and my heart is more at peace here for some reason or another.
I also know so many amazing people here and after I finally got old enough to realize that, I began building a network of people that I may only call once every few years. However, the people I call always get the job done. That’s the real advantage to staying somewhere. When called by my people, I try to always do the same. The last time I “crashed and burned” (4th time now) was during the Great Recession when I was operating two restaurants in Kingsport.
I went nearly 16 months without a regular paycheck until I lost my farm. The next day a friend of mine gave me an office and a place to live for a year. At the end of that year, another friend gave me another place to live for a year, and another friend gave me a car ….. and so on, and so on…… That let me know that I was in the right place. While I was rebuilding myself, another friend convinced me to play the music that I had been writing for myself for the last 20 years….. and here we are.
BRIAN: They say way leads on to way, so this is the perfect spot for you to let folks know what you do in your career before we get into talking music. What do you do for Horizon and how can folks learn more about them?
JEFF: I actually started out with Horizon Credit Union when it was still First Kingsport Credit Union as a consultant, helping with marketing and design projects. I found myself over time working on many other projects as this small credit union was growing and eventually was offered an actual staff position by the CEO and the COO. When the board of directors approved the job, they told me “oh by the way, you’ll have to handle the IT work too”. Haha, I thought “ah no big deal, how hard could that be?” I was in for quite the surprise, but through trial by fire, including a merger of another credit union and a complete overhaul of operating systems I have now completely moved away from most marketing and have focused my attentions on the ever-growing needs that are IT-related. I never thought I‘d like this stuff but I’m a natural-born problem solver, and I love to learn. This job provides me with as much as I can handle and it really fits me perfectly with its challenges!
BRIAN: Ok, now we really can start getting to the meat of this interview. I have seen you play and I will just say, wow! Totally awesome! I know enough about music to know many years of practice and work when I see it. How did you fall in love with music and will you tell us about that early journey for you?
JEFF: Thank you Brian! I appreciate the kind words. As I said earlier, my Mother was probably the cause of me falling in love with music and even scraped up the money to get me guitar lessons when I was around 14 I believe. I learned from a great teacher here in Kingsport, Terry McCoy who taught at Joseph’s Music Center on Broad Street. It was quite a different approach than my first Mel Bay Guitar Lessons book. I came out of my first lesson with hand scribbled instructions of how to play “Back in Black” by AC/DC and I was addicted! That was 31 years ago. I never stopped creating my own music, but other than a couple of high school garage bands I didn’t have the guts to lay it out there for the people to see.
While I was about to lose my farm (around 2010 I believe) my best friend Matthew Oakes led me into the light at an open mic.night. I was shaking like a leaf. It was at the Bus Pit where the garage doors were rolled up at the sidewalk. When we started playing, a bunch of people came back in to watch me. It was a rush like I’d never experienced before and I was captured by it! Shortly after, I was lucky enough to receive not one, but three phone calls from Quentin Horton who was operating a recording studio in his house. He had seen what I was doing at open mic night and wanted me to come and lay down some tracks. I was too embarrassed to say I couldn’t afford anything at all so I kept just putting it off. That third call he said “this is the third time and I’m getting tired of asking” so I laid down the fact of my predicament. He replied with “did I say I was gonna’ charge you?” Like I said, I’ve been lucky. Quentin Horton mentored me and gave me the advice I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. He took me 10 years ahead in about 3 years because I was willing to listen.
With Quentin and Matthew, I’ve recorded two full-length Americana/Honky-Tonk records as the band Hundred Acres, and then following Quentin’s advice I went out on a songwriter mission to figure out more of who I am by travelling constantly to other towns and playing songwriter rounds. That taught me lot and was almost like starting over! I was shaking nervous once again but have now become a much more seasoned front man and guitarist. I’ve played all over the Southeast and shared the stage with some of the best songwriters in the country. After I released an acoustic CD “Best Times” and then decided to focus on the part that’s been trying to get out of me for quite some time now, the strange combination of rock and soul music. I put together a 3-piece and have been wood-shedding for over a year creating a cool new rock-meets-soul & blues show called the Real Life Heavies! My first band Hundred Acres still plays and records too, and actually we’re playing Racks by the Tracks this year with Webb Wilder and Sawyer Brown!!!
BRIAN: I play music, come from a musical background and have taken on projects since I was a kid in some form or another. There are times I have felt like I took on too much, but I have honestly NEVER taken on as much as I see you involved with. So, in all fairness to readers, I am informing them I only have space to ask you about one project this time around. (Yes, that is me leaving the door open to sucker you into another interview sometime.) Your band, The Real Life Heavies, has just produced a brand new album called “If Breaking Bad Was a Band.” Congratulations and please tell folks all about the band, the album and where they can find out more. Go!
JEFF: Ha! I’m having the time of my life with this act! We show up dressed in black business suits complete with white shirts and ties, and we deliver a big sexy form of Soul-meets-Blues-meets-Rock-n-Roll! We have a damn good time on stage and people can feel it! All my songs still have depth and I take them all over the place from a storyteller standpoint.
At our very first appearance as the Real Life Heavies, we played a band open mic in Knoxville. While we were on stage, a woman standing next to the sound man said “If Breaking Bad Was a Band”! Haha! That stuck and turned into this record. In the past year, we’ve learned all kinds of obscure stuff and more importantly about each other. I wanted to make sure that the album didn’t fall into any repetitive song trap, so I wrote songs that play out like a Tarantino movie soundtrack. It switches gears hard and has a tremendous amount of soul energy in it! The rock and roll songs sound like the rock and roll of my influence years (70’s/80’s) and the soul is thick and sleazy like it should be!
Enough’s enough – here’s the linkage man!
Also available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and pretty much any other music site! In addition, all of my projects can be found through my songwriter website as well: www.jefflanesongwriter.com.