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If you are familiar with the soul scene of Nashville, then you have heard about AJ & The Jiggawatts. Born and raised in the south, AJ Eason has played in a number of bands ranging from The Spades to Space Capone since 1998 and his latest work helps spread the group’s groovy funk-rock from East Nashville to Murfreesboro and beyond. The Jiggawatts all play with other bands in the funk-soul genre, and use that musical experience to bring a deeper element to AJ & The Jiggawatt’s sound. A few days after releasing their first full-length album, which is self-titled, I had the chance to catch up with AJ of AJ & The Jiggawatts.
Q: What path did you take to get in to music?
A: I was born in Atlanta and raised in Memphis since the age of 5. I started singing around campfires and had a little bit of church in there. I went to University of Tennessee to study business and started playing drums. I released an album with a three piece band, Hitch, around 2005. Around that time I got tied in with the G.E.D. Soul Records crowd and was able to tour with the band Sky Hi in Atlanta. I then moved to Clarksville for a job, and later traveled with other bands. I moved to Nashville around 2008 and started playing with Space Capone after begging them to play percussion. I toured with them from 2009-2011and got to play a lot of festivals, including Bonnaroo. AJ & The Jiggawatts formed soon after with G.E.D. Soul Records founder Nick DeVan. DeVan plays drums, Andrew Muller, who plays with Deep Fried 5 is on guitar, and Tim Hawkins is on bass, while I made the move to the front of the stage. We pick up players along the way and for certain performances. Austin Little joins us on trombone, and Andrew Hagen joins us on saxophone. We have had the chance to tour the St. Louis and Chicago circuits, as well as the southern circuit, opening for acts such as Nappy Roots and Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Q: How would you describe your style from your past work to your most current work?
A: My experiences in the last two years have shaped the songs on our latest album. We actually have a full second album ready which has a different vibe because it is more focused on horn, and we’re possibly recording it this summer. Two songs from our EP are bonus tracks on the full length and may sound different production-wise. This CD is really raw and recorded straight to tape. We added violin and cello for the song “Once in a Lifetime.” We made it to tell a story and to be able to listen straight through.
Q: How has Nashville influenced your style?
A: After moving here, I really immersed myself in the scene. I’m out and about so much that people have started to call me a “soul-cialite.” I keep my head in what is going on at the forefront which helps me know people in different walks of life.
Q: Who is your favorite collaborator?
A: Paul Gibson, out of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was my co-writer from 1998-2007 and is the most natural songwriter. He could always hear what I meant and build on top of small elements.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc, Trombone Shorty, Lee Fields, Black Crowes, Black Joe Lewis, Dap-Kings, and Grateful Dead, among others.
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Q: What are your long-term goals as a musician?
A: I want to focus on being a lyricist, getting published, and getting four songs licensed. I want to keep writing horn lines for our songs, which I often do with a handheld recorder. I’d also love to collaborate outside of our genre.
Q: What is a highlight of your career so far?
A: I was touring with The Spades, an all-star group out of Knoxville, and we had the chance to open for Al Green. I had been drumming, but was able to step out of the back and sing lead with this band. Other highlights include sharing the stage with North Mississippi All-Stars and Black Crowes.
Q: What is your advice to others in and outside of the music realm?
A: Listen to yourself and get to know yourself. Trust your gut. You are your destiny and life is now.
Written by: Lexie Deeb