Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Jackson Rohm

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Jackson RohmGood music is hard to come by. We are flooded with junk on the radio and those terrible songs lead to the summer’s best concerts. It is brainwashing and makes me have little hope for quality music in our future. But, that was before I met this man. He brings heartfelt and honest lyrics with toes in the sand kind of grooves that make you want to grab your woman and hold her tight. His voice is unique and polished and he plays the guitar as if he was born to do so. Not to mention he is one of the nicest guys I have meet in a long time. I am excited that I got the chance to sit with him today and it my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Jackson Rohm.

Is Jackson Rohm your real name?

Robert Jackson Rohm is my full name, but I’ve been called Jackson since the first week I was born by my parents.  Robert is my Dad.

How do you pronounce your last name? What does it sound like?

My family pronounces is it, “rom” like CD-Rom.  I answer to the, “roam” pronunciation though.  Either way is cool with me.

How long have you been performing?

I started playing guitar in middle school and sang in a metal band with some friends when we were fourteen.  We played our first paid gig 1984, performing for our middle school dance. I never considered myself a professional musician until I bagged law school and started playing out full time in 1995.

What is your first memory of the guitar?

I remember getting my first electric guitar when I was thirteen or so.  I had the riff to Smoke On The Water down before I ever took a lesson.

What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

It’s hard to tell.  I’ve played some outdoor festivals in the summertime where 10,000 plus people were in attendance supposedly.  But, I would guess that there might have been 1,000 as most during my set.

The smallest?

I’ve played shows where there was nobody but the bartenders and servers in the audience.  Those can be tough!  I also played a sweet 16 birthday party for a girl in her parents’ basement once.  I’ll play for whoever is paying me.  Gotta make a living!

So then do you have a job outside of music?

Nope. I’ve not had a job since I waited tables summers when I was in college.  That was seventeen or eighteen years ago.  Yikes!

How did you get hooked up with Quad Studios?

We chose Quad because it’s fairly reasonably priced, has many isolation booths which is key when you are recording acoustic instruments live.  We also wanted to cut to two inch tape and Quad had the tape machine that we needed.  And we had to be in Nashville, of course!

Do you write all of your own lyrics?

I wrote all of the music and lyrics for the fourteen songs that I recorded for the Acoustic Sessions album.

It seems that you understand the business side of the music industry. What is your process when going on tour to increase CD sales?

That’s always a tough one because I play a number of shows where I also play cover songs.  It all depends on the venue and what they are looking for.  Playing originals increases sales of records, but if the venue wants some covers, I need to be careful to play a good mix of material so that I don’t lose the people are not familiar with my stuff.  I try not to be overly pushy when it comes to selling my music.  Word of mouth is the best way to sell music, so I always hope that if I put out a quality product, the sales will come naturally.

What sorts of merchandise do you have other than your discs?

I also sell t-shirts.  But, it’s a pain to keep them sorted and folded.  I only hire people to help with merch at the shows that I expect a ton of sales.  So, since I often handle my own sales on breaks and after the show, I try not to bother with too much stuff.  It’s just more crap to load in and out of the van and keep track of!

Where can I get some of that merchandise?

The store page on my website is where people can order stuff aside from purchasing at my live shows.  If you order through PayPal at my website, I personally ship everything out, so I’m happy to autograph items, etc.

You travel a ton. Do you like being on the road that much?

I love being on the road 95% of the time.  Sometimes you just want to chill at home, but usually I love getting the chance to play to a different audience.  Many musicians are not afforded that opportunity.  Plus, I’ve made lots of friends in some of the cities that I frequently hit.  So, it’s always great to catch up with them as I pass through from place to place.

What is your favorite thing about touring?

I rarely get bored.  Even when I’m not touring, I enjoy travel around the US and abroad just for fun.  Life is too short and there’s just so much to do and see.  I don’t enjoy sitting still for too long!

Now this is something I can relate to! How fun was it being on the Rock Boat?

The Rock Boat is a total blast if you enjoy music and a great party atmosphere.  I like both and have been on six or seven trips now.  I performed the first three years, but really wanted to go as a guest so that I could kick back, enjoy the shows and throw back some beers without having to worry about performing.  Whether you’re performing on The Rock Boat or just relaxing as a music lover, it’s an incredible experience.

You have appeared on ABC and NBC. Is CBS next?

Well, I’ve been on those network’s local stations in Cleveland, Buffalo, etc.  God knows, I’d love to have the chance to perform on Leno or Letterman.  I still have a long way to go before I’m able to get a foot in those doors.

I am hooked on this new Zac Brown Band album. What was it like playing with them?

I actually met Zac when he was just a guest on The Rock Boat.  This was long before he was known beyond the bar scene in Atlanta. He loved to come up and sit in, playing cover songs and of course, Chicken Fried and a few of his songs.  He never wanted to stop playing.  He’d stay on the stage by the casino on the cruise ship until after the sun came up some nights.  One night, I just left my guitar with him at about 6:00 AM and said to leave it on the stage.  I had to get to bed!

You seem to have shared the stage with some Rock Boat legends. What is the most memorable show you have ever played?

I always like getting on stage with a Rock Boat favorite called Cowboy Mouth for their encore.   They were always over the top when it came to their live show. They would have the crowd worked up into a frenzy by then and it was a rush to be up there playing their crowd favorite, Jenny Says with them when the audience was so into it.  I got to play a handful of shows with them in Wisconsin when they played there the week before Mardi Gras for a couple consecutive years.

What are you drinking on stage?

I know that I should be drinking water to stay hydrated, but I usually end up drinking beer (any beer will do) and an occasional shot of tequila.

What was the inspiration to do an all-acoustic disc?

I’ve had a lot of interest from my fans for an acoustic record.  That’s because I play the bulk of my shows as a solo acoustic act.  My fans wanted to hear something that resembled my live show and I’ve always wanted to release a recording of some of my older songs like Gasoline And Matches and One More Fourth Of July with the unplugged thing happening as opposed to the bigger production versions that I previously released.  It was fun to do something different in the studio.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

Well, as I mentioned, I’m currently playing out as a solo act because it’s just easier logistically these days.  It’s tough to make ends meet touring with a band.  I applaud all those that do it, because it’s honestly more fun to play with other guys on stage backing you up.  I had a band a few years ago, but when my drummer and long time friend, Rod Welling died in a car accident in 2004, I just decided that I’d go it alone for a while.  I miss Rod and I miss the other guys in the band on stage, but they have kids and day jobs, so it was just too tough to make things work with the way I like to travel.  As for the most embarrassing time, that would be on this past Rock Boat in January when I was invited up on stage at about 2:30 AM.  I’m afraid that I’d had a bit too much to drink that night and I’d have been better served to stay in the audience where I belonged. It was a bit of a train wreck when I could not remember lyrics, etc.  Luckily, most everyone in the crowd was worse off than I was.  I still feel bad for the other players that were on stage with me that night.  It was definitely humiliating, but a learning experience.  I’ll smile and pass next time I’m invited up that late into a night off!

Who is Aaron Thompson and how did you meet him?

Aaron is a very talented producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist that I met in the late 90s when I lived in Atlanta.  He’s produced five of my six records and he’s mixed all of them.  He and I work very well together and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him.  I’m sure we’ll probably be back in his studio talking about the seventh project before too long.

Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Jamestown, New York which is a fairly small town an hour or so south of Buffalo in the southwest corner of New York State.  I grew up on a lake there and still keep my boat there.  I’m based out of Cleveland, but Lake Chautauqua is where you’ll find me much of the summertime.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would you go?

That’s a tough one.  I love Brazil, but I’m not sure if I’d want to live there year round.  Because I travel so much, it probably would not matter where I lived.  I’m just on the go so much of the time.  Chicago is another city that I love.  I would not be surprised if I ended up there sometime down the road.

You are playing all around Indiana but nothing in the Hoosier state. How can I get you to play a show here in Indianapolis?

I actually do occasionally play in Indiana.  I just played a little bar in Decatur in February.  I also played in Indy last October and I’ve played a dozen or so times at Kilroy’s Sports in Bloomington in the past few years.  I have a ton of friends in Indy that are constantly pestering me to come back and I’d love to swing through this fall if I find the right venue.

Do you ever forget the lyrics to your own songs?

Unfortunately that has happened.  It’s hard to believe how that could happen, but I think that it occasionally does for most artists.  For me, it usually has something to do with a cute girl that distracts me…and I’m pretty easily distracted these days!

What are your thoughts on the dying social networking service that is MySpace?

We had a good run.  But, it seems so sluggish and full of spammers that I’m just fine with Facebook, especially now that you can put a music player on your fan page.  MySpace was a great thing for me for years though.  I still use it, but not many people visit my page anymore.

Are you on Twitter?

I’m just starting to get the hang of Twitter.  It seems like a cool way to connect with fans, but I’m still trying to determine how to best utilize it.

How does being on a major record label effect your freedom in touring and in songwriting?

I’ve actually never been signed to a label at all.  I enjoy being in total control of my career and what I can do creatively.  That’s not to say that I’m anti-label.  I’m just happy with how things are going as is.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Influences are hard to pinpoint because I’ve been playing cover songs since I was a kid.  I went through the metal phase, then listened and played mostly classic rock and folkier stuff in college.  Then, I got into grunge and alternative for a bit and I always dig singer/songwriter stuff.  I’ve also gotten more into country lately too.  I’ll say that I love bands like Counting Crows, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Keith Urban or Ryan Adams, etc., but I don’t really think that my music sounds like theirs.  So who knows who really influenced me?

It might be impossible since you travel so much, but what is your favorite venue?

I love playing The Village Casino on Chautauqua Lake (where I grew up).  It’s not really a casino, but it’s a cool, laid back wing and beer joint right on the water that I grew up hanging out at since I was a kid.  I usually pack the place and lots of old friends always seem to be there.  It’s my kind of place!

What is your relationship with Amp Energy Drink?

I was sponsored by Amp in 2009 and they were great to me.  I passed out lots of their swag at shows and did some promotional stuff with them with radio giveaways, etc.  My deal has expired with them, but I’m grateful to have worked with them.  A few years ago I was also sponsored by Leinenkugel’s beer and that was also a great experience.  I think that I drank far more of their beer than I did the Amp drink though!

What was it like when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?

That was an incredible feeling.  I still could not believe it.  When I recorded my first record, I had no idea if people would like my original music at all.  When it went over so well, I was like, “You liked that?  I can do much better!”.  So I became more focused on writing music.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’d be happy if I’m doing the exact same thing that I’m doing now.  I love my life.  But, if bigger and better opportunities came my way, I’d be thrilled as well.  If my music career somehow fizzles out within five years, I might be in trouble.  Playing music is what I do and I can’t really see myself doing much else.  The day job thing just won’t fly at this point in my life!

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

I hope to be remembered as a guy that was a hell of a lot of fun to see play live.  And I’d like to be remembered for writing some songs that told some great stories that moved people.  If my stuff moves them to dance, cry, sing along, etc., that’s all fine with me.  I just hope that they are not moved to hit the eject button!

I always let the artist get the last word. Go!

I’m just really proud of this latest Acoustic Sessions CD because it represents a cross section of some of the previously released songs that I’m most proud of and I’m also really pleased with how the five new songs came together in the studio.  I feel that the instrumentation worked so well with the arrangements that we came up with and my vocal tone seems to suit the whole vibe.  This was a fun album to make.  I just hope that people dig it!