“Bridge and Tunnel”, The Junior League’s new record, will be out October 1st on Kool Kat Musik and via the digital streaming services. Joe Adragna tells how a few songs grew into a full-fledged record.
There seems to be so much confidence in the performance of the new songs that you must have known very early in the writing process that you were writing some great tunes?
I knew that I liked the songs, but I’m not sure if I felt confident or not. When I played some of the songs in progress to some of my friends, their responses spurred me on. Sometimes I like stuff, but I truly don’t know if anyone else will. I’m terrible at figuring that out. Luckily for me, ultimately, when I’m doing stuff, I’m doing it for myself anyway, so if I like it, it just becomes a matter of if I’m willing to subject other people to it! Hahahaha
On Not My Time, I think you sound like Joe Jackson. Do you consider that a compliment?
Absolutely a compliment. What a nice thing to say, thank you! Obviously, it has a late 60s Intruders type thing happening–I didn’t think about Joe Jackson, but I’m certainly happy to accept that.
The song was initially on a soundtrack that my friend Casey McAllister had done for a film called “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets”. It’s a fantastic soundtrack, by the way, you should check it out! Anyway, he had a song on there that was like a minute long, and I fell in love with it. I asked him if I could use it and that I had some vocal melodies and lyrics I’d like to put with it. He agreed, and I sent him an idea of what I wanted to do– taking his version and extending it, as well as adding my vocals to it.
He then recut the track to fit my vocals, and I put my drums and vocals on his new version, and voila! Casey is playing everything on that track but the drums! He’s a super talented guy. We’ve known each other for a long time–and we’ve played together in a few groups.
How did this record come together?
I was recording at my home recording space, as usual. I initially thought I was going to do an EP. I figured I’d make a four-song EP back a year or so ago, centered around the song “54”. I had that one, maybe Hart Island and Woodlawn Avenue as well, but I kept writing songs.
I had about six, and I hit a bit of a wall. My friend Jay, who had heard the songs, knew that many had some New York connection to them. He suggested I keep trying to write about New York; maybe use that as a common thread.
Then I saw that picture that my friend Linda took, which is the cover, and that was it. I wrote Library Bar after that, and then maybe the lyrics for LIRR…..I can’t remember. Not all of the songs have an obvious New York connection–but it is there. As far as the recording, I had all of the basic tracks done. As on most of the other Junior League records, my incredibly gifted friend Scott McCaughey mixed a bunch of the songs and added amazing keyboard, guitars, and vocals all over the place. He was very encouraging and made me much more confident because he’s fantastic–I mean, he is, in my opinion, one of the best –if he likes the songs, they must be all right!
In addition, my very talented friend Mike Giblin had also been acting as a sounding board and was super encouraging. He also really made me feel much more confident about the songs. He mixed three songs off the record, including Not My Time.
I also had Deni Bonet adding her gorgeous strings on “54” and “Woodlawn Avenue”. I also had outstanding contributions from my friends JJ Murphy, Peter Searcy, and Liam Catchings. I guess it started out moving quickly, I hit a bit of a wall, but then a lot happened at the end!
When you recorded The Sunshine Saves Everyone, you probably knew right away that it had to be the lead-off track?
For the longest time, the lead-off track was going to be “Not My Time”. But yeah, once I wrote “Sunshine”, I figured that had to be it. I think Scott suggested that it should be upfront too, and he was right.
How easy or difficult is it nowadays to promote the record by performing live? You could almost say these songs demand a stage.
I don’t know. I’d certainly like to play them live; at some point, I might do some shows, even if acoustic. But it’s so hard to say. I even thought about doing something online, but I don’t know if anyone would watch?
I’ve watched some of my friends’ live streams and have enjoyed them a ton. I am hoping to do some shows maybe next year. I hope to, anyway. I have a lot of stuff between this record and the Sadabouts EP that Casey Neill and I put out. I think it isn’t easy to get your stuff noticed because there is so much out there, and so many people are being creative and putting things out. I’m just appreciative of those who carve out a little time for my stuff. And I appreciate you asking me about it!