“I’ll be the first to last, never worry ‘bout the past…”
First to Last
Jerry Velona from the album Love Radio
“I think the reason why getting older is looked upon negatively by most people is they assume you have to stop doing what you’ve always wanted to do and grow up.” My interview subject let out a loud laugh. He went on, “To me, ‘growing up’ means just the opposite. It’s finally realizing what you’re about and starting to put that accumulated wisdom and experience to good use.”
Jerry Velona knows a little bit about accumulating wisdom and experience. Coming from a family of musicians and starting with violin & piano lessons from his grandparents at age 7, he’s spent his entire life playing, singing and writing music. After deciding he really wanted to play drums and guitar, Jerry started his first band “The Drainage System” (“I have no idea”, he laughs) at age 12. He joked that after it became obvious he’d get more girls that way, his future in rock was underway.
After attending Berklee College of Music and getting a chance to study drums with the late, great Alan Dawson, Jerry got married and had a couple of kids. Like many serious musicians, he had to get a day gig to pay the bills. He did so for many years while playing and singing in a variety of successful bands nights and weekends. Jerry’s musical palette covers a wide range of styles from rock to jazz to soul and r&b and country influences. His ability to effortlessly sing in styles from r&b shouting to crooning and everything in between enabled him to get work as a side man in addition to honing his skills as a performer. He credits his parents and the general musical environment growing up for his eclectic tastes. “I absorbed everything I heard,” he said, “and it all remains within me to this day.”
Jerry said, “While I longed to spend more time on my music, my busy professional and family life forced me to be judicious with my time and constantly re-evaluate my goals. I realized that making music could never be replaced. I never lost the hunger and along the way I learned about persistence and patience which has been useful needless to say.” He has also garnered notice.
His voice has been used in radio and TV commercials, a cartoon pilot and the song At Last (there’s you) from the documentary film Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown. His songs have been used on MTV Cribs as well as in an HBO special and have received significant international airplay. He won a Billboard songwriting award for his song Hip Hop No More. His song Dream Girl reached #20 on the smooth jazz charts. On his most recent release Love Radio, Jerry’s cover of the song Looking for Lewis and Clark by The Long Ryders was lauded by the bandleader Sid Griffin who said, “Jerry Velona once again proves his musical worth in a balls-to-the-wall cover version… (and his) committed vocal and approach to the lyric…oh Mercy.” About Love Radio, Boston Globe rock writer Steve Morse said, "Jerry Velona is a superb craftsman. He shows striking versatility…Velona's honest spirit is refreshing and blissfully indifferent to trends."
Jerry has written and published over 50 original songs in five albums. The songs reflect his varied life experience and the ability to connect with others by translating those experiences through his music. The tumultuous breakup of his family as a child and his two marriages and difficult divorces have colored some of his songs with a darker hue, while his love for and commitment to his three children as well as his general optimism and gratitude about life balances things. Throughout the tunes there are elements of incisive wit, sarcasm, social commentary and interesting wordplay to go with the solid musicianship.
When asked to describe his music, Jerry simply says, “It’s American music. I’m just one of many trying to explain and celebrate life in America in all its complexity through the vehicle of our traditional art forms.”
His latest album About Funk in Time marks a departure from previous efforts. It contains 14 songs, the majority covering some of his favorite soul and funk tunes by a few of his favorite artists like Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett. The album also features three originals including the autobiographical Dope Springs Eternal; “The pathetic story of my love life,” he laughs.
Jerry is determined to not let his life experience go unexplained or unrecorded. About the new album he says, “I’m hoping to connect the generations with some of this great music as it has connected my personal life,” he says. Asked to elaborate about those connections, Jerry added, “The energy and universal positive spirit that the songs engender still motivate and excite me. I’ve loved them my whole life and I think the music deserves attention from a younger audience many of whom are not that familiar with their rich musical heritage.”
Despite the many years driving his road, the journey is just beginning. Jerry Velona is offering a musical map for an interesting life well-travelled and lived. And, as he says with a smile, “You can dance to it!” Check out About Funk in Time on Karunabird Records – available at CD Baby and all major download and streaming sites.