Interview: Theresa Jeane (TJ) of The Nearly Deads
THERESA JEANE (TJ) OF
THE NEARLY DEADS
Back when I was still a newbie to the Nashville area, I had an incredible opportunity to see The All-American Rejects play a free show in the parking lot of the local mall as part of Journey’s Backyard BBQ. What I didn’t expect that day, was to be blown away by the opening band The Nearly Deads – and I’ve been a fan ever since. Their music videos have earned millions of views of YouTube, they’ve played the Warped Tour stage, and they’ve found Top 20 Billboard chart success. We recently had the chance to check in with lead vocalist Theresa Jeane (TJ) and talk with her about their latest single “Watch Your Back,” why their songs resonate with listeners so much, her songwriting approach, the solo demos she’s been putting out on Patreon and what that means for the future of The Nearly Deads, and much more!
Photo by: Daniel Howell
1. Back in July (2019), The Nearly Deads released “Watch Your Back,” your first single in a bit. Why did you feel that this was the perfect song to reemerge with?
The lyrics of the song mirror my personal journey as a woman in the music industry. We’ve seen the best and worst, been told lies, heard lots of empty promises…it’s safe to say we’re all a tad bit jaded. I always like to write about what currently affecting me, and since we had been through a sort of pause, those were the sorts of things that were on my mind. We also used a new producer, Brian Craddock, and we all felt it was the strongest song out of the bunch. We had written tons of material but really wanted to focus on the best of the best.
2. You’ve had a lot of huge success in the past with songs such as “Never Look Back,” “Fact or Friction,” “Halfway To Nowhere,” etc. What about your songs, including “Watch Your Back,” do you feel makes them resonate so much with the listeners?
Well, hopefully, the honesty is what resonates. We strive to be authentic in everything that we do, and I think the fans pick up on that. We’re not trying to be anything we’re not. When something feels too forced, people catch on to that. A lot of our songs are about believing in yourself, finding your tribe, following your passions, and most importantly letting go of things that no longer serve you. Everyone comes to a point in their life where they realize that they’re allowed to do that, and it’s a very freeing and invigorating time. Letting people know they aren’t alone and that we’re all just out here figuring it out together is very important to us!
3. Earlier this year, when asked on social media about upcoming shows you answered with, “Not at the moment! Focusing on writing.” Tell us a little bit about your songwriting process – how has it changed over the years, where do your lyrics come from, how much of your classically trained background is at the start of the process, etc.
That’s a great question! I personally do most of my songwriting at the piano. Once a musical idea sticks, like a chord progression or melody, I’ll try to sound out some words that fit. The mood of the song kind of chooses itself. I’m inspired by everything around me and honestly have a lot of thoughts I just need to get out sometime. I’m different from a lot of other writers by doing the lyrics last. I like to play with rhymes and get inspired by words I might not have thought of on my own. However, “Watch Your Back” was written mostly by Steve Tobi, our lead guitarist. He’ll send me a ton of guitar tracks and I’ll listen and see what melodies spring to my mind, seeing which ones inspire me the most. That opening riff was just so powerful, it was always the song I just kept coming back to. The whole song has kind of a snarky, tounge-in-cheek vibe to the lyrics, and I was definitely channeling some Debbie Harry attitude in the studio with it.
4. So, with “Watch Your Back” having been released now, and on the subject on the writing, what’s next for The Nearly Deads? A new EP? A new album? Upcoming singles?
For now we are still taking a break. It was a hard decision to make, but with Javier starting a family and me planning my wedding, touring wasn’t an option. We had also started to get a little burnt out, and decided it was for the best to focus on family and personal projects for a while. We’re definitely not going anywhere, but for now, we’re just taking a step back and looking at everything we’ve done and deciding our next move. We’re all just exploring what else life has to offer for the moment. We definitely don’t want any fans to be disappointed or think we’ve called it quits- I think we were just pushing too hard for too long and it was time for a break.
5. Earlier this year you started your own personal Patreon page separate from The Nearly Deads. Tell us a little bit about your page and how people can find it if they want to be a backer of it.
First of all - Patreon is AMAZING, and a complete game-changer for independent musicians. I’m so grateful to all my supporters and to everyone who supported the TND Patreon. Since we were taking a break, it just didn’t feel right to continue on with the TND page. We weren’t going to be touring or releasing anything for a while, so there were no exclusives or perks we could continue offering. I have wanted to release solo music for some time, and the Patreon, which I call the Bombshelter, has become a place where I can post anything and say anything, try out new musical ideas, and get feedback from my top fans, who are more like family at this point. I love having an outlet. My solo music isn’t too different from songs of ours like “As Good As it Gets”, and “Never Look Back (Reanimated)”. It’s all piano driven and it’s been taking me back to my roots, to a time before I was in TND. It’s like its own little community where we can all share ideas and talk about music, video games, movies, etc. and now people are even interested in my wedding planning! Our fans are so supportive, patient, and understanding. They truly just want to see me, and TND, keep making music. In order to do that, it is imperative that we receive funding somehow, and a small monthly contribution is a great way to do that for a lot of people! I’m having so much fun and getting more personal than ever on my new page, and you can join at www.patreon.com/theresajeane!
6. Are these solo demos more so for fun or for a potential solo project from you? And, where does a solo effort leave The Nearly Deads at this moment?
I’ve been talking to Brian Craddock about getting into the studio with at least one single in the near future, but to be honest, with a wedding coming up it might have to wait until after my honeymoon! I’m hoping a fully produced single will attract more Patrons to join, which will help me tremendously in my pursuit of a solo album. I have so many ideas I just want to see realized and I love sharing them with my patrons first. Eventually there will be a single, EP or album. I’ve never done any of this without my band behind me, so it’s completely new territory for me! Recording costs, marketing, budgeting, promotion - it’s all in my hands now. And any songs will always have potential to be TND songs in the future. You never know!
7. Let’s talk your home base (and ours) of Nashville. The town has a stigma of being “country.” What’s it like to be a rock band in the Nashville music scene?
It’s been really great for us. Nashville is a hub of the music industry, and we wouldn’t have made any of the connections we’ve made if we hadn’t been based there. Since there are fewer rock bands, it’s a small community where everyone helps each other out! It also makes for great conversation on the road, because everyone wants to know what it’s like in Nashville!
8. The Nearly Deads have been a big part of the Nashville scene for almost a decade now. Over the years, how have you seen Nashville’s music scene evolve and change the most – for better or worse?
Nashville is no exception to what’s happening all over the country. Clubs are closing, bands are dissolving, and a lot of people are exiting the industry all together. It’s become extremely difficult to make a living in the business, and we’ve seen a lot change in Nashville over the years. I will say there are probably a lot more rock bands there now. It seems to be a place where everyone wants to move and be a part of. But we’ve seen venues close just like everywhere else. People just don’t go out to see live music like they used to.
9. The Nearly Deads may call Nashville home, but are certainly not a band stuck in only the local scene. You’ve toured, toured, and toured some more, crisscrossing the US several time over. What are the biggest challenges you face when going on the road in front of a new crowd night in and night out and how do you overcome them?
We’ve always loved touring and have learned to take the good with the bad. It’s really hard to stay healthy on the road, and that’s been a big challenge in the past, especially as a singer! I always want to talk and do as much as possible and say hi to fans and be at the merch table all night, but I would just end up hoarse at the end of the night. I had to stop talking the days of shows to save my voice and that was always hard to do. Plus, you go from so many extremes and climates and you’re generally drinking a bit and not eating very well (hello Little Caesars) and once one person in the band gets sick, everyone gets sick! You just try to grin and bear it, take lots of Emergen-C and NyQuil and move on to the next show!
10. We’re all about helping the next generation at allageszine.com, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with their first band today?
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the ride. But if I had to choose just ONE piece of advice it would be to not be afraid to part ways with people who aren’t pulling their weight or who’s vision doesn’t align with yours. Be honest with the people who you are getting involved with and make sure everyone is on the same page! And always make music that you love, there’s no point in doing it any other way.