Sunday, October 18, 2009

A blog about one of my favorite songwriters.

The first time that I met Justin Oliver was in Myrtle Beach at a venue called The Lazy I. Basically, The Lazy I was a room in the back of a record store where bands would play. We probably played to about 10 people in that little room, but something very important happened that night...we experienced Heaven and Breakfast (featuring Justin Oliver as lead singer) for the first time. We hit it off instantly, enjoyed a night at the beach together, and the Heaven and Breakfast EP became regular listening in our van - a soundtrack to our crazy first tour in 2001. As we would sneak into hotel pools late at night and clunk across the country in a white van with big purple letters spelling "punchline" on the side, the Heaven and Breakfast EP was in regular rotation.

Over the years, we developed a great friendship with all of the Heaven and Breakfast guys. We would play together in each other's towns, which was always a day we looked forward to...the day would start with bro hugs and end with beers. We were always happy to talk about our good buds up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and spread their music to everyone we knew.

Before Heaven and Breakfast ceased to be a band anymore, they released a full-length CD that once again went on to become a staple in the Punchline van. I couldn't tell you how many times we recited the lines...

"All alone
I'm never anywhere I call my home
These four seats are my furniture
The road it holds me like a lover"

When we recorded our Action album, we had a spot in the bridge of a ballad called "Coldest of Calendars" for some intelligent, poetic, moving lyrics that would give you chills. Who else would we ask to do it but Justin Oliver? We sent him the track, and within a few days he sent us back the song with his part added. What he laid down on the track went on to become one of my favorite parts of the whole album.

Justin went on to be a part of another great band called The Casual Lean. They made a lot of great music over the years, including "We Are The Deer", a song from the first person perspective of a deer being hunted and killed. The song to this day still remains in all of my top song lists (because I love to make those). I've talked to Justin about the song before, and it seems like he wasn't too crazy about that song. I would beg to differ with him, bigtime.

I can't remember exactly when it happened, but I remember hearing the news that Justin had been in a bad accident. It was a very scary time for all of us, and I can remember the relief we felt when we heard he was going to be okay. Once we knew he was alright, we very guiltily (is that a word?) looked forward to the music he would write about the terrible experience (sorry Justin). He didn't let us down.

After his time in The Casual Lean, Justin would send Steve songs that he would record himself, purely for our enjoyment. Every time we got a new song or two, I more and more couldn't believe that this dude wasn't HUGE. He had a voice and lyrics deserving of international recognition, yet we were only part of a small group of people that ever got to hear these songs. He also did a kickass cover of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U". How cool is that?

I am extremely proud to say that we'll be releasing Justin Oliver's new album "For Rose" on Modern Short Stories. Anyone who loves real music from the heart is going to love this album. This collection of songs is a masterpiece from an under-appreciated artist who I am going to do my darndest to make sure IS appreciated! I will be spreading the word hard in the coming weeks about this album. I know everyone will dig it.

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