BIO and INTERVIEW
J.J. Crowne – Biography
J.J. Crowne is an award-winning singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist (and, most recently, screen actor) who attended Oberlin Music Conservatory and started his professional musical career as a composer, performer and producer of theatrical music, radio jingles and TV cues & themes for Fox, PBS and Univision TV among others. In his hometown of Miami, he opened shows for country superstars The Mavericks in the early 1990′s. A true Renaissance Man, Crowne completed law school along the way and devoted a 30-year legal career to representing the indigent.
J.J.’s debut album “Songs Of Innocence And Experience” was released July, 2011 and was later named “2011 Indie CD Of The Year” by IndieMusicDigest – selected over 300 other entries. The album received only excellent reviews from over 20 music publications both here and abroad.
After gaining music industry and international press recognition for his self-produced debut album, J.J. teamed-up with gold-record producer Stephen Wrench (Hank, Jr., Missing Persons, Vince Gill) and legendary Nashville mixing/mastering engineer Jeff Silverman (Rick Springfield, Prince, Stephen Bishop) to complete a 5-song EP released July 2012. The EP contains “Another Day Of Love,” “Only Time,” “Best Of Intentions,” “Toy Soldiers,” and “She And He.”
As of June 2013, over 1000 land, internet, satellite and syndicated radio stations worldwide were airing songs from the EP. The title track became the #2 listener-voted song on www.worldtalentsradio.com out of 300 songs, and stayed in the Top Ten for almost 3 months. The song then re-entered the chart at #2 again in August 2013. In May 2013, “Best Of Intentions” became the #3 listener-voted song on that same station. “Only Time” was downloaded over 6,200 times in its one-day feature on Songshooter.com. And in February 2013, “She And He” was voted by listeners into the Top 20 Chart of Europe’s www.musicworldradio.com.
The new CD “J.J. Crowne” was released May 1, 2013 featuring newly mixed and mastered versions of the five songs from 2012′s EP, along with five new songs. The CD is available on iTunes, Amazon, and all other major outlets. Radio stations in over 70 markets around the U.S. (from Juneau to St. Louis to Nashville to Baltimore) have now added it to their playlists, as well as stations in Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K., Germany and Japan.
The album has remained in the Americana Music Association radio spins chart since August 2013. The single “Only Time” was the #1 tune on the Spins Tracking System (STS) Country ‘Up & Coming’ Chart October 29, 2013, and climbed to #27 on their Main Country Top 50 Airplay Chart. The album entered the Roots Music Report (RMR) Folk Internet Airplay Chart at #7 in September 2013 and was #1 for two weeks (10/24/13 & 11/1/13). It remained in their Top 10 for 12 weeks.
J.J.’s music has also been featured on numerous popular internet podcasts – including being selected for regular rotation on the well-known NewMusicTampaBay podcast, as well as on RadioCrystalBlue and RockWiredRadio. He has been featured on the Home Pages of major music websites including Rockwired, TargetAudience, Suite101, Carlito’s Blog, MusicEmissions, IndieMusicDigest, and Penseyeview; and Home Page interviews with him have appeared online in Skope Magazine, Song Revelation, and Junior’s Cave. He has also been interviewed on several radio broadcasts across the U.S., and has been a regular featured performer at the Key Largo Songwriters Festival for the past 5 years. J.J. recently won a national songwriting competition which earned him a slot at this year’s South Florida Folk Festival in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Songwriters’ Net Best Magazine recently selected J.J. as Featured Artist for August 2013 and writes: “After listening, I was indeed totally blown away… Only in recent years has this musical wizard stepped out on his own for all the world to see and hear what contemporary excellence in music is all about. ” Indie Music Digest has the album “J.J. Crowne” Nominated for 2013 CD Of The Year. New York Times Music contributor Phi Sweetland called J.J.’s 2012 EP “a passionate and timely musical and lyrical vision…a powerhouse career statement.” The editor of JuniorsCaveMagazine called it “emotionally charged… a masterpiece.” AudioCred Music Blog recently called the new CD “authentic acoustic songs… with great acoustic guitar melodies.” SkopeMagazine calls it “TOO damn good! J.J. Crowne’s songwriting ability is poetically impeccable.” Suite101.com calls J.J. “musical magic.” RocknRollView.com says J.J. Crowne “has clearly mastered his craft.” The Miami Herald wrote: “he can really write a lyric…songs were compelling, nicely woven tales of love, loss and Lennon;” and DJ ‘Uncle Earl’ of KCLA FM (Los Angeles) says “What the world needs – more J.J. Crowne… WOW!”
J.J. ‘s styles range from alt-country to folk/rock to acoustic pop ballads. He writes emotional, heartfelt songs – each telling its own unique story. Reviewers often say his songs are reminiscent of some of the great singer/songwriters of the ’60′s and ’70′s, but as the Editor of MusicEmissions adds: he is a “singer/songwriter for the 21st. Century… a true troubadour.” This Is Vibes Magazine writes: “In a nutshell, this is John Lennon meets John Mayer.”
In 2014, J.J. began a film acting career in addition to his music. He appeared in several roles on television series being filmed in S. Florida, including “South Beach Tow” (TruTV), “Bloodline” (Netflix), “Ballers” (HBO) and “Duenos del Paraiso” (Telemundo) . By 2015, he had over 20 TV appearances to his credit and progressed to a recurring role as an Armenian mobster in “Graceland” (USA network), a new character in Nickelodeon’s popular “Every Witch Way” series, and co-starring roles in 3 Indie films including “Imaginary Movie” (soon to be released on Netflix).
J.J. Crowne interview with Joshua Smotherman
- Middle Tennessee Music Webzine 10/5/13
Middle Tennessee Music’s own Joshua Smotherman – the cross-country hoppin’ DJ / hip-hop super mack – caught up with J.J. Crowne. In the following interview, Crowne talks about the things that inspire him and have made him a charting independent musician. There’s a lot to be gleaned here, kiddos. Kick back, spin a tune and enjoy!
MTM: Let’s open with the basics. Who are you? Where are you from? What style of music do you create?
J.J.: I’m originally from the New York metropolitan area, and then moved to South Florida when I was in high school. I’ve been a self-taught singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, keyboards/synths, bass, percussion) since I was a teenager. I then had some formal training in arranging for orchestral instruments and electronic music programming at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
After the usual high school and college rock bands, I started my real professional music career composing and recording jingles for local radio, and then themes and background music for various theatrical productions, as well as cues for local, regional and some national TV shows. My first nationally-aired material was for FOX’s “America’s Most Wanted” show, which then enabled me to become a full ASCAP Writer and Publisher member. I’ve written and performed in lots of musical styles since then, but have settled into mostly folk, alt-country and acoustic pop — all with a big emphasis on lyrics.
MTM: On the road to developing your music career you managed to earn a law degree… What motivated you to do that?
J J: Actually, I never wanted to be a lawyer. It’s just that after college I wasn’t getting enough musical and recording gigs to support myself, so I tried getting into the advertising game. But that turned out to be just as frustrating. For some weeks I’d have over a dozen jingles playing on radio all over South Florida at the same time, but then that would be followed by long periods of inactivity.
So I decided to apply to law schools in hopes of becoming an entertainment lawyer, but soon found it was one of the more boring fields of practice, so I changed my legal focus and specialized in criminal trial work, which I still do.
But composing and performing music has never left my life. I recall many late weeknights opening shows for The Mavericks or Marilyn Manson (when they were local Miami acts), and then having to get up at 7am to work in court the next day. It was a strange double life, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
MTM: With multiple songs charting on multiple charts I think the obvious question is…. How did you do it? What actions did you have to take beyond writing great songs to achieve this feat?
J J: When I recorded my first solo album in 2010 (called “Songs Of Innocence And Experience”), it was a totally home-made job. A local record company distributed it digitally with absolutely no marketing, so I just wrote dozens of emails to music review websites and mostly internet radio stations, and managed to get airplay on about 30 or 40 stations mostly in the Live365 Network – which is a great way for unknowns to get a little attention these days. But getting on terrestrial radio is a whole different game and it wasn’t happening for that first album.
Then I uploaded my music onto sites like Sonicbids and Music Xray, and finally got the attention of a producer who loved the songs but hated my production. Then, for a fee of course (since none of these guys work for free or even for back-end points much these days) he showed me how to craft my tunes into much more marketable products, and I was also able to keep the rights to all my masters.
So this past year I took the lessons I’d learned, got a great engineer/mastering guy in Nashville and completed my new album (“J.J. Crowne”). I then shopped around for radio promoters who work mostly indie projects to land radio stations. But even that isn’t the answer alone, because the first promoter I found was pitching my new material to the wrong types of stations (AAA and soft rock) that just weren’t very enthusiastic about my style of music and wouldn’t add me to their playlists. Finally, just about 2 months ago I found the right guy who really appreciated the music and knew exactly what stations might like it, too. He knew my market would be mostly Country, Folk and Americana stations, and once he started pitching to them, they loved it. For the past 3 weeks, one of my songs gets over 600 spins per week on Country stations around the U.S. and other songs of mine are getting about the same number of spins on Folk and Americana stations. My album entered the Roots Music Folk Internet Chart at #7 (now moved up to #5), is a Country ‘Prime Mover’ on the Country Spins Tracking System Radio Airplay Chart, and is also now on the Americana Chart. It’s a great feeling to finally find your musical niche with radio, but it’s taken me a long 3-year journey to do that, after about a 20-year journey of perfecting my song-writing skills.
MTM: Who influences your playing and writing style?
J J: My influences were and still are the great singer/songwriters of the 60′s and ’70′s like Paul Simon, Jimmy Webb, Harry Chapin and Neil Young. And I am a total Beatles freak… their diversity of styles always showed me one doesn’t have to just write rock or pop or country or ballads — you can do it all as long as you can feel it.
MTM: What music did you listen to when you were younger? What do you listen to now? Have your tastes changed?
J J:My dad was a big Sinatra fan, and I learned to love that stuff at a young age, especially those great Nelson Riddle and Count Basie arrangements. But as a child of the ’60′s and ’70′s, my real heroes were The Stones, Beatles, Who, Hendrix and Led Zep. Just last night I played a gig for my annual office dinner and totally blew their minds with my own Hendrix-meets-Van Halen version of “All Along The Watchtower.” No matter how mellow my own songs are, I still love to rock, lol! Newer folks I listen to are John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and some of the newer metal and red-dirt country bands.
MTM: What was the last song or album you listened to?
J J: Elvis Costello – “My Aim Is True”… now there’s another very diverse writer and a big influence.
MTM: As someone that has been in the game for a while, what’s one thing you wish you knew when you first started that you could tell someone now?
J J: Just because your friends or family think your songs are great, that doesn’t mean anything. They can always be better. Write, write, re-write, put your ego in a drawer, and get outside professional opinions of your songs as much as you can. All of my best tunes have been re-written several times after getting honest appraisals from places like “Taxi.” And the same goes for production. I cringe when I listen to some of the songs on my first album a few years ago, because I thought I could be a producer as well as a writer. You usually can’t and shouldn’t try to do both at first. Just like in the movie business, you can write a great script, but you still need a great director to put it together.
MTM: Do you play live? Where can we see a show?
J J: I play mostly festivals these days, such as the Key Largo Songwriters’ Fest every year in May and a few others. Since I play only originals these days, regular venues for that here in Miami are very limited.
MTM: What role has the Internet / social media played in promoting your music and connecting with fans? How has the music industry changed from when you first jumped into the game?
J J: I’m on all the standard music websites, like MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, Broadjam, Sonicbids and about a dozen others. I’ve got about 2,000 fans from them, but I don’t know how much those sites can really advance your career. Facebook and Reverbnation are out to make money from struggling musicians by charging you to “promote” this or that, with minimal results. I’ve also learned that lots of bands just pay different services for hundreds of automated “likes” or website “hits.” I do like Jango.com (now called RadioAirplay.com). Jango is sometimes called “the poor man’s Pandora” – your tunes are played along with famous artists that are in your same genre and listeners from around the world can “fan” you if they like your stuff. I get emails almost every day of the week from new fans on almost every continent that hear my songs on Jango, and it’s also a great testing ground for new material.
How has the industry changed since I first dabbled in it 30 years ago? I know we all think it’s changed so drastically, but I still see the major record companies, TV networks, movie studios and ClearChannel radio stations running most of the really big show. And I feel most self-released/self-promoted indie artists would still give their left arms for a deal with a Warner or a Sony or an Atlantic Records. We still can’t hope to compete with their money, promotion and sheer clout in the biz. My record, for instance, is the only “Independent” release on the STS Country ‘Prime Movers’ Chart this week – and I know that must be bugging the heck out of some record execs in N.Y, L.A. or Nashville, who are probably thinking “what’s this unknown guy doing crashing our party?” Well hopefully, there are a lot more of us to come.
Where can we connect with you online?
Any last thoughts? Shout outs?
It goes without saying that you usually can’t depend on music for a steady living, but you can never give up on the dream or on perfecting your musical craft. My journey’s been a pretty good example of that so far.
Article by Phil Sweetland – Music and Radio Contributor to The New York Times
J. J. Crowne:
Multi-Faceted Musical Career
Reaches New Creative Peak with
Another Day Of Love Single, EP
Odds are that you’ve heard J.J. Crowne’s music before, probably without knowing it was his. Now, with Another Day Of Love, radio programmers and music lovers all over the place will at long last be able to put a name and a face to J.J.’s passionate and timely musical and lyrical vision.
Pop stars from Barry Manilow to Chris Brown have written or sung classic advertising jingles, and Crowne has been proudly carrying on that tradition for years, composing spots for FOX-TV, PBS, Univision, and dozens of other clients both in his home base of South Florida and nationwide.
Last year, his debut album as a solo artist, Songs Of Innocence And Experience, quickly caught the attention of critics and fans, and was chosen from over 300 entries as Indie CD Of The Year by IndieMusicDigest. Now, working with the ace production and mixing team of Stephen Wrench and Jeff Silverman for the first time, Crowne has crafted his strongest work yet, Another Day Of Love.
It’s been a long, up-and-down musical and life journey for the South Florida product who went out on his own from a difficult home environment at age 16, two years after his Dad passed away. “I’ve always pulled for the underdog both in my songs and in my work, because I was the consummate underdog,” J.J. says in a late July phone conversation from South Florida. “I was always by myself, with very little family or parental guidance,” he continues.
Music was both an escape and a career for the young J.J. He was hooked early on by the music of The Beatles, who remain his strongest influence, and by the singer/songwriters of the late 1960s and early 1970s. TV music also fascinated him. J.J. used a reel-to-reel tape deck to record the theme songs from his favorite television programs, musical snippets which he listened to over and over until he knew them by heart.
He taught himself piano, guitar, and bass starting at age 9, and eventually became so accomplished that he was accepted at Ohio’s prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he dazzled the faculty and fellow students with the beginnings of an original rock opera but also quickly realized that his lack of formal musical training might hold him back. “I was at Oberlin a couple of years. Then I dropped out to do jingles and radio stuff,” he says. “The conservatory students liked me and I liked them. They had such great classical people who also loved pop music, and I was able to use the classical guys to play my arrangements.”
His passion for the Beatles, and particularly his awe for the incredible versatility of songs as divergent as the love ballad “Michelle” and the terrifying rocker “Helter Skelter,” gave J.J. an ideal background for writing the quick hooks needed for jingles and TV music. “I became a huge technical Beatles freak,” he says, smiling. “I surgically dissected that stuff, such as how the guitar parts and vocal harmonies were working.”
J.J. soon became what he calls “a one-man jingle house in South Florida,” but even that wasn’t enough. So he changed directions and went to law school, and now he works days proudly representing the indigent. This brave fight for causes which others consider lost is carried over artistically in Another Day Of Love, a compelling song with J.J.’s guitar-based melodies and the story of a man who maintains hope, despite a cynical world that he feels in many ways has gone mad.
Like Todd Rundgren and Prince, J.J. plays all the instrument and sings all the vocal parts on the entire 5-song EP. Early on, however, Crowne’s own ambitious production overwhelmed his vocals. “At first, I liked J.J.’s lyrics but didn’t like his production,” said producer Stephen Wrench. “He was very agreeable to everything I said, and that’s just wonderful. Every song on this EP sounds different. Some sound a little like Jim Croce, others like the Byrds.” Silverman, a longtime sideman with the Australian rock superstar Rick Springfield, mastered the EP in Nashville and added the ideal, radio-friendly touches to Crowne’s music.
The result is a powerhouse career statement for a guy whose remarkable career even included opening shows for Marilyn Manson in the early 1990s. New songs such as “Toy Soldiers” and “She And He” give listeners a glimpse into Crowne’s deeply personal and radio-friendly musical and lyrical vision. “I’m very happy with the reaction to the new EP so far,” J.J. says. “A lot of Internet stations have been playing it. Now, we’re also going for broadcast Adult Contemporary and Hot AC play with songs like `Best Of Intentions’ and `Another Day Of Love.’ ”
For J.J. Crowne, a guy who has happily toiled in the background of the musical scene for a long time, Another Day Of Love finally enables him to step into the spotlight, and enables radio and listeners all over the world the chance to embrace him and his music – and this time to start to get to know the man behind the magic.
By PHIL SWEETLAND Music and radio contributor: The New York Times