Listening to a Jaron Lowenstein song is like getting lost in a small movie for four minutes. You care about these characters. How did they get to this point in time? You wish the story would go on and on. You’ve become emotionally invested.
Who is this man who has taken you to a place you didn’t expect? Having a conversation with Jaron Lowenstein is a lot like listening to his music. He engages you in the process of how he creates his story songs. His approach is literary – writing, tweaking, perfecting the phrasing – the lyric is his passion. The flow of the melody surprises and transports the listener. It gently brings you in, sweeps you right into the middle of the tale and carries you to a satisfying denouement as the song ends and leaves you wanting more of these people. A true and complete character study – a snapshot in time…
It’s a Saturday night in mid October. A small black box performance space adjoins the bar at Molly Malone’s in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district. The room is crowded. Jaron Lowenstein walks up through the audience and steps on stage.
A few days later Lowenstein does a phone interview while driving in the San Fernando Valley area of LA. Commenting on Saturday’s performance, he says, “I almost feel more comfortable on stage than I feel when not on stage.”
Lowenstein continues, “I love moving people, making them smile, making them laugh, articulating thoughts that maybe they have, that they don’t exactly know how to say.”
Commenting on why he’s making music again, Lowenstein says it’s not about the money, nor does he feel he has anything to prove. “It’s simply about sharing real things with people.”
Several years ago Lowenstein stepped away from the music and his band to pursue screenwriting and acting. Feeling like he had nothing to say musically that was at all compelling, he took up another expression of the written word.
That all changed this past March. “I woke up one morning needing to share some stories,” he said. And the storytelling method most natural to him is song writing. The stories started coming to him and he immediately realized he had fallen back in love with music again. And for all the right reasons, he stresses. “The music became a passion for me again,” he says. “I had to do it.”
The passion and the need to write led Atlanta native Lowenstein to Nashville. “I love LA so much that I had to leave it to write without distractions.” For him the music making is more concentrated in Nashville. In LA there’s a daily “Let’s get some coffee” attitude that gets in his way.
Lowenstein certainly takes his passion seriously. He believes in being his own boss and setting parameters for himself. “You need to put yourself in an environment (suited) to work.”
So with all of this commitment, how does he keep it real? “When you speak from your heart and you really want to share something that’s really honest and true…then people will connect with you.”
“I think that that’s what the song is for me – communicating and sharing a story.”
“I’m a big communicator and I think that that’s what the song is for me – communicating and sharing a story.”
“Some of my songs are very theatrical,” he says. And that type of live experience is what he tries to bring to each of his shows. He notes that some music artists can have a string of big hits but can’t draw a crowd to a live performance. “If you’re going to have somebody get off their butt and go spend money, then you’ve got to give them a show,” Lowenstein says. “It’s not just about playing your songs. They can do that at home.”
“You have to create an event,” he says. “Sit back and I’ll take you on a journey.”
Most writers and playwrights work through a long series of drafts before they feel they’ve got the story right. Lowenstein takes the same approach with his music, making him very much a storyteller in song. “I don’t write a lot of songs,” he says. “I look for something that’s happened to me or I’ve really observed. Something I can connect to or imagine.”
“It has to connect to me on a visceral level,” he says. “Here’s a story I am compelled to tell.”
After he writes the song, he digs in for revision after revision. “When I write a song I am a huge rewriter.” He’s observed many songwriters in Nashville who don’t do rewrites. They produce upwards of 150 songs a year. “For me I write 20 to 25 songs a year max,” he says, “but I’ll spend 50 hours on a song.”
He explains that he may start with a strong chorus, write a verse, then decide the chorus is too strong for that verse. “I can make that better,” he says. “I build something till I get it right.”
Asked where he gets the story concepts for his lyrics and music. Lowenstein’s tone sparkles. “I’ve had four great loves in the last ten years,” he says. I love them all and don’t regret any of it.”
His voice intensifies. “I’ve screwed up a lot and learned a lot. I got a lot right and a lot wrong.” He believes he’s able to articulate that and put it in an entertaining song.
“Trying to capture the victories and the tragedies is becoming my brand.”
“Trying to capture the victories and the tragedies is becoming my brand,” he says. He goes on to state that all he has to do is sit down and think about one of his loves, or more than one, and something will happen. Each of his songs comes out to be either a positive or a negative reaction to something that happened.
And so Lowenstein stays on in Nashville to maintain his focus. “LA has the best musicians in the world,” he claims. But also the best “let’s do coffee” people. He’ll be back when the time is right.
Lowenstein says he’s kicking around a lot of music-related ideas with friends and with producers. One “maybe, maybe not” idea is a full length movie with 12 of his songs. “Almost like Once but more linear,” he says, referencing the film from which the song “Falling Slowly” won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song. But more of a love story than Once, he says. All of this is a large “maybe”, though. For now it’s the music.
“I can’t be anything I’m not,” he says. And he’s nothing if not serious about his storytelling in song.
For more info and to hear Lowenstein’s music, check out Jaron and the Long Road to Love on Facebook. And now look for his brand new album Getting Dressed in the Dark, featuring “Pray for You” and nine other tracks.