By Lisa Morgan
The music industry may have no choice but to sit up, pay attention, and show a little faith in Gene Evaro Jr., his road proven ensemble of talented troubadours, and their aptly named, stellar new album, Too Good to Believe. This twelve song compilation is a milestone for an artist who has been tweaking sound, writing songs and recording since pre-adolescence. Coming off of a momentous wave of inspiration spurred by Grammy nominated artist Elle King and her invitation to join her on tour, Gene Evaro Jr. the song crafter, and his band are hungry, motivated and well equipped to make their mark with this new album. If the healthy response to the fully independent release of their first single and video are any indicator, we just might be watching this band launch to the next level very soon.
The album represents the strength and beauty of DIY independent music. Completely self-managed, Evaro Jr. and his beautiful accomplice, Piper Robison, have accomplished everything organically, combining sheer determination, intelligence, hard work and a whole lot of love. From rallying their own financial support, booking and promoting tours, writing and arranging the music, to filming and editing video for their single, “One,” they’ve done it all on their own with the help of a few choice friends, and have done it extraordinarily well. Even the pristine recording and tasteful production were done by Evaro Jr. at home (with the exception of track 7, “Life is a Journey,” recorded at Robbie Waldman’s Unit-A Studios in Palm Springs). Short of the financial support, distribution, and product placement that a solid management company and/or label deal might provide, it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing it better. Should they never get that industry nod, it would not stop them, nor would it hinder their large and ever growing fan base. Their music and their live performances are just too good to be ignored, and Evaro Jr. is too savvy to not find his own way.
The recently released single, “One,” as reflected in its accompanying video, is perhaps as much a sweetly produced tribute to the enchanting relationship between Piper Robison and Gene Evaro Jr., as it is to their relationship with their fans and their band mates. Both the single and the video release are a distinctive calling card with the potential to set them apart in a saturated industry. Surprisingly, it was not their first choice.
“The video was a collage of footage I’ve shot over the past years. I do video editing too, so I’m always carrying the camera around,” Evaro Jr. shared. “It also contains footage from our show at the Joshua Tree Music Festival that was shot by my buddy, Rob Schoeborn, an amazingly talented videographer. We spent a lot of time trying to raise a bunch of money for a really professional video by a videographer in London, Georgia Hudson, and were really stoked about the idea of working with her. It costs about 20k just to talk to her, and in spite of some hopeful promises of support, we just couldn’t make it happen. We wanted a video that was competitive and represented my vision. After shooting for the top and then finding ourselves in a time crunch, I have to say, I am super proud of how it turned out. I think it’s gorgeous, and it represents us well. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have released it.”
Special credit must be given to three young volunteers who offered valuable insight as Evaro Jr. was editing. “I was hanging out with my little sister, Jalynah Evaro (13), when I was editing. Piper’s little sisters, Blaze (11) and Starlin Shrader (13), were here hanging out for some of the editing as well. They deserve some serious editing credit right alongside Piper, Rob and myself. When you’re editing anything, you start getting in your head too much, and you don’t even know what looks good anymore. I would ask for their input, and they would give it to me. They spent some serious time on it. They are the bomb and very good at video editing it seems,” shared Evaro Jr.
Too Good to be Believe is woven in positive good feels, is honestly relatable, dangerously addictive and absolutely radio ready. While the whole of the album reflects Evaro’s pop sensibility and wide range of influences, at no time do the themes, melodies and rhythms sacrifice an ounce of integrity or authenticity, nor are they predictable. Refreshingly, the sometimes jazzy jams, and often fun, funky but always soulful songs are reflective of the intense focus this songwriter/producer has poured into his craft. The depth of his skill set is impressive.
Evaro Jr. has recorded seven albums prior to this release. His first was recorded at age 17 (2007), a compilation he originally produced and shopped to John Mayer’s management. When asked what separated this new album from the others, Evaro Jr. explained, “Before this album, I was in a lot of different bands and was spread a little thin. The first album, Soul, I recorded before I even had a band. This is a more focused project focusing on what I personally felt I needed and wanted to do. This music has been played with this band all over the country. I’d like to think this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m super proud of it, and feel like the songwriting, our playing, my voice and the production is getting better and sounding better. I wanted it to be competitive – something that can be on radio and TV – all the things that are required if you want to make a living out of music. It’s more main stream than anything I’ve ever done which I’m also proud of. I have no shame in that, because it also has a lot of heart. It’s a good balance, and I’m super stoked on it.”
The impactful opportunity to join Elle King on tour can be blamed, in part, on Barnett English, founder of the Joshua Tree Music Festival. He had the exceptional taste of booking Elle King as well as Gene Jr. at the Joshua Tree Music Festival long before her recent commercial success. “Elle King jammed with us in our ‘Jam in the Van’ at the Joshua Tree Music Festival a couple of years ago,” shared Evaro Jr. “We really connected with her, as did many people in the community… she was just a homie. We stayed in touch after that. She was eventually signed to a development deal, and before we knew it, she had a single, was playing on late night TV, and kicking ass, nominated for and playing at the Grammy’s. She had seen us play a few times, and loved the band and our music. She told us that the first chance she got, she’d help us out. She did what she said she was going to do and invited us to join her on her very first national headlining tour. We drove from Joshua Tree straight to Ohio and followed her tour bus around for a month and a half.”
With only one week to raise the $5000 they needed just to go out on the road, Evaro Jr. and the band members who were able to drop everything and tour, succeeded in their efforts and joined King for 17 shows in 17 cities. “She treated us like family, took care of us, and made sure her staff took care of us. We left with a really great taste in our mouth – it was a lot of work, but we sold a ton of merchandise, connected with tons of new fans and paid off all our debt.”
On the heels of that experience, Evaro Jr. found himself “itching to go back out:” “We landed at home and started writing the next album,” he shared. “I wanted to go back out, but I was broke and it was August. On tour we played the same six songs every night. We’d get off the stage after performing to sell merch, and then had to get on the road to the next stop. That was the routine, and I didn’t have time to write anything. When I got home, it all just poured out. Some of the songs are fueled by the experiences from that tour, the desire to continue playing at that level, and the affirmation I felt that told me I was doing exactly what I need to do. Piper and I still manage our own tours, but that experience was so nice. We didn’t have to do any of the booking, or make sure the promoters and venues were doing their job promoting; I didn’t have to set up microphones and equipment, provide the PA or make sure it worked. Once you enjoy that, you want to stay at that level. When Piper and I booked Portland two years ago, we played for 7 people. This time we were playing to 700, thanks to Elle. It wasn’t just a great opportunity, but a morale booster. It cleared everybody’s intentions and commitment; we all came off the tour feeling really good about it, and that this was what we wanted to do. We’re hungry, driven and have our sights on some pretty far places. It’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going on a daily basis, staying healthy so we don’t kill each other, and always pushing ourselves.”
The video has received strong response and sales of the single have been solid. “People have been sharing the hell out of the video,” said Evaro Jr. “It’s been the best response we’ve experienced so far with 9000 views in a month. If we had more financial resources, we could promote it and advertise it to people and test it that way, but it’s doing really good for an indie artist without management. This was our attempt at being as professional and organized as possible, and it’s paid off. Now, it’s just a matter of keeping it out there.”
The celebration of the new album release is staged to be a special night, held at the world renowned Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, Saturday, August 13th. Doors open at 7pm. The full seven piece band, just coming off a month long tour, is expected to sell out, as it has before at this venue. Joining Gene Evaro Jr. who will be on guitar, keys and lead vocals, is Piper Robison on bass, Ben Kennedy on drums, Mitchell Arganda on percussion, Amanda Davis on vocals, Clint Stoker on sax and Scott Kisinger on trombone. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $12, first come first serve, while they last, or in advance at www.ticketfly.com/purchase/payment. Seating is only guaranteed with second seating dinner reservations booked for 7pm or later.
The album, Too Good to Believe, will be available the same night of the show. Visit www.geneevarojr.com for purchase information. You can also follow Gene on Facebook @ Gene Evaro Jr.
Too Good To Believe
All songs Written, Produced, Recorded by Gene Evaro Jr in Joshua Tree, CA
Release date August 13th, 2016
One – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)
Too Good To Believe – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Drums Tyler Saraca, Vocals Amanda Davis
I Remember – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Vocals Amanda Davis, Trombone Scott Kisinger
Smile – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)
Give It To A Friend – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Vocals Amanda Davis, Trombone Scott Kisinger
Man – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Vocals Amanda Davis, Trombone Scott Kisinger
California Is Burning – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)
Life Is A Journey – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Drums Tyler Saraca, Bass Piper Robison, Percussion Mitchell Arganda. Recorded at Robbie Waldman’s Unit-A Studios Palm Springs
Right Place – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)
House That We’re Building – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments), Vocals Amanda Davis
Heaven Is A Lonely Place – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)
Deeper – Drums Tyler Saraca, Bass Piper Robison, Vocals Amanda Davis, Trombone Scott Kisinger, Percussion Mitchell Arganda
With Love – Gene Evaro Jr (all instruments)