Jake Huffman’s music career has made up most of his life. He started when he was 14 drumming with McLovins. He’s in his late 20’s now but he’s got the experience in the industry of someone twice his age. See, the best thing about McLovins was their live show. They were always on the road. Once Jake and his bandmates hit the age when they could tour consistently, they toured tirelessly making connections across the country. That’s what music is supposed about – making those connections – and McLovins excelled at it. Until they didn’t. People grow and change and not everybody wants to do the same thing at 26 that they did at 17, no matter how cool it is. So, when McLovins went dark (they didn’t officially break up) that dropped Huffman at a crossroads in his life, basically wondering what the hell he was going to do next. That’s led him to release his first taste of solo music called The Layover.
“Honestly, it was a crazy time. I asked questions to myself that I wasn’t expecting to ask,” explained Huffman about the end of McLovins when talking to Alternative Addiction in a recent interview. “I asked questions like, ‘What do I sound like?’ If I’m going to do another project, what would it be? There were a lot of very heavy and daunting questions that I was faced to answer.”
A lot of the questions that Huffman was asking himself revolved around music but the root of all his questions was ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ Makes sense. Instead of jumping into a career or jumping into another band, Huffman settled into everyday life in new surroundings and did the most therapeutic thing a songwriter could do; he wrote songs.
“I uprooted my life. I moved. For the first time in my life I got a real job. I started working at a music store. I worked part time and I wrote music. I knew that if I wrote my way out of it, everything would be clear. Last year I wrote over 100 songs. Everyday I’d work on something. For the first couple of months it would be rough because I didn’t know what I sounded like outside of the band. I was trying to find that. Sometimes I’d write songs in the vein of McLovins, other times I’d be far from that. There was this exploratory gear that I was in that was really exciting.”
Everyday life for Huffman led him away from the music store and he found himself at the School of Rock giving kids music lessons. While he was teaching, he still was working on his own music but working at the School of Rock helped him find his own voice in a roundabout way.
“I’d teach kids how to play a bunch of cover songs from all of these great artists,” said Huffman. “By doing that I found my own inner voice a little bit. I realized I was really getting somewhere. I took that energy and I took the best songs that I had written over the years and I went and saw this producer named Andy Seltzer. I knew his technique would be beneficial to the songs I was writing. I went and worked on these two songs with Andy in L.A. and I couldn’t be happier with them. I feel like these two songs are a culmination of everything I’ve been trying to say and everything I’ve been feeling over the last couple of years. I think the music will resonate with people. This is the first time in my career that I feel like I’ve been this passionate about something. I had a point in my life where I could have just up and left music. I was 26, and I could’ve quit. Working through that and trying to figure that out is what these two songs are about. That’s why this is EP is called The Layover.”
Words like ‘defining’ and ‘culmination’ are probably tossed around too much in music, but in the case of Huffman those words feel like they’re use appropriately. This music came at a juncture of his life where he was pretty lost, and he found himself within his music. Because of that, he’s justifiably passionate about these two songs being released. Even before they were recorded, Huffman was so obsessive about he was creating that he knew exactly how he wanted these two songs to sound like. He knew Seltzer was the guy to help him get it done.
“When I went in to work with Andy, each song took about five hours. We worked for a day in the studio and then the next day we made the finishing touches. Before it was time to record, I did a lot of research on producers and I knew that I wanted to work with Andy. I knew the soundscape he kind of lives in. I wanted these songs to be exactly how I heard them in my head. I was able to trust him and just focus on my vocals. The bones of the song were there, and it was about creating this music texture/landscape that someone can really feel and live in. I didn’t want people to think they were listening to a song; I wanted to set the stage and have people enter and exit the vibe of it. I know that’s a hippy thing to say, but I really feel like that’s something we accomplished,” added Huffman.
Now that the first introduction to Huffman’s solo music is out there, it’s time for him to start making the connections that he and his bandmates worked so hard to forge with McLovins. It’s time to hit the road and start playing live shows again. He’s doing the common rehearsal things that all acts do, but he’s also building his tracks and his programming, and he’s preparing to be on the stage with a lot less people than he’s used to.
“It’s going to be different, to say the least, but I get to play all of the instruments on the stage and that’s kind of fun,” said an excited Huffman. “The cool thing about taking that time off is that yeah, I wrote a bunch of music, but I actually learned how to play all the instruments too. I had time to practice and I’m excited to show off my piano chops a little bit and see where it goes. It’s going to be weird to look around the stage and there’s only going to be one other guy up there, so that’s going to be an adjustment, but I’m still just excited to perform these songs.”
So, with The Layover being released and Huffman having only two songs out there, Jake is getting creative with a live set. He can’t play two songs and be done. He came up with an exciting plan that should make for a captivating show.
“One thing that I’ve found about myself through this experience is that I work well with others. I’ve made some amazing connections with other musicians; people I’ve written or produced with, or even people I’ve jammed with over the years. Throughout the set I’ll have a bunch of guests coming up on the stage and we’ll be playing songs that we’ve written - some unreleased songs. So, these collaborations are going to be sprinkled throughout the set and I’ll be talking about why these people are there and why they mean so much to me.”
There’s a lot of sincerity with the music that Jake Huffman is putting out with The Layover, and with his solo music in general. It’s a completely different perspective than McLovins because it’s not about discovery; it’s about rediscovery. It’s human nature to appreciate something when you don’t have it anymore and its artistic nature to appreciate something even more after you’ve found it again.
“I feel like I’ve grown up a lot. I wake up every day with butterflies and it’s kind of a beautiful time musically in my mind. I’m honestly excited to get back out on the road. I feel like I’ve been cooped up at home too long. I’m ready to share this cool energy that I have right now. I’m still grateful that I’m able to still do this. It’s such a cool existence. I’m thankful for that, but more than anything I’m happy I found my voice. If there was one thing that was tearing me up on the inside a little bit is that I couldn’t find my voice. But I found it and it’s just... it’s very emotional.”-aa