Jarod Clemons has been performing as a solo artist playing rock and grunge classics in his own unique style for the past several years. But as much as the Florida native enjoyed playing acoustic sets in intimate venues, he knew there was more “out there” waiting for him. After multiple trips to his dad Clarence Clemons’ old stomping grounds of New Jersey he decided to take the plunge and move to the Northeast permanently to pursue is artistic career more seriously.
We had the chance to speak with the rising star before his recent performance at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, as well as catch his live set which was an electric experience that had our ears buzzing days later. If there is one band to watch from this town, it is undoubtedly Jarod Clemons and The Late Nights. The chemistry between the bandmembers is palpable and the raw energy that was unleashed that night is legit the stuff that legends are made of. It’s difficult to fathom that the band formed only a few months ago. Jarod catches us up to speed.
KP: Tell me about moving to Asbury Park
JC: Things in Florida weren’t happening, so I had to do what was best for me. It’s been roughly 2 weeks that I’ve been here permanently, but it’s been awesome. The move came with sacrifice and giving things up that I enjoyed like going to Universal Studios every weekend and having a good time he laughs but it’s been worth it.
KP: Have you written any new material since we last spoke? Do you have a new record in the works?
JC: The new record, he pauses, I don’t know about that. I want to take some time to feel it out. We’re going for a Stevie Ray Vaughan, Foo Fighters, Rage Against the Machine, Jimi Hendrix sound with a little bit of Stevie Wonder thrown in. I realize that’s a weird sounding mix but if you can picture it, it’s cool. I don’t want what we do to be boring. We have a single coming out on December 26th called “On the Waves,” it’s a song about a girl but it’s not a girl that had to do with me, it’s just about a girl he laughs. We went to the city to finish it up. The band’s manager, Lee Silverstone chimed in, it’s being released through Telegraph Hill Records which is a division of Atlantic. They’re making a compilation of Asbury musicians and they chose Jarod as one of them. Jarod interjects, the deal kind of felt like a “welcome to Asbury” type thing for me which was cool that they trusted me enough to make the offer.
KP: Tell me more about the band
When I was solo, I was really depressed to be honest. I thought that being a solo artist was going to be the best thing for me. I thought that trying to reach an intimate crowd was the goal. But something in my mind said no, you need more. I was hungry for more. So, we played in Pennsauken at a place called Club Germ which was run by my good friend Johnny and it’s a basement venue, sadly they’re not there anymore. The place was very DIY, but it was cool for a grunge underground venue. For an acoustic guy it’s like what do we do? I didn’t know what to expect going in there, but they were the nicest people. It was a great experience. So, the band is Alex Fuhring our bass player and the rest of the guys are from a band called The Dead Flowers. Zach Tyler on guitar, John DiNunzio on drums and Stephen Verdi on keyboard. They are so talented. When Zach said if you ever need a backing band just let me know I was like “sure!” I couldn’t believe it! No offense to Zach but I didn’t believe him at first because I never had that before. He explains, The Dead Flowers won the 2018 Rock to The Top competition in Asbury. So, we exchanged information and stayed in contact. I said let’s start a band. Let’s plan a small tour around Asbury. Zach said, “cool I’m down,” so I sent him a bunch of covers and a couple of my originals and things just took off from there. We opened for the E Street Shuffle at The Stone Pony despite already being booked at another local venue. When the opportunity came in it was a no-brainer – Jarod laughs, yeah, we’ll do The Pony! It was a packed house and all the love that we received from that show was insane. We’re not cocky whatsoever but we have high standards. When I say this, I mean it in the humblest way possible, we are probably the next rock band out of Asbury Park.
KP: Do you find that working with the guys has inspired you in ways that you weren’t as a solo artist?
JC: Yeah, the creativity is unreal when you work with multiple people. For a solo guy like me I had writer’s block for 4 months. I had four original songs out, but I knew that if I played them live, I’d be embarrassed of them. In Florida I’d sit there every day recording some “bullcrap” just like G minor C — just random songs that I was forcing. I didn’t feel content with those. Along came Alex and he’s so dedicated. He is an insane guitar player but he’s also a ripper at bass, plus he’s great at the songwriting aspect. Zach is an incredible artist and he also writes well. The creative element that I’m in now is inspired.
KP: It sounds like you’re all gelling together beautifully and you’re riffing off each other.
JC: Yeah. We’re on the same page. Alex showed up to the show I didn’t know him at first and I didn’t have to teach him one thing! He showed up and played every single song and I was like wow I’ve never had that level of professionalism before! You know I’ve been in bands before, but these guys are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I don’t mean that just for my career I mean I feel like we are starting to form a brotherhood together and it’s cool.
KP: Are you guys going on the road? What does your tour schedule look like?
JC: He laughs, tonight’s the last show for a few months. We have the single release on the 26th of December but other than that we are going to lay low for a little bit. We’re going to take the month of December to write. I’m shooting for a 10 – 12 track album, which sounds like a lot for a month but I’m really motivated.
KP: Do you have stuff ready to go for that?
JC: Well yeah, we have a few songs but we’re going to take December to write, January to record, and if everything’s good to go probably a February/March release. It sounds like a lot, but I’ve motivated myself to make it all happen. And they’re on the same page so it’s awesome. We are looking to expand beyond Asbury. We’re looking at Atlantic City and moving into Philadelphia because The Dead Flowers are a Philly based band. On a side note I’d like to share with you, I played at a great little venue in Philly Bob and Barbara’s I think it was called. I had some people show up who requested I play some Bruce Springsteen songs. I refuse to cover Bruce’s music because I’m not trying to ride his coat tails or my father’s even, but they kept insisting by bribing me with shots. At the time I was drinking a lot because of my depression which I’m over now. But they were relentless, can you play “Born to Run”?
I was like sure and everybody in the bar was singing along…even the bartenders – the whole place was lit up! By the end I had 14 shots at a table waiting for me. Well, he laughs, these people bought ‘em so I did ‘em. I drank them all! Philly is an awesome place — just the love that they had for, not only myself, but for the legacy that my father created. It was a great night.
KP: Who are your musical influences?
JC: Of course, my dad and Bruce all those guys are talented. But as of right now, I’d say Christone Kingfish Ingram, he’s younger than me – he’s 20 years old. He’s playing Brooklyn on the 27th of February you need to go! I’ve never seen him live but if you watch him on video, he’s going to melt your face off. I don’t care what anybody says to me right now he’s the best living blues guitar player on the face of the planet. It’s a bold statement but I’m very opinionated – he’s the best. I can’t wait to see him live, I’ll probably cry.
KP: So, who’s your dream artist to work with?
JC: Him definitely! You know I could sit here and say I want to work with Taylor Swift or similar top 40 artists, but no Christone’s the real deal. He’s the next Stevie Ray Vaughan, the next Jimi Hendrix, the next B.B. King. People say that blues is dead but he’s bringing it back. If I got the chance to play with him, I think I’d be like this – Jarod starts shaking animatedly. He continues, people run these giant boards with all these effects – he runs 3 pedals. That’s it. It’s him, his drummer and his bass player and with his effects – he just runs an overdrive pedal to distort, a delay, and a tuner. I don’t fan boy about anybody but when I see this guy play, I’m just watching with my mouth open. I don’t do that unless it’s Tori Kelly her vocals are amazing. On a scale of 1 – 10 her vocals are a million.
KP: I don’t know her, is she rock or…?
JC: No, she’s more like gospel. I was raised in a church background, so gospel music speaks to me.
KP: Shifting gears, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
JC: “Never to give up.” After I lost my parents and uncle I turned to drugs and alcohol. I was underage and staying out late. It was a dark time for me. When my aunt saw my attitude getting worse, she sent me to boarding school. At that point I was behind in school and being an impatient 17-year-old, I felt like I was going to be there forever. One day I got into a fight I should’ve gone to “juvey” for, but they sent me to detention instead. The counselor said, “I still see hope in your eyes. I’m not going to give up on you, but Jarod I don’t want YOU to give up on you.” So, I thought about that statement while I was sitting in detention. I had my head down for a long time and then it hit me hard – I was inspired. I can’t explain it, but I completed a full year’s class in one week. Before I knew it, I was 18 with my cap and gown on. I was walking onstage to get my diploma and I thought – what did I just do? I’ve accomplished so much in a year and a half. I felt like it was my parents kicking me in the butt like: DO THIS! You know I had anger management issues when I was younger but boarding school, and that advice changed my attitude completely. You must open your eyes and never give up. I’m still trying. I’m still struggling nobody’s perfect.
KP: That’s powerful! What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far?
JC: Wow. Losing both of my parents – and the loss of my uncle. After they died, my uncle and I did everything together. He’s the last person who truly had an impact on my life. And though it’s going to sound crazy, losing my dog Lexus shortly after I lost my uncle was really hard too. My aunt and uncle were against the dog at first. They weren’t animal lovers, but I begged them. Lexus eventually won them both over. My uncle and she became best friends. He was a veteran and suffered from PTSD. Lexus would put her head on his lap when she sensed he needed comforting. Their bond was so strong that when we had a house fire my uncle went in to retrieve her. He suffered bad burns and smoke inhalation as a result. I used to sing to him while he was recuperating from his injuries. I would bring my guitar in there and do “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters. He said I sound good when I sing that. I play it at every acoustic show now in his memory.
KP: Okay let’s move on a lighter note. Tell me about something funny or embarrassing that’s happened to you while onstage.
JC: Well there was a time when I was drumming with my old band Crush the Kingdom back in Phoenix and I got a cramp in my leg. It looked like I was getting shot with a taser! I flipped off the back of the drumkit seat and hit the grass. Then I stood up and started hopping around.
KP: Did the crowd think it was part of the act?
JC: The crowd thought I was dying he laughs. There was another time when I hit one of my cymbals and it flew off. I hit the other cymbal and it flew off. But the cramp topped that.
KP: Lastly, what’s your favorite song to perform with the Late Nights?
JC: A cover of Christone Kingfish “Outside of this Town” because it speaks to me. I chose that song because it was catchy but the more I listen to the lyrics and the more I sing them the more it resonates with me. That song speaks to my soul. Those lyrics are just the most real thing. I had heard the song months ago while I was living in Florida and I thought it was catchy, but I didn’t realize it was going to…his voice trails off.
KP: …change your life?
JC: Well yeah it pertained to me, this song makes sense to me. I just left Florida I’ve got many places to see and many places to go and being in Florida was holding me back. I was tired of doing the same old thing. The same thing every day. Staring at the same walls recording bull crap songs. But with the move and the band things are going great. I’m in a good place.
Photo, Review and Interview by Kimberly Palumbo