To wrestling fans, Jeff Hardy needs no introduction. Known as “The Charismatic Enigma,” Hardy spent the better part of his life chasing a dream. His story started simply enough — a small town boy who wanted nothing more than to prove himself in the squared circle. His journey in one of the worlds most grueling industries has been nothing short of a wild roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Along the way, Hardy established himself as one of the most accomplished superstars in professional wrestling history and captured the hearts of millions of fans around the globe on his rise to super-stardom! There is no doubt Jeff Hardy’s creative life outside the ring is as multi-faceted as his in-ring persona. He continues to challenge himself and fuel his creative fire in many different ways. His passion for music is one which has mirrored his love of professional wrestling and has led to the recent unveiling sophomore solo album, “Plurality of Worlds.” This powerful album contains 10 original songs written and performed by Hardy, packaged along with lyrics and one-of-a-kind, eye catching art. No stranger to collaboration, the album features the talents of Junior Merrill, a longtime friend of Hardy’s, musician and songwriter who co-wrote all of the songs in the album, and TNA Wrestling Music Producer Dale Oliver co-wrote three of the tracks including “None of a Kind,” “Every Other Day,” and “Time and Fate.” “Plurality of Worlds” offers listeners an other-worldly look inside the mind of Jeff Hardy with haunting tracks which examine his struggles and triumphs. With the “Plurality of Worlds,” Hardy delivers a soulful, artistic album that defies convention, much like his signature in-ring high-risk wrestling technique. Icon Vs. Icon‘s Jason Price recently caught up with this legendary performer to discuss his musical roots, his creative process, collaborating with Junior Merrill and Dale Oliver, the challenges of bringing the album to life and what he has in store for his fans musically in the months to come!
Obviously, your work inside the world of professional wrestling is legendary. However, today we are focusing on your musical side. What are you first memories of music in your life?
For sure it was my dad playing in his country western/bluegrass band night after night in the basement. My brother and I would go down there and listen to him play songs by Randy Travis and Johnny Cash, along with all kinds of old jams. We really grew up around the country vibe. Later in life, I feel in love with rap and then got turned on to alternative rock. When I discovered alternate rock, like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, it really made me love music. Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam were a huge influence on me. They expanded my world by leaps and bounds. Reading his lyrics was incredible. I remember “Ten” had just come out and I was still into the Vanilla Ice, Public Enemy stuff and the rap scene. My brother Matt had told me about this band Pearl Jam. At first, I thought they were freaks and it was strange but the more I listened and read the lyrics, I really started to relate. More than anyone, Eddie Vedder has been a huge inspiration to me.
For those who might not be familiar music just yet, how would you describe it sonically?
I would definitely categorize it in the category of alternative rock. My stuff, especially “Plurality of Worlds,” has a lot of rap styles in the songs but I would say, overall, it is alternative rock. We are going to start recording the next album in January. I am really looking forward to it. The thing about “Plurality of Worlds” is I am completely locked in my safe zone and now I can experiment with getting out of that safe zone. Honestly, if I can’t get comfortable with being out of my safe zone, I might as well just quit now! I am really confident that vocally and lyrically, will be even better on my part come the next album.
You put a lot of work into creating “Plurality of Worlds.” How did the title come about and what does it mean to you personally?
Personally, “Plurality of Worlds” explains the dynamic between myself and Junior Merrill, who is my guitar player. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never written these songs. For the last twelve to fourteen years, he has come up with riffs and sent them to me. I write lyrics to them and send them back and then we will discuss and mold them from there. We are two completely different individuals from two completely different worlds. That is where the title came from, along with the belief in something more after we die and the alien inspiration behind our beliefs. We believe here is something more than planet Earth. Overall, I think it expresses most that music has brought two completely different individuals together for one purpose; which is to write songs which motivate and inspire other people.
As you mentioned, you have worked with Junior Merrill for quite some time. How did you two first cross paths?
I was in WWE at the time and Shannon Moore, who is one of my best friends, was in Louisville, Kentucky. He ran into Junior at a wrestling show or something, so I met Junior through him. Shannon always loved music and we get along as far as types of music. He said “This guy Junior Merrill has all of these demos that he hasn’t written lyrics to yet. Would you like to hear them?” I said “Sure! I would love to hear them!” Then Junior gave Shannon a CD which was passed to me in North Carolina. I locked myself away and listened to these jams over and over again. I really got to know them and was automatically inspired to write! I wrote to the songs and Junior loved it. We got together years ago, I think it was back in 2002 or 2003 and rehearsed a few of them. The rest is history! On the band scene in Cincinnati, there are so many killer bands. Junior is also involved in another band called Fueled by Silence, which is much heavier. Ultimately, the next step for me is to take a more full-time approach to the performing aspect of things. Hopefully, through TNA and our show, I will start doing some live performances and become really comfortable doing what I love to do.
Did you have any particular goals or expectations in mind when you started the creative process for the “Plurality of Worlds” album?
Honestly, I don’t have any goals at the moment other than to get better. The way the songs make me feel when I hear the professionally produced finished product, it is the best thing ever! Dale Oliver is our producer down in Nashville. He is the main music guy at TNA Wrestling. When I get the finished product from him, it is the best! To be able to share that with the fans and see how they react to it is amazing. It is still in the early stages right now and my fans seem to dig it. “Time & Fate” is my new theme at TNA now. The first verse is a rap I wrote back when I was in the eighth grade. Just to hear that verse every night when I go out and wrestling is amazing. As I am running out, I think “Oh my God, this thing is still alive!” It is so cool to hear it because it originated so long ago! I have notebooks stacked miles high of different writings, so to bring something back to life from all those years ago is really cool. As far as expectations and goals, I just want to get better and I hope the people support me in doing that.
What can you tell us about your writing process and how you bring a typical song to life?
I started writing poetry years ago when I was in WWE. Poetry took a turn when I met Junior and I started pairing it with his music. It was then when poetry became songwriting. Whenever a line pops in my head and I think it sounds pretty cool, I pull out my iPhone and note it down. I do that because one day in the future I know I am going to hear this original song and the lyric is going to fit. That is the beauty of the process. You never really know what is going to happen. There are a lot of songs I don’t plan for but I have an idea and jot it down. Eventually it fits one of the original demos. That is so cool to be able to put together the pieces of the puzzle like that and hear the finished product!
You mentioned working with producer Dale Oliver. What does he bring to the table for a project like this?
Dale pushes me and he is my teacher. We recorded five of the songs in Nashville over several sessions. It just got better and better. I got more comfortable each time. Last summer when I was out there, we finished up by recording “Time & Fate” and a song called “Anxious.” I am talking about spending all day in the studio singing things over and over again. He would push me to try higher tones or suggest different notes to go for. By the time the day was over, I was worn out! I could barely speak and it made me wonder how some of these professionals do it night after night! That is just what I needed and I have to do it more and more. Dale has really become a mentor and a leader to me.
You chose “Every Other Day” as the lead off single for this album. What can you tell us about the song and what made you choose it as a first single?
This is a crazy story about how that song even came about. I would hear people talk about things they would do every other day. Some people workout every other day, wash clothes other day or whatever it might be. I thought to myself, “Wow. People really say that a lot.” I would be outside cutting my grass and sang “Every other day I will soon remember…” I just kept hearing that over and over again. I grabbed my iPhone and made a note of it. It just kind of came to me without any music, the chorus. I didn’t even know what it meant but I liked the way it sounded. I thought “I know I am saying something here. I just have to build a song around it! What is the song going to be about?” Junior had made and sent me a little riff that was very generic and simple. We changed up the melody a little bit and I started singing to the little thing he had sent me and sent it back to him. He said “Hey! That is really catchy! Let me work on that!” He ended up working on it and coming up with this cool bridge, which was the end, and sent it back to me. I completed the song with “Something other than nothing…” and “Play me you’ll see…,” which were all things I had written down on my phone and I just put them together to create “Every Other Day.” Overall, it is a really catchy tune. When you hear a song for the first time and it sticks in your head, which is what you want! I think my stuff is going to take a little time to grow on people but that chorus alone, from everyone at TNA’s opinions, was the catchiest. That is why we rolled with it.
Absolutely! It is a great song to introduce to the masses. TNA seems very behind you when it comes to your music. You have even released a video for “Every Other Day.” What else do you have in store for us in the short term?
When it comes to music videos, TNA and I were a little rushed. We wanted to get the music and video out there for the fans before Christmas. For “Every Other Day,” I had written out a long script that would have taken a good day, if not two, to film my vision of the “Every Other Day” video. We just didn’t have enough time to get that done. There is a song on the album called “None of The Time” that I am going to try and shoot all by myself at home. I have this vision and I want to bring it to life. Matt’s wife is an amazing editor. I want to do this video on my own, out of nowhere and pay her to edit it and see how my images come across through the video process and see if TNA will air the video. I think that is going to be very important for me, to try and express what I mean in the song and what I am talking about through a music video. I think the cheaper you can do it and still make it cool, the more impressive it will be. That is my next step, trying to shot a video at my house, all by myself and see how it goes!
You music is full of emotion. You are clearly no stranger to being in the spotlight as part of the professional wrestling world. Did you have any reservations about exposing your emotional side through your music?
Not really. To be honest, it has all helped me. When I do talk about my dark days or the things I have been through, I think it helps me get past it more than anything. It keeps me honest and helps me move on. To write all of these songs to sing about it those things is really therapy for me and has become a part of the healing process. It really helped me a lot when I was going through those dark times. Now I can look back on it and say “Here it is in a song. I was open an honest. Now let’s move on and talk about the good stuff!”
That is terrific to hear, Jeff. Looking back on the process of creating “Plurality of Worlds,” what do you consider the biggest challenges involved?
For me, I think it was being pushed to get better. I guess what I am trying to say is that when I listened back to it; I think “Oh man, I could do this song so much better now!” For example, “Blue Tomorrow” is a really funky, blues jam. I am not afraid to get crazy with it now when I am singing on my basement. Now there is more yelling and full of so much more aggression. It is so funky the way I sing it now compared to the way I recorded it. I can’t regret that. Actually, I think it is exciting because I think whenever we start performing live, it will be much better than the actual album and I think that is a good thing. There are little things I do now that I didn’t do when I was recording the songs because I really didn’t know how or know that I could. Moving forward, what you hear on “Plurality of Worlds” is going to be way better live!
I think it is safe to say you are no stranger to evolution. What do you consider your biggest evolution musically?
I think my biggest evolution is getting out of my lonely basement with the one microphone and going out to Nashville to work with professionals. I have learned how to breathe and learned what I can and can’t do. By far, that is the biggest thing yet. I am still engulfed in a full-time pro-wrestling schedule, so it isn’t like I can dedicate all of my time to music because the most important thing is my career as a pro wrestler. Slowly, I think I am graduating from the novice level and becoming an amateur. I am trying to push that professional envelope level. I think that is my biggest evolution.
You mentioned already preparing for a follow-up album to “Plurality of Worlds.” Where are you in the process and what do you find most exciting about what you are creating?
At the moment, the most exciting thing about the new album is that there will be a lot more singing. There is a lot more positive emotion involved. There are three songs we plan on starting with. One is called “Obsolete” and although it still highlights some of the negative, it has catchy chorus. It is a little dark but the way I am going to sing is a bit different from what I have done on “Plurality of Worlds,” where I am kind of rapping/talking. On the upcoming album I plan to sing a lot more and that is what I find most exciting about the project.
What can we expect as far as you performing this music live in the near future?
I think that is definitely the next step to get out from Nashville to Cincinnati with Junior to play acoustically. We need to practice, practice, practice and get ready to commit to some dates to start touring. Hopefully, by the time this second album comes out, we will be ready to start get out there, whether it be in small clubs before a wrestling show or in between matches at a TNA live event. Something will definitely happen before we put out the next album and we will be ready for it. The next step for me is getting into a situation where we are a band and this is how it’s going to be. We have to find out how we are going to sound. That is the next step for me, not just being in the studio recording songs but getting a vibe for what it is going to be like performing live. I would love to involve it as part of the wrestling show. We are back down in the Universal Studios now filing Impact and we could bring it there. It is really limitless what we could do with it.
Who are some of the bands you are feeling inspired by these days? Has anyone really caught your attention?
Yeah. More than any, as far as new bands go, is Imagine Dragons. I caught their performance at the American Music Awards and thought “Holy shit! How do you follow that?” It was awesome. We also saw Pearl Jam about a month ago in Charlotte and they are better than ever! The new album, “Lightning Bolt,” is crazy amazing and the place was packed! But again, as far as new bands, Imagine Dragons is my favorite.
You seem to be at a great place creatively. Is that fair statement to make?
Yeah. It is a very fair statement. Sometimes you encounter writers block or painters block. I had painters block for a while. A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, I had to go and get a canvas because I had to try to paint an image I had in my head. Here we are eight paintings later! [laughs] I ran wild with the paintings and that is how the songwriting thing goes as well. You can’t force it, it just happens. Once we get involved further in the process, I am sure things will happen very naturally.
I am sure many people look to you for inspiration both in the ring and beyond. What do you feel is the best lesson which can be taken from the life and times of Jeff Hardy?
My daughter just turned three years old and it is just the coolest thing ever! Every day with her, I find grow up just a little bit more. Being a father has done so much for me in terms of inspiring me to not be afraid. Even the way I wrestle has been influenced by it. I feel better than I have physically and it is crazy! It is my third year drug free and I am really taking care of myself but to have that little girl every day to inspire me and to grow up again with her has been a huge lesson for me. I would say to anyone else out there who hasn’t experienced fatherhood or motherhood yet it is a blessing. When you do take that journey, take it for what it is worth and love your child every day. The way I love my daughter and hanging out with her every day is the way it should be. I don’t see how another other parent couldn’t feel the same way. Fatherhood changed my life for the better and I think it could change anyone else’s in the same way for the better.
Looking back on your life and career, are you the type who gives much thought to their legacy and what it might be?
I don’t dwell on my legacy at all. I just keep pushing forward. I am thirty-six years old right now and I don’t put a number on how long I am going to wrestle. Honestly, I wrestle every match like it might be my last. You never know what is going to happen out in that ring. The smallest match could be your last and you can never see it coming, I just keep pushing forward and I don’t know when I am going to retire or how long I will do this. I just take it day by day; enjoy every hour and every moment. That is pretty much how I look at life.
Thank so much for your time today, Jeff. I am definitely excited to discover what the future holds for musically and glad we could be a part of spreading the word!
Thanks for the support. Talk to you soon!
To find out more about Jeff Hardy and his new album you can follow him on Twitter @JEFFHARDYBRAND or search #HardyCD.