When we first met The Nearly Deads frontwoman Theresa Jeane (TJ), back in the Spring of 2014, it was hard not to be taken by her piercing eyes and infectious smile. However, there was definitely more to this book than the cover! It was her dedication to her craft, connection to her fans and never-say-die attitude (not to mention loads of kick-ass tunes) that we quickly fell in love with! TJ, along with Steven Tobi, Kevin Koelsch, Javier Garza Jr., and Josh Perrone has created a sound and a band that is truly unique. Their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Invisible Tonight,’ introduced them to music lovers around the globe and has garnered them legions of dedicated fans. To say the past few years have been a whirlwind would be an understatement! Their high-octane performances have established them as an undeniable force in rock music and would lead them to sharing the stage with other top-notch live acts such as Halestorm, All American Rejects, In This Moment and beyond. Through all the success, the tremendous live shows and countless miles on the road, the band has remained grounded and continues to focus on their creative growth and the future.
Recently, The Nearly Deads have been laser-focsued on preparing for their forthcoming 6-song EP, co-produced with Jon King. To support the endeavor, the band has launched a PledgeMusic campaign to help fund the project, which is scheduled for release in January 2017. Running from 8/15/16 – 1/15/17, the campaign will provide fans with one-of-a-kind merchandise and experiences, including exclusive opportunities to interact with the band. Starting at $10 for a download of the new EP and an “Access Pass” to all Pledge-only updates. Other offers include signed merchandise (CDs, vinyl, posters, drum sticks), a “Zombie” bundle (a knowing nod to their fans, who are referred to as “zombies”), Skype hangouts, “Band” hangouts, personal “birthday” wishes, acknowledgement in the credits, song collaborations, an elaborate “Nearly Deads Scrapbook” (only two are being produced) and custom lyric art by Theresa Jeane. In addition, one lucky fan can even pledge to “Name the EP.” There is even an option to have the band perform live in the comfort of your own home — a once in a life time opportunity! Always looking to give back to some terrific causes, The Nearly Deads will also be donating 10% of all funds raised above the goal limit to the Keep A Breast Foundation.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Theresa Jeane to discuss the rise of the The Nearly Deads, their recent Pledge Music campaign, the making of their new EP, the challenges involved, and much more … even cats!
Going all the way back to the beginning, how did you first start getting involved with the arts?
I grew up in a household filled with music. When we bought our first Casio Keyboard you couldn’t pry me away from it. I always tell people I’ve been playing piano since I could reach the keys. From the beginning, I have always written my own music as well. I took piano lessons, but lacked the attention span to sit down and learn an entire piece of music without drifting off and writing instead of practicing!
So many young artists can look to you as an inspiration as they chart their own paths. What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice as an artist?
Don’t ever try to be someone you’re not. I think a lot of people, myself included, try to fit into a mold of what they think they should be. I found that I was better at being myself than playing a character. At a certain point, I stopped caring about what everyone thought and started focusing on my voice and my talent. In the music industry today that can seem like a hard thing to do, but I believe that artists who stick to their guns are usually the ones with the most long-lived success. You can’t build a career being something you’re not, because you will end up very unhappy. Everyone defines success differently, so don’t worry that you don’t fit into someone else’s ideas of who you should be.
Last time we spoke, we touched on a few of your musical influences. Who were some of the people behind the scenes who helped shape the artist we see today?
I am very influenced by Shirley Manson, both musically and professionally. I read every interview she does and share her same perspectives on many issues, especially those related to women in the music industry. It’s also hard not to be inspired by some of the women we’ve shared the stage with over the years, Lzzy Hale, Maria Brink, the Butcher Babies. They all have a distinctive style and they all show so much love for their fellow female rockers. It’s an amazing thing to feel respected by these women.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
Our fans. The fact that there are people out there who care about what we are doing and who might be helped by our music.
You have been playing with the other members of the band for many years now. What do they bring out in your creatively?
Steve Tobi and I write the majority of the songs together. He brings out a progressive, arena rock vibe that I need sometimes. I know Josh, Javier, and Kevin all have my back on keeping some of our punk influences in the music, so it’s a pleasure to work and write with all of them. We have a lot of fun and love what we do.
Last time we spoke, it was a few months prior to the release of your debut album. How has your life changed in that timeframe?
A lot has changed! We’ve kept touring, I’ve moved a couple of times, Steve just got married, we’ve written tons of new music and Invisible Tonight continues to do well.
You took to PledgeMusic to make this EP a reality. You have crowdfunded two successful campaigns in the past. What has the experience of connecting with your fanbase to create your art been like for you?
It’s been an incredibly humbling experience. I never would have thought that people would support me the way that our fans do. I feel so fortunate. We are thankful to each and every person who has contributed to our campaigns.
Having taken part in quite a few PledgeMusic campaigns in the past, I have to say, you guys have some unique perks. What are some of your favorites this time around?
I love our Nearly Deads Reanimated Roast coffee blend! It started when a fan reached out to me on Instagram, and now we have our very own coffee! I’m a coffee addict so this is my favorite prize. We got to sample the roasts and choose the blend we liked best. Not only is it a cool prize, but it’s like a connection within a connection when you think about the way it came about!
Charity is another part of this campaign. The Nearly Deads will be donating 10% of all funds raised above the goal limit to the Keep A Breast Foundation. How did you get involved with the organization?
We first got involved with the Keep A Breast Foundation through our publicist after we had done a few dates on Vans Warped Tour. We were about to tour again and they sent us tons of swag to give out on our next tour to raise awareness. I love starting the conversation with young people because breast cancer is unfortunately something that everyone can relate to in some way.
The Nearly Deads are hard at work on a new EP. Did you have any particular goals or aspirations for this project when you started out?
We always have the same goal, and that is to make great music that we love. With this EP however, we specifically wanted to make huge, epic rock songs worthy of being on the radio. We’d love to be on a major label one day, and go onto some bigger tours and eventually fill stadiums ourselves. After playing to some massive crowds on the Black Widow Tour, we knew we needed more songs that would be fun to play live and get the audience involved. There’s also going to be more piano on this EP including a ballad, so showcase the many different sides of The Nearly Deads.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for the new album? Has anything changed along the way in your approach?
I care a lot less. I used to overthink and hem and haw over every last syllable. Now I just go with the flow. It’s been so much more pleasant that way! I definitely contribute my new approach to our years of touring. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t and to trust each other and our instincts. I’ve stopped trying too hard to impress anybody and have started focusing on showcasing my vocal capabilities and the raw talent of my band members!
What can we expect from the new material sonically? In your mind, what has changed and what has stayed the same?
It’s going to be like our debut EP, more songs like “Never Look Back” and “Fact and Friction.” There will be more piano. It will be the same Nearly Deads, but louder, heavier, and more fun to watch live.
You recently released a video for the single “My Evil Ways.” What made this the song you wanted to lead the charge for the new EP?
It’s a fun song and it sums up both our new musical direction and our current outlook on the industry. We are done trying to fit in or change to impress people. We have our fans, they get us, and we accept them for who they are as well.
As a songwriter, where do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days?
I’ve been listening to a lot of NPR. It sounds weird, but listening to the news and the way that people speak on the radio has actually improved my vocabulary and ability to write. It’s also inspired me to talk about current events in my music and to branch out from my current themes.
The Nearly Deads will soon be embarking on The Electric Angels tour with Valora. For those who may just be discovering the band or going to one of the gigs, how would you describe your live show?
Tons of energy, headbanging, audience participation, and one hell of a good time!
How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist since you first started professionally?
This is a great question, and my answer definitely touches on an answer from an earlier question. I’ve stopped caring so much. I’ve stopped overanalyzing. I’m a classically trained singer and composer, and translating that to pop/rock wasn’t always easy. I tried way too hard and I had no edge. It took years of being on the road to toughen up vocally and prove to myself that I had what it took to be a real rock singer. I credit my training to my vocal health, stamina, and power, of course, but I really needed to define my own style. I still feel like I’m finding it!
The band has come a long way. What do you consider your biggest milestones?
I think the best is definitely yet to come for us. Being a part of the massive Black Widow Tour was amazing. Being able to play with Halestorm and going on dates of Vans Warped Tour are also stand out moments.
We have seen the music industry change exponentially through the years. On a positive note, what excites about being a working artist in today’s climate?
So much excites me. We get much more creative control. We can fund our own records and tours. We can give the fans what they want directly instead of trying to become what some record executive thinks he can sell. Overall, it just excites me that we can keep doing this because of the amount of fans we’ve gained online. The industry is definitely changing every day, and as soon as you think you’ve got it figured out, it changes again. The bottom line for me is that I truly believe honest, raw talent will win in the end. We’ve worked very hard over the years to make sure we rise to the top one day.
What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?
Come to shows, share our music with the people you know who might love us, and support our Pledge Music campaign!
What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
As I’ve been saying, stay true to yourself. Don’t try so hard. Just be yourself. It seems cliche and simple but can actually be very hard for some people to do.
As a follower of yours on social media, your love of cats is well documented. Are you involved with any feline related causes we can help shine a light on?
We released “Punk Rock Kitty Cat” and donated to the ASPCA earlier this year and I’ve posted about Black Cat Appreciation day! Contact your local shelter as many offer adoption deals on unwanted black cats during the Halloween season! I have a black cat named Eleanor and she is purrrrrfectly sweet. :)