Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Jimmer Podrasky, who discusses his debut album, “The Would-Be Plans.” The Lead singer of The Rave-Ups in the ‘80s, Podrasky’s vocals were heard on such television shows and films such as “Pretty in Pink” and “Beverly Hills 90210.” 23 years after the band’s breakup, Podrasky talks about his past, his songwriting process and his future.
Review Fix: How does it feel to have an album out after 23 years?
Jimmer Podrasky: I sure didn’t think that I’d be making my “debut” solo record at 56-years-old. I walked away from the music world a long time ago and returning to it has only made me realize how much some things have changed and how much some things have remained exactly the same. I guess time spent away from the music biz put a certain perspective on things; I took too many things for granted when I was a younger man. It feels good to make music again and I’m thankful to friends, both old and new, who were instrumental (no pun intended) in helping me get back to it.
Review Fix: How has this journey made you a better musician?
Podrasky: I’m not really much of a musician…I’ve always focused on the songwriting and was lucky to be surrounded by players who were far better than me. I learned from them…I’m still learning from them. I don’t know if my journey of the last 23 years made me a better musician but I’m certain it made me a better man.
Review Fix: At your lowest point, did you ever think you’d be in this situation now?
Podrasky: No. Those “low points” were pretty damn low. I’m just thankful to be alive–and I wouldn’t be without friends and loved ones. Some of those same friends (Alison Freebairn-Smith, Ed Sikov, Mitch Marine) and loved ones (Chance Podrasky) were the ones who urged me to make music again. Literally, when I was hungry they fed me. When I was lost they helped me find my way home. When I was falling they grabbed me and pulled me up. They are true heroes and I’m not sure how I’ll ever repay them. Maybe the only way to return their kindness is to be the best singer/songwriter I can be. I have an older man’s perspective on things now and I doubt I’ll ever take the important things in life for granted as I once did.
Review Fix: How do you want this album to affect people?
Podrasky: I guess I can only speak to how it affects me. When I went into a studio to begin this recording, I was in a pretty bad place. Left to my own devices, I’d have made a pretty somber record–sparse, dark and maybe a little too introspective. Enter Mitch Marine–when I let go and let Mitch drive the bus, I did myself a great favor. I figured I’d focus on the songs and singing them and I’d let Mitch and the players he recruited do what they do best. The result is a record that (I think) sounds full of life. There’s a life-affirming, redemptive quality to it. Granted, some of the songs are emotionally sobering, but those angry, sad, bitter, heartbroken words are buoyed by some extraordinary playing. I owe an awful lot to Mitch, Brian, Ted, Rami, Marty and others–they MADE this record. Without a doubt, this is as much Mitch’s record as it is mine.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite track on the album and why?
Podrasky: That’s difficult to answer because my “favorite” changes from day to day. I had an awful lot of songs written (I never stopped writing, I just stopped recording and performing) before we went into the studio. Mitch and I sat together for days as I played different songs for him. We knew we had a very limited amount of money to spend so we had to choose only ten songs to focus on. I didn’t try to control the situation or force any particular song on Mitch–I let him decide based on his gut reaction. It took awhile but we finally whittled it down to those ten. I will say that I’m glad a few of them (Satellite, She Has Good Records) made the final cut. Satellite because I felt it would connect with people–it’s not a celebratory song at all, even though some people hear it differently. She Has Good Records I wrote in 1979 when I was at Carnegie-Mellon and played it back then with the Pittsburgh line-up of The Rave-Ups. I tried recording it a few times over the past 35 years but it just didn’t work for me. I’ve been keeping that in my back pocket for decades. It’s probably one of the silliest songs I’ve written–a pop song about writing a pop song. I always liked the hook and I’m glad Mitch went the full pop route by putting strings on it.
Review Fix: What song do you think has the best story behind it? Can you share?
Podrasky: Well, they almost all have good stories behind them. Just What You Don’t comes to mind. I had a girlfriend years ago whose family was from the Sacramento area. We drove there together one weekend late in summer. Things weren’t going so well in the relationship and I felt a sense of impending doom as we got on Interstate 5 and headed north. It’s difficult to break-up in a car, particularly when you have a seven-hour drive ahead of you. The shit had hit the fan before we even passed the infamous Grapevine. Needless to say it was one of the longest rides of my life (and I once took a Greyhound from LA to Pittsburgh nonstop). The funny thing is, as long and drawn-out as the break-up was, writing the song was effortless–took about ten minutes, including the bridge. It seemed to write itself–I was just taking dictation at that point. That rarely happens for me when I write and when it does it’s a happy coincidence. I wonder whatever happened to that girl?
Review Fix: How do you want this album to ultimately be remembered?
Podrasky: I played this record for close friends before releasing it because I wanted their feedback–it had been so long since I’d recorded and released anything that I was testing the waters and using my friends as a focus group I guess. Unfortunately, they all had different favorites–as a songwriter, that made me feel great but it didn’t help in choosing a single for radio (yeah, they still do that shit). The one song that nobody mentioned was With This Ring and that’s why I think it’s the one people shouldn’t skip. I was very briefly engaged to a TV actress years ago and when she asked me if I’d written a song about her, I blurted out “yes” without even thinking. When she asked “what’s it called?” I (not thinking again) said “With This Ring.” I eventually wrote the song but it wasn’t really about that woman–it was about my son’s mother. Don’t skip that track–it may be the hidden gem on it. Don’t skip that track–it may be the hidden gem on the record.