jason kundrath interviews one of the Jersey Shore’s hottest acts, Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why …
‘Rath On Record #8
Artist: Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why
File Under: Clean-Cut, College Jam-Pop
Homebase: Jersey Shore
Players: Quincy Mumford — acoustic guitar, lead vocals; Brian Gearty — bass; Jeff Mann — drums; Travis Lyon — lead guitar; Karlee Bloomfield — keys, organ
When it comes to music and musicians, it’s generally a good thing to be considered “cool.” While it’s difficult to define “cool” in certain terms, it generally comes down to unique elements of an artist’s sound, style or story that begin to turn heads. The buzz builds. And soon there’s a small but growing community of fans connecting over their common attraction to “the next big thing.” The problem is that every couple of weeks, there’s 10 more artists on the “cool” list. It’s downright exhausting to keep up. And in the end, it’s mostly hype. The majority of these artists will quickly fade back into obscurity, making little impact. Honestly, sometimes cool just ain’t that cool.
Some artists are better off without it. Take, for instance, the Dave Matthews Band. Few people would seriously argue that these guys are “cool.” The same goes for Jack Johnson. And, for that matter, John Mayer. I am not suggesting these artists are uncool. But rather, “cool” — in the traditional sense — doesn’t really factor into the equation. These artists are neither following trends nor setting them. Instead, they craft laid-back, jammed-out, “feel-good” music for arena-sized crowds. And their music gets played on the radio. All “coolness” aside, these artists are undeniably, massively successful.
This is all to say Quincy Mumford has the right idea. This handsome, 19-year-old singer-songwriter from the Garden State has wisely avoided the pitfalls associated with trying to be cool, and instead has spent the last three years of his life finding his own powerful voice. Playing over 300 shows and releasing two acclaimed solo albums (2008’s Quincy Mumford and 2009’s South Edgemere), Mumford developed a sound based on an arena-certified hybrid of pop, rock, reggae and funk, placing his smooth baritone front and center. And while his first two albums showed promising signs of a serious new talent, his latest album Speak is Mumford’s blockbuster star vehicle, jam-packed with breezy, melodic anthems that feel like sunny afternoons. Lyrically, Mumford spins earnest tales about the power of love (“Bring ’em Home”), the power of friendship (“Rally”), and the power of music (“Sounds Like Music”). It’s simple, direct, and radiating with good vibes. The confident, poised performances of Mumford and his band — The Reason Why — and the world-class production throughout (courtesy of Jon Leidersdorff) make Speak a fully-engaging listen, front to back.
And through it all, there’s Mumford: a teenage white kid in blue jeans and a baseball t-shirt who isn’t exactly a vision of “cool.” But without a doubt: He’s got the goods. And in the mold of Matthews, Johnson and Mayer, he just might be uncool enough to be a superstar.
‘Rath on Record: So you’ve logged a few hundred live performances, you just released your third album, and you haven’t yet reached your 20th birthday. Is it safe to say that you’re putting college on hold for now?
Quincy Mumford: College is not necessarily on hold. I’m taking a few classes this year at a local community college to keep on top of my education.
ROR: What courses are you taking? Do you have any other professional interests besides music?
QM: I took an English writing class, Intro to Business, and now Small Business Management. I have a small clothing company on the side that goes hand in hand with my music called Lifted apparel. Shirts are available at quincymumford.com. I would love to produce in the future as well.
ROR: How far would you and the band like to take it? Bus tours? Arenas?
QM: As far as we can go! All the way to the top is what we aim for, but right now broken down van tours are doing just fine.
ROR: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a songwriter?
QM: Ever since I was 9 years old, I knew that I wanted to be in a band, but it was not until I was 15 that I realized that I wanted to take it serious and record an album as a songwriter.
ROR: What happened at 15 that made you realize you wanted to be a songwriter?
QM: I heard a Jack Johnson record and loved how simple but powerful his lyrics were. So I said if he could do, it so could I.
ROR: Which artists and albums have had the most influence on your career?
QM: Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams. G. Love & Special Sauce. Peter Tosh. Dispatch. The Meters.
ROR: Would you say New Jersey a good place for aspiring artists?
QM: New Jersey is a great place for artists, especially Asbury Park. Not only are there great places to play, but many other amazing artist to play with and write with to get you on your feet.
ROR: Speak is not only a great record, but also a great sounding record. How much of that had to do with the work of your long-time producer Jon Leidersdorff?
QM: Jon and I came into this record with the mind set that we wanted to make something way different and way more powerful then the last two records. He brought in a lot of other musicians for me to work with to come from a different place musically then I was used to. He told me to push myself in new directions to find a hidden musician inside me. I found a new side of me as a writer with this new record and it definitely shows.
ROR: How did you meet Jon Leidersdorff? Is it true he’s worked with The Jonas Brothers?
QM: At the time, I was looking just to document my music in recordings, so my dad called up an friend of his, Steve Greenwell, who was a producer. Steve recommended Jon who was a brand new producer on the market with a great style. It was funny because Jon’s studio was actually just a bike ride away from my house. And yes, he knows The Jonas Brothers on a personal level. In fact, I know their backup band very well. I wrote the song “Sounds Like Music” with two of those guys!
ROR: Tell me a little bit about The Reason Why and how they became your backing band.
QM: I met everyone pretty much after I released my first record. I found them through friends or other musicians, except for the bass player Brian. Brian and I have been best friends and jamming together for as long as I can remember. The Reason Why just started as a band, and grew into a much bigger answer to the reason why we eat, sleep, breath, and live for music.
ROR: Is it hard to book a tour when no one in the band is of legal age?
QM: Actually Jeff (Mann, drums) is 25 and Travis (Lyon, guitar) is almost 21. But it is not hard at all to book. Most places are cool with it, especially the more venue-structured places. Some bars won’t have us play, but we try to stay clear of just bars as venues anyway. We like the real deal: the kind of places that people go to to hear good live music. We want those kind of fans.
ROR: So was your record release party a success [April 9 at The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park]?
QM: It sold out! People were turned down at the door! The band sounded great and everyone had a killer time, I could not have asked for a better release for a new album.
ROR: Are you already thinking about the next record?
QM: You bet! I have arranged next week to meet with some artists to get a feel for more of a soul and funk approach. I want this next one to be even more exciting than this last one.