Interview: Jeffrey Silverstein

Interview: Jeffrey Silverstein.

Landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, meditation, and long-distance running are some of the inspirations behind Portland, Oregon-based songwriter Jeffrey Silverstein stunning debut solo album.

The album sways gently between soft guitar plucks, the soothing tones of Silverstein’s vocals which seamlessly blend with subtle twangs from pedal-steelist Barry Walker Jr and the gliding lines of bassist Alex Chapman. The production from Ryan Oxford wraps the whole project in a warm coastal embrace.

When Silverstein is not crafting beautiful music, he works as a special education teacher. He’s very a talented guy.

The album has many standout moments including ‘A Dog’s Age’, ‘Easy Rider’, ‘Cosmic Scene’ and ‘Door at the Top of Your Head’ plus a bunch of other feel-good and peaceful tracks, showcasing his ability to create the most heartwarming and uplifting music. You can watch the video for recent single and our personal fave ‘Bernard’ below.

Today, Silverstein stops by for a little chat about the album, songwriting and teaching. Read our interview below and get to know him better.

Can you tell us about the themes you explore on ‘You Become The Mountain’?

Overall the record centers on patience, self-growth/reflection, and our connection to the natural world. My work and interests outside of music (trail running, teaching, meditation) share similar themes that continue to inform my songwriting. It will always be a springtime record to me. It was recorded in May of 2019, and the process allowed me the opportunity to hit refresh physically, spiritually and emotionally. 

You Become The Mountain cassette

From ‘How On Earth’ to ‘You Become The Mountain’: Do you feel your sound has evolved a lot since your first solo release?

I do. I owe a large part of it to Barry Walker (pedal-steel), Alex Chapman (bass), and Ryan Oxford (engineer). They believed in these songs + my vision for them from the get-go. It was the most joy I’ve ever had from a studio experience and feel strongly that our collaboration left a lot of room for these songs to evolve naturally. In addition, I think I’ve begun to find + strengthen my own voice as a solo artist. I have more clarity on what I want to say and how I want to present it to the world. A work in progress, but I’m getting there. 

What can you tell us about your approach to songwriting? How do your songs come together?

They start by paying attention. To what I’m doing, reading, listening to, experiencing or feeling. More often than not, they tend to start with a specific rhythm, tempo, drone or guitar phrasing and expand from there. I keep a very long-running list of phrases, words, and lyrics in an app on my phone. I’ve been trying to demo + write as much as I can, just to get it down. It helps me to not always feel like you are starting from scratch.

How do you manage your time between writing/performing your music and working as a special education teacher? 

I try to give my days as much structure + consistency as possible. That’s been especially hard during quarantine. I’m a big believer in the power of writing things down (not just digitally) + incremental progress. It’s also important to notice when work/music take hold over physical/mental health or my relationships. 

What is the one piece of equipment you can’t live without, and why?

Other than my guitars, I’d say my Electro-Harmonix ‘Canyon’ delay + looper pedal. It’s probably the most versatile pedal I own. Have to give credit to my vintage Rhythm Ace drum machine as well, which helped set the stage for some of my first solo material.  

Which song(s) do you love to listen to the most while driving?

Jim Ford- ‘Long Road Ahead’
Sheryl Crow – ‘If It Makes You Happy’
Ry Cooder – ‘Boomer’s Story’
Luke Roberts – ‘Silver Chain’
Karen Dalton – ‘Are You Leaving for the Country’
Natural Child – ‘Sure is Nice’

 Outside of music, what are your interests?

 Hiking, camping, the Grateful Dead, yard cats, running, meditation, documentaries, iced coffee, craft beer, 90s sports references. 

 Finally, we’ve been asking our interviewees this in the current climate, so any advice for self-isolation in the light of a certain global pandemic?

Be easy on yourself. Give structure to your days when possible. Take three big deep breaths per hour. Check in on your loved ones. Be kind. 

 You Become The Mountain is out now via Arrowhawk Records. Buy from  Bandcamp.

CF Smith

Write for Music Is My Sanctuary & Stereofox.

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