At Their Best

Exclusive interviews with local legends and legends-to-be, from Shane Victorino and Tory Burch to young actress Patricia Raven and beer guru Lew Bryson.

(page 9 of 9)

Quiet Confidence

Our pick for Best Singer/Songwriter/Artist, Jeffrey Gaines grew up in Harrisburg but chose to make the Main Line his home-away-from-the-road shortly after landing a record deal with Chrysalis Records in 1990—a break that came after turned down a lead singer gig with a rock band from New York. It didn’t take long after that for Gaines’ acoustic-based, confessional folk-rock to catch on, thanks to enthusiastic support from WXPN-FM.

Photo by Jared Castaldi

Gaines’ self-titled 1992 debut album sold 250,000 copies. (A recently re-mastered version is due to be released soon.) Several of its songs were used in films and on TV, and five more full-length CDs followed. Though none have been as commercially successful as the first, his fourth, 2001’s Always Be, earned critical acclaim and featured a knockout rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” a song he’d long been playing live. On the road, he’s opened for the likes of Sting, Tori Amos, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty and Sheryl Crow.

For newbies, Gaines considers 2003’s Toward the Sun a fitting bookend to the first album. On it, he comes full circle, with his soulful vocals, heartfelt lyrics, soaring melodies and unpretentious arrangements. “This is where the songs connect and come together,” he says of the two albums. “If you don’t have any others but these two, then you know my music and who I am.”

In 2008, Gaines transformed Philly’s Theatre of the Living Arts into a recording studio for Jeffrey Gaines Live, a full-length CD/DVD. This past April, he enjoyed a four-week residency at Ardmore’s MilkBoy Coffee, playing and showcasing his paintings and drawings. In October, he’ll tour Monaco, Berlin, Russia and Paris with Joe Jackson. A new studio album is also in the works.

To Gaines, the Main Line will always feels like home. “It seems like most people move away from where they grew up because they’re trying to escape their memories,” he says. “I’m from Pennsylvania. I have an emotional relationship to here and to its ecology. I’m going to party in Europe, but I’m not moving there.”

When he’s not playing, Gaines savors his downtime. “I’m a recluse,” he says. “My music comes from within. I’m not into taking dictation from my surroundings. Soaking in too much stimuli can be detrimental to my thoughts and my artistic direction. Being too outwardly focused means not getting to the depth of yourself.”

Despite his hermit-like nature, you might run into him at Gold Million Records in Bryn Mawr, eating a slice of pizza at Bella Italia (just a block away from MilkBoy), enjoying a bowl of soup at Hymie’s in Bala Cynwyd, walking around Haverford College or attending the Devon Horse Show. For a guy who grew up with an equestrian grandfather, the latter shouldn’t come as a surprise.

—Dawn E. Warden

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