Jerry Cherry: Interview
By: Lauren Jonik
both art and in life, there are things that deserve a deeper look.
While the shiny surface captures the attention at first glance,
just beneath there often lies a deeper world waiting to be discovered.
Such is the case with the music of Jerry Cherry. While charismatic
in his live performances, Cherry's persona on stage tells only a
part of the story.
Beginning his musical career in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Jerry Cherry has been playing the guitar since he was a teenager. "Listening to hard rock and heavy metal as a kid growing up, I just wanted to be a guitarist. I just liked the way it sounded and I thought it was cool," he explains. When he was 13, his mother bought him an amp "and there went the neighborhood," he continued. When Cherry was seventeen, he studied for three months with one of the original guitar players in Miami Sound Machine. "The teacher I had was very good and very knowledgeable. He was a jazz and theory person and I still use what he taught me."
After playing in bands for several years in south Florida, three years ago Cherry decided that it was time for a change and relocated to NYC. Inspired by the energy of the city and the sense of a creative community that he discovered while visiting, Cherry says, "It's such a good creative place. Everybody here is doing something artistic." Cherry soon began connecting with other musicians and began hosting an open mic night at the Satellite Bar. It was there that he crossed paths with singer/songwriter Dan Torres for whom Cherry eventually started playing guitar. In addition, it provided a convenient forum for Cherry to test out new material of his own that he was working on. "It was a good experience to get up there and have a stage and sound and an audience to play new songs in front of. I wrote so much then." Four of the eleven songs on Cherry's debut CD, Life Is Sweeter. were written during that time.
For Jerry Cherry, the songwriting process always starts out with an emotion that needs to be expressed. As he explains, "it's that little feeling that makes the hair on your arms stand up." And, in his estimation, best songs usually happen quickly. "It's really fast. The best ones come just like that. When you have an emotion, it is best to capture it while you can. Once you leave it, it's never the same. It's something else." When writing, Cherry says that, "I'll come up with something musical and once I have some kind of frame work, I put words into it. The words are very important. They're trying to tell a story of the emotion that you're trying to share. You want to capture that feeling forever in time."
When performing, Jerry Cherry exudes a natural presence and embodies the ideal of pouring your all into the moment and into what you're doing. "I can be crazy on stage, but at the same time, I have very pretty, melodic, slow songs too that have to be sung and delivered the right way. I'm still finding the way that I want to perform the songs. I don't like to be this thing that needs to be watched. I feel like maybe I should be drawing energy between everybody." Cherry's philosophy on performing is simple: "As early on as you can, think about what you're doing and why you're there. Forget about trying to be perfect. Be authentic and try to get to the heart of the song." In his experience, "the only way to get better at it is to do it. It's not even about practice, but more of how you are in the game itself."
Indeed, sometimes being in the game can lead to rather unexpected moments, like temporarily being banned from playing at The Rockwood Music Hall's very cool Late Night event on Wednesday nights where some of the best and brightest local musicians play cover songs from a pre-determined year each week. For weeks, I would play a song and I would jump up onto the tables. It was like a Madonna concert to me. The way they had the tables was like long wings that run out into the audience. People were loving it week after week until the owner Ken Rockwood told me "no more tables." But, when I was playing my song and saw that Ken wasn't there, people began egging me on. The next thing I knew, I was on the table with the microphone screaming," he says with a chuckle. " I didn't get to play the next week. But when I returned the following week and the host Matt Basile asked if I had a song ready, I was so happy. Once you're on stage and in the moment, it's hard to have rules," he starts before adding, "Though I don't jump on the tables there anymore."
Whether singing sweet ballads or table-top dancing, Jerry Cherry defines his work: "When you listen to my music, you'll see it's about life, love, happiness and respect for everybody. What you're digging for as an artist is to be closer to who you are really, truly. The more I get out there and do it, the braver I get and I want that to be in my music. His CD, Life Is Sweeter. is due to come out this Fall and he will celebrate its release on October 10, 2007 at 8:30pm at The Bitter End in NYC.
originally appeared in IndieSoundsNY
(Issue #26 September 2007). Photo by Lauren Jonik. Reprinted with permission.