When an artist?s music addresses pure subjects like the search for truth, love and self-realization, it strikes a universal chord. People prick up their ears and take notice. Sparks fly. Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter, guitarist Jim Dugan might just set things on fire with his astounding debut album, Marigold. As a truly gifted songwriter and storyteller, Jim Dugan?s Marigold introduces an impressive collection of eleven original compositions that, song-for-song, could easily stand up against John Mayer?s phenomenally successful album, Room For Squares. It is cause for excitement.
As a former studio engineer, Jim worked on countless Rap and R&B records, specializing in music geared toward an urban market. ?While I was working as an engineer, I put a lot of effort into creating something for myself inside that genre. Unfortunately, in doing that, I extinguished my own inner fire, because I was trying to become something I wasn?t.? Eventually Jim became completely disillusioned with music. ?I felt like I couldn?t do anything, and I asked myself, ?What is my voice? What?s inside of me that rings true?? Marigold is about finding that truth.
Jim grew up in Rhode Island, loving rock music from an early age. ?To me, music has always been a language unto itself,? he offers. ?My childhood super heroes were guys like Alice Cooper, David Bowie, Elton John and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I listened for hours to this language of music coming from these great artists. I totally wanted to be a part of that world, because they were so cool and I wanted to be that cool, too. Well - It seemed like a good idea at the time!? Jim laughs. Soon, Jim got his first guitar and started learning from a few friends who were starting to play. After a short time, they started a local cover band. ?I didn?t actually start writing my own songs until I left home at 18 and started facing life head on. That?s when reality implodes and you begin to wax philosophical about all those real life issues coming at you, you know - like rent, dating, and keeping gas in your car; all the important stuff,? he says. ?Drugs and alcohol didn?t work, so I gave that up and with much help developed an interest in spirituality, writing songs was a way to sort through all the disillusionment.?
After high school, Jim moved to NYC, where he attended the Institute of Audio Engineering for two years before moving to DC to start a small studio business of his own. While working as a sound engineer in DC during the late 80?s, Jim also played in a few original bands, continuing to hone his songwriting skills. Opportunities to nurture his creative side were all around him. ?My experience in the studio was the best musical schooling I have had. For about five years , I worked at Cue Recording in Falls Church, Virginia,? he remembers. ?While I was there, I worked with artists such as Shai, Michael Faith, HR of the Bad Brains, and DC Talk. Working with so many great artists, writing and recording. I was fortunate to spend a good amount of time with a guy named David Rose. He had a record out on CBS called Blue Rose, in France, but he was American. He returned here to the States to promote his record, we met, and started doing demos together. I loved his voice and his ideas, so I spent as much time as I could working with him on his stuff and my stuff. He taught me a so much about recording. We worked on all kinds of projects, even the entire ballet score for a rendition of The Red Shoes. It was a blast!? Though David passed away a few years ago, Jim says he will always miss him and be eternally grateful for his influence.
After one too many all-night recording sessions, no money, and exposure to too many ?wannabe?s,? Jim says he decided to leave the studio business and music all together for a while. ?I had no idea I one day would start over and write a complete album project of my own.? As it turned out, Marigold grew into an accurate reflection of Jim?s life and creative, spiritual journey. Marigold?s very personal title track sets an exhilarating tone for the album. ?It?s a true story about reflecting back on a time when I was maybe 5 or 6, and I?d somehow got hold of some Marigold seeds,? Jim recalls, obviously charmed at the memory. ?The Lyrics, ?I will give you water and Ill drink with you my friend? are about connecting with something outside of myself, planting the seeds and being totally content in that moment. Nurturing this plant and watching it grow. I realized now that the whole process was a pure state of innocence, curiosity and meditation.?
Jim Dugan?s influences cover a broad range of contemporary artists and he doesn?t mind at all that those sources show up in his own music. As for the John Mayer comparison, Jim is an admitted avid fan of the singer. ?I was actually about half way through the album when I first heard John Mayer?s music, and I felt that he was coming from a similar place,? Jim says. "He didnt seem so pissed off like so much of what I hear" He?ll also admit that the Goo Goo Dolls is his favorite pop band, and that he thinks, ?John Rzeznik is definitely one of the coolest guy on the planet. I love pop songs more than any other type of music and I like writing songs with hooks. Pop songs are like prayer wheels or rosary beads; they persist, go round and round inside your heart, and somehow you end up a little better.?
It was also the music of a Scottish folk singer, Dougie McClain, that helped Jim toward finding his own inner voice as a songwriter. ?When I was first looking for creative inspiration,? Jim says, ?I began to immerse myself in Celtic music. I seemed find a groove that I related to - something very old. I wrote the first song for this album, which was ?Light.? ?That song is about me reaching in to the heart of who I am, finding some connection with all those that have come before me on this journey, and expressing that connection. I felt like ?Light? was a really different song unlike anything I had ever recorded with anyone from my days in the studio and it had clarity.?
Other highlights of Marigold include the buoyant ?Stay With Me? --similar in feel to John Mayer?s ?My Stupid Mouth? -- where Jim?s compelling, richly-nuanced vocals bring 80s pop favorite, Howard Jones to mind. ?Love, Love, Love? rocks out with a four-on-the-floor drive, while both ?Just like Always? and ?Let Me Go? elicit the romanticism of Duncan Sheik. Ask Jim which of the songs is his favorite though and he?ll probably answer, ?Whichever song I?m writing now!? ?I love to play ?Stay With Me? and ?She?s the Voice.? They seem to have a nice flow for me as a guitar player & singer.? Marigold closes with the gorgeous ?Om Shanti,? which places the traditional yoga prayer chant within an accessible pop song, weaving the lyric through a circular, acoustic guitar pattern that creates a mesmerizing incantation. As Jim explains, ?Yoga, music, life, balance, strength and flexibility; it?s all connected to me in some way. Yoga helped me focus on doing this record. I felt like I owed it to my practice and my teachers to put that song on the album.?
Revitalizing the joys of old fashioned song craft while breaking new boundaries both rhythmically and musically, Marigold?s lush but uncluttered arrangements came together with the additional talents of top shelf studio musicians like noted rock session drummer, Andy Hamburger; bassist Brian Goddard, and guitarist Mike Stacey. Jim also plays acoustic guitar on several tracks. Up-and-coming studio wizard, Rich Isaac produced, engineered and mixed the album. ?I had really wanted to capture a good energy in the sound of the record. I scrapped the whole thing a third of the way into it, because the vibe wasn?t right. Then I found Rich Isaac and we started over. Rich was amazing, and I think working with him we got the energy I was looking for,? Jim enthuses. ?With his vision at the wheel the whole record was tracked in two weeks! I think Rich is heading for great things"!
With Marigold set for a summer release, Jim intends to work as hard at promoting his record as he did writing and recording it. ?I?m also planting seeds for new songs all the time; that?s just my life. My goals are to play this music for as many people as possible ?- one person at a time.
?It?s so hard to communicate who we are in life,? Jim concludes. For me, music is a reflection of everything that?s on the inside, no matter what that is. All these songs represent something powerful for me, something I needed to find and I hope people will find a part of themselves as well. "Joseph Campbell said that artists have a responsibility to illuminate the truth and thats what Im striving for" These songs have developed and taken on new life in the studio from the original idea. I am working on putting a band together now, since that always opens it up to a something much bigger. Isnt that what its all about??
Look for bigger and better things to come from Jim Dugan.