If you’re looking for a tireless supporter of other songwriters, an instigator of events that shine the spotlight on San Francisco’s wealth of talented troubadors, and an example of one of those voices, look no further than artist Jeff Desira. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist whose played in a bunch of bands, Jeff’s diverse musical background adds up to a knack for acoustic balladry laced with catchy hooks. I first met and heard Jeff at one of Alex Jimenez’s Usual Suspects Songwriter Showcase where I was glad to find he was in the thick of recording his recent material. He recently caught me up on his new project, his influences, the showcase he now hosts, and his experience as a songwriter on the East and West coasts.
Q You were in a lot of bands before turning your attention to the guitar and your solo work. Was that a difficult or easy transition and what do you love most about leading with your own music?
Transitioning from keyboard session work/playing keyboards in bands to bass wasn’t so difficult for me, really. After auditioning for a band as a keyboardist, they admitted to really needing a bass guitarist and literally gave me my first bass: a 1954 Telecaster bass. I learned an 8-song set in about four weeks and we had our first gig. In hindsight, if I hadn’t taken piano lessons first, I probably wouldn’t have had a good understanding of how bass works. Bass is a much more physical instrument though, and requires a different kind of coordination. I ended up playing bass guitar from about 1991 to 2004, when I decided to start writing songs on acoustic guitar.
The transition from bass to acoustic guitar took a while longer, primarily because I was developing material on my own this time, and had a more intense focus on song arrangement.
I’ve been writing songs mainly on acoustic guitar for about nine years now, and I love that I get to incorporate all of the things I’ve picked up over the years and use it on my own recordings. For example, I’m currently recording an EP with producer/musician Scott Mickelson (Fat Opie) and now I play bass on my own tracks, sing backing vocals, write violin arrangements, play percussion — I can add anything I want as appropriate for the song.
I eventually moved back to California in early ’09. I literally moved straight from Brooklyn to the North Bay to take care of family and begin scratch tracks for my current EP with the late Kerry Garloff. During the process, Kerry admitted to me that he had cancer and insisted on finishing what we had started. Shortly after we finished recording the scratch tracks, Kerry passed away, leaving a message through his Mother asking me to finish my album. This is the album that I’m currently working on with producer Scott Mickelson.
After a couple years of hosting events and showcases, I finally moved back to SF where I found a new, developing singer-songwriter scene, comparable to what I had experienced in NYC. The level of appreciation for music here is still different from that of New York, but it’s still so inspiring for me to be around so many talented and motivated artists with similar interests.