After the TV show Sons of Anarchy featured two of his songs, could Idaho native Jeff Crosby be on his way to becoming the next big thing?
Answer that question for yourself at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, June 5, when Jeff Crosby and the Refugees play a free show.
Crosby’s sound has a genuine roots-rock feel that reminds of The Byrds and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. With two EPs and a full-length album to his credit, Crosby is certainly on the rise after being noticed by singer-songwriter Jerry Joseph of Stockholm Syndrome, who has described Crosby as “authentic.”
During a recent phone interview, Crosby talked about his upbringing in Donnelly, Idaho.
“I grew up a couple of hours north of Boise up in the mountains,” Crosby said. “It’s actually beautiful where I grew up. I grew up on a lake, and there was a lot of ski culture. In the summer, it’s all about having fun outdoors and running around in the woods. I was never too affected by the strange politics of Idaho, so that’s sort of surprising.”
When asked to elaborate on the “strange politics,” he mentioned a recent gubernatorial debate that ended up all over YouTube.
“Everyone was kind of laughing about how ridiculous it was,” he said. “It’s mostly this Republican mindset, and there aren’t a lot of liberals. People kind of imagine it as a redneck culture. I didn’t really grow up in that. I grew up in a sleepy mountain town and was unaffected by that.”
However, there was a downside to growing up in that sleepy mountain town: Its population was only about 100. As far as finding music stores or attending concerts, he couldn’t do that until he got older. However, he did find a source of musical inspiration.
“(In Donnelly), there are a lot of old-timers and old-time musicians,” Crosby said. “They just kind of sit out and play folk music. I was about 15, and my neighbor was this Harley-riding, wild character who played guitar and had these big backyard barbecues. He’d have people over and set up to play songs like ‘Mustang Sally’ and stuff like that. I remember going over there, and he’d teach me guitar chords, and he was the one who really inspired me to start playing.”
Crosby recently found himself in a transitional period: He moved from Idaho to Los Angeles, and took a trip to Colombia, which served as his inspiration for his latest EP, Silent Conversations.
“I was in a strange relationship. I actually met her down there,” Crosby said. “… It was kind of one of those freak-out trips: I didn’t think I could afford it, and I just sort of made it happen. It ended up being a really positive thing for me, because I ended up writing a couple of records’ worth of songs when I was down there. It gave me a lot to work with when I got back home.”
He said that experiencing cultural differences was also good for him.
“It really opens you up, and it really brought into perspective stuff that I was trying to figure out back home,” Crosby said.
The list of acts that Crosby has shared the stage with is impressive. The list includes Michael Franti and Spearhead, Delta Spirit and The White Buffalo, just to name a few. However, the one he remembers most fondly is Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, he said.
“There’s something about that guy,” Crosby said. “I kind of understood why people are such fanatics of that band once I met him. We’d stay up, play guitars and hang out. He’s such a wild character.”
He also said that crossing paths with Jerry Joseph has been a great experience.
“I was living in Salt Lake City for about six months, and I met this friend down there who came to one of my gigs, and he said, ‘I should introduce you to my friend Jerry Joseph,’” Crosby said. “Jerry was coming through town, and he introduced us. I ended up doing this run of shows through Montana and Colorado opening up for him. He and I just hit it off and got to know each other.
“It’s kind of evolved into this great working relationship. I got to see a totally different side of him, because people told me, ‘Stay away from him; he’s crazy.’ Once I got to know him, I sort of got to understand, and we’ve become really good friends, actually.”
Two of Crosby’s songs were recently featured on the TV show Sons of Anarchy. Crosby said he never really followed the show but was surprised when he saw how well his music worked.
“It was pretty wild,” Crosby said. “It was kind of a goal I had made to where I would get those kinds of placements. I didn’t realize how crazy people were for that show. We’ll get these people at our gigs who are Sons of Anarchy fans, and are these biker figures from Montana and stuff like that. It’s done great things for us, and we’re pretty proud of it. They play a lot of good music on there.”
When it comes to his live performances, he said he tries to make them unique.
“We’re kind of in this perfect place between acoustic folk music mixed with rock ’n’ roll,” Crosby said. “It’s got a good ’60s and ’70s vibe to it. Recently, I’ve been trying to make the show more of a good blend of telling the stories and personalities in the song. (Pappy and Harriet’s) is, of course, a bar, so we’re going to try and make it a good time up there.”
Jeff Crosby and the Refugees will play at 8 p.m., Thursday, June 5, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.