Jeffrey Silverstein—an independent artist based in Oregon—is releasing his first EP, How On Earth, on January 25th. His down-to-earth sound is both beautiful and calming, and his talent is unmatched. I had the amazing opportunity to chat with him about both his music and his roots.
Can you introduce yourself for those who may not know you?
Yea! My name is Jeffrey Silverstein and I’m a musician and teacher from Portland, Oregon.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t listened to you?
I’ve been using the tag “ambient folk music” just because there’s certainly some natural sounds that you’ll find. Nature is spread throughout the recordings as well as electric guitar and vocals. There’s parts that lean towards folk and singer-songwriter music, and there’s parts that lean more towards instrumental and ambient music. I’m trying to bridge the gap there.
Can you tell us about your new EP?
Yea, [the EP is releasing] on January 25th on Driftless Recordings, which is based in LA and run by Joel Ford and Patrick McDermot. Patrick actually records and releases music under the name North Americans and put out an album in 2018 called “Going Steady”. I’m really, really excited to be working with them, and I’ve admired their work for a while, so it’s exciting to be a part of “Team Driftless”.
What is your favorite part about creating your music?
[Performing on my own] has been new and different for me. I’ve been in bands for over a decade at this point, so this is my first go at not really having other people to rely on and to bounce ideas off of. It’s really just all myself, and that has been a real challenge, but it’s a really welcomed challenge for me. I’ve kind of recently liked the idea of not relying on other people or writing with other people in mind. I’ve been writing with myself in mind, and that has really pushed me to get comfortable with my guitar abilities and vocal abilities. It’s been a huge learning curve and learning process for me. Even just starting to make demos of my music on my own instead of that being someone else’s role. It’s been very confidence-building and independent.
What do you do to get yourself in the right mode for writing?
I’ve attempted to work out a pretty good balance of work life, meditation, exercise. I feel like if I really nail all of those things and feeling grounded and centered, it sets me up in a better place to be creative. It feels like I have to work hard to have all of those things supporting one another. My wife and I moved into an apartment [in Portland] where we have an unfinished basement, so I kind of like the space to work on things. I feel very grateful for that, and that is a huge part of it. Having all of your stuff set up and ready to go is a huge part of it, right? Instead of having to re-set up every time or move a bunch of stuff around, just to walk downstairs and having everything good-to-go lowers the barrier of getting started. I’m certainly guilty, even having all those things, of being sleepy from work or whatever it is. I’m just trying to form good habits.
Was there a moment where you knew you wanted to create music?
I’ve been obsessed for as long as I can remember. There was definitely a moment in eighth or ninth grade where I think I got hurt badly at a baseball practice where I thought “maybe I’m done with sports now”, and all my friends were picking up electric guitar and basses and making bands. Around that time, it was everyone’s first attempt. Even at that time, I just became quickly obsessed. One of my oldest and best friends was the drummer of my first band, and I would get off the bus, run home, grab my guitar, and sprint down the road [to his house]. It’s just an early example of when I knew I wanted to work hard at that. In regards to doing it somewhat more professionally, it was really the band I was in out of college when I lived in Baltimore. It was a band called Secret Mountains, we put out a few EPs, an LP, played some festivals, and did a good deal of touring. That was my first experience being heavily involved in the music community, booking shows, doing RL and PR, setting up tours, and all that. At that moment in time, I thought “this is something I love and feel that I’m good at and I should find ways to keep doing that”.
Do you have any specific goals for 2019 music-wise?
I’m really excited to get the EP out. I’ve only played about 10 shows by myself, so I’m really hoping to continue the playout in Portland as much as I can to get my chops up. I’d love to do a couple of weekend runs or maybe small tours down to California, down to where the Driftless folks are in LA. [I want to] play it out more and kind of lay down the ground work for my first full length [album].
You can listen to the pre-release stream here, and you can pre-order a cassette copy here (a portion of the proceeds will be donated to My Voice Music, a non-profit organization benefitting youth in music).
Make sure to catch him when he plays at the Bithouse Saloon in Portland, OR with Wild Moccasins on January 30th! You can buy tickets here.