Be humble. Share love with the community around you. Raise up other voices around you just as much as you do your own. You are not an island, you are no better than anyone, and you don’t deserve more that the next person for any reason.
As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jeff Wright.
Jeff Wright is a musician based in the Bay Area of California. He’s spearheaded many music projects over the last decade — Unconditional Arms, Compltr, and most recently — Not So. Before that, Jeff played guitar in The American Scene, a Pure Noise Records recording artist . His journey as a musician has been quite vast. Most recently, Compltr has released a new, bright, single called “Everything You Wanted”.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Vacaville, CA — between Sacramento and San Francisco. My younger years were spent playing alot of guitar, skateboarding, getting kicked out of school for fighting and being generally tumultuous until I moved out at age 15 when I moved to big house in Sacramento. I then started playing music and touring pretty heavily into my early twenties.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
On my brother’s 12th birthday my dad bought him a Midnight Blue Fender Stratocaster as a gift along with a few months of guitar lessons from a local shop. Naturally my brother went out the next day and broke his arm doing some kind of extreme sport (biking, skateboarding, what have you) and was not able to attend the lessons or play the guitar. So, instead of cancelling the whole bit, I asked my dad if I could just step in and take the lessons (at age 10) and the rest, as they say, is history.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your music career?
There have been so many noteworthy experiences but I will say that traveling and playing music with people I love tops the entire list. I have traveled most the world at this point thanks to music and my life has been changed in ways you can’t learn in college. Being able to experience different cultures around the globe first hand helped me gain a perspective that I believe has an indescribable value. I often find myself wishing the people around me could have had that same travel experience because I genuinely believe that I’m a happier person having that perspective.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I used to try really hard to sell what it is I do. That was a huge misstep — it took my focus off where the music and put it on to other things. In retrospect, I realized that happiness exists in creating the best thing I think I can possibly create and let that work speak for itself. I’m not a publicist, nor do I know how to sell records, or necessarily record them; I know how to write songs. It took me a long time to get to that headspace and see the value in detaching the music from the business side and really trusting other professionals to handle the rest.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’ve been working between Compltr, Unconditional Arms, and my new 2021 project: Not So. I love being able to express myself in so many different ways. Each project has its own voice and each convey different parts of my (pretty insane) personality. I feel extremely lucky to be able to have these outlets as I get older and
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Ignore the haters. Seriously. People and life are going to generally pull you away from doing music because it’s not really considered a source of income/American dream-achiever and some people will literally never understand it. Ignore them. Forever.
- Work with people who make you feel like you are in the right place. I have a great deal of experience with playing music in places I didn’t necessarily feel like I should be, but I did it because “opportunity doesn’t wait”, “you want to make an omelet” and all that — wasn’t worth it.
- Don’t work on something if you don’t want to. Take your time. It’s not a perfect process.I know that if I’m sitting in front of a music project file/song and I feel like I can’t think of anything to add, I will leave it alone until I do. I used to try to force things because I thought there was a rush — there is not.
- Respect your songs. They deserve it. They’re not tiny little vehicles to get you a million spotify plays, a yacht, or a plane ride to Europe. They are auditory photographs in time that represent how you chose to express yourself. Respect it.
- Be humble. Share love with the community around you. Raise up other voices around you just as much as you do your own. You are not an island, you are no better than anyone, and you don’t deserve more that the next person for any reason.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Do whatever you want. There are no rules. You want to record a Metalcore album? Do it. You want sing backing vocals in Justin Timberlake’s live band? Crush that. You feel like playing drums covered in towels for a folk singer-songwriter? Hell yeah. Write an entire record with only whale sounding guitar on it? Let’s go. Put on mask and scream over a noise track? I’m buying presale tix.
Don’t limit yourself to imaginary guidelines — you’ll regret it and find yourself getting burnt out for absolutely no reason.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many people in my life that I could place in this section, but, I will say the single most instrumental person in cultivating my music career would be my wife, Cambria. We’ve been together for about 16 years now. She’s always been able to prioritize my need to create and be a musician — even in the most dire circumstances. For instance, I went on a US tour with The American Scene and From Indian Lakes while she was pregnant with our son, Owen — obviously, I had planned to cancel the whole thing (or at least my attendance) but she insisted I go. A similar situation happened for Compltr recently — she was in a major car crash and was hospitalized for months. I was sleeping on the couch in the hospital room every day, but I had New York, LA and SF Compltr shows planned. Again, I was ready to cancel them but she again insisted that I go, even from a hospital bed.
The love in my life comes second to music and having piece of mind in that space propels me forward.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The brightest flame burns twice as fast” I did a lot of things in my music career when I was younger that I would define as “chasing victory” only to realize that none of it really matters. What matters, as a musician, is being personally proud of each and everything you do first and then let those other pieces fall where they may. Being the most relevant musician in the world vs. the most happy one? I’m choosing the latter.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have lunch with Lil Nas X. Obviously he’s very attractive, but also, definitely one of the most interesting musical journeys I can recount of the last decade. His most recent messaging, and how he got a place to convey that message to such a wide audience, is really impressive.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!