Interview with Jay Burgess of The Pollies

Jay Burgess from The Pollies is first up in our new interview series in which we are asking artists for their thoughts on independent venues.

If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll be aware that we will soon be setting off on our cross-country trip to raise money for the National Independent Venues Foundation (NIVF) and Musicians on Call (MOC). As we get closer to the departure date, we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with a few of our favorite artists to get their thoughts on independent music venues.

First up to the plate is Jay Burgess, songwriter and lead singer for the fantastic Muscle Shoals rock and roll band, The Pollies. Keep an eye out for more interviews coming over the next few weeks.

LH:  What are the independent venues you remember from your neighborhood growing up? 
Jay:  I grew up in Greenhill, AL. The only way to find it on a map (that I know of) is to find Upper Greenhill. That’s where I was until I was 18-19 years old. There wasn’t music venues, but a lot of folks could play and sing. I did hitch a ride with my friend’s parents to go to a local Mexican restaurant, called La Fonda’s, on the weekends. It was a place where they would let the young folks have their turn at playing their instrument in front of folks. It was probably the most fun I’ve had at any place. That’s where I met like-minded peers that I still have a working relationship with today. I miss that joint! 

LH:  Do you remember the first show you saw at an independent venue?
Jay:  First show I can remember was The Decoys at a local restaurant. I remember being infatuated with Kelvin (their guitar player) (also, still to this day). He seemed to play the right thing at the right time. Never played too much, but could shred at a moment’s notice. 

The first (to me venue) that I went to a show was the Exit/In. I was 19. I saw Kings Of Leon. There were maybe 250-300 people there. It was on their Youth and Young Manhood Tour

LH:  What was the first venue you played as an artist?
Jay:  First place I played as an artist was “43 Lounge.” I was 18-19 and can’t believe I was playing there. That’s a story for another day. 

First venue in town was Old Town Tavern. OTT (to me) started the original music scene in the Shoals area. Jack (the owner) would allow anyone to come play their original music. He hosted anything from beat poets to hardcore. 

LH:  Do you have a favorite venue? 
Jay:  At the moment: we just played For The Record. It’s a venue that we would play across the country. I’m happy that we have them in our backyard now. 

LH:  Is there a venue/city you particularly look forward to visiting?
Jay:  There’s quite a few we haven’t got to cross off the list yet. At the moment (for myself and I feel like I can speak for the rest of the fellas): we had a chance to play Red Rocks and it didn’t work out. Long story. I guess that’s the wild unicorn I’m chasing at the moment.

LH:  Do you have a bucket list venue? One that you’ve not performed at that you dream of playing one day?
Jay:  I said Red Rocks. I mean….MSG would be stupid fun!

LH:  Any special relationships with venue owners/anyone who particularly helped your career?
Jay:  This falls back to Old Town Tavern and the owner Jack. Without hearing The Pollies play a single note, he booked us. I feel like I owe Jack a handful of favors for letting us work out the kinks.

LH:  Weirdest thing that ever happened at a show?
Jay:  Ha! Too many to say the weirdest!

LH:  Funniest thing that ever happened at a show?
Jay:  Also, way too many. 

LH:  As an artist, is there one thing that you would like venues to know/something they could do to make your life easier?
Jay:  I think good venues already know how to make an artist comfortable. It’s not that hard. Be nice.  

LH:  Any last words on independent venues and their importance to live music?
Jay:  If it wasn’t for independent venues, we would have never been able to become who we are as a band. We’ve learned and now thrive from playing independent venues. 

A big thank you to Jay for taking the time to share his thoughts!  Check out The Pollies’ website for upcoming tour dates and make sure to catch them if you get the chance.
To read more about our cross-country fundraising trip for National Independent Venues Foundation and Musicians On Call , click here
About Phil Walton 81 Articles
Phil grew up in the UK and loved listening to and playing music from a young age. He moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, falling in love with the city and its music scene. He enjoys nothing better than spending time with musicians, whether it be watching them perform, talking to them for the website or reading their autobiographies.