New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Arlan Feiles and The Song
That Changed His Life

By Gary Wien

originally published: 05/19/2016

Arlan Feiles and The Song That Changed His LifeIn another time, Arlan Feiles would not be an artist floating under the radar.  Talent like his would undoubtedly have risen to the top with a record deal, radio airplay, and a collection of writers comparing him to the greats.  Unfortunately, Feiles’ solo career emerged during a period of change in the music industry. Many record labels went out of business, MTV stopped playing music videos, and radio station playlists began looking identical from coast to coast. Yet, he refused to let that deter him as an artist. In the past 15 years, he’s released several critically acclaimed albums and has watched one of his songs take on a life of its own - something every songwriter dreams about.

In 1995, Billboard Magazine wrote, “Also about to sign with Island is Arlan Feiles, former singer of a popular (now defunct) local band called Natural Causes.  An intense, compelling performer, Feiles is a prodigiously gifted songwriter whose style recalls Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Kurt Cobain.  Feiles is currently in pre-production with veteran producer Tom Dowd.”

Feiles, a Los Angeles native, was living in Florida at the time.  He originally left Los Angeles to study at Berklee School of Music in Boston where he formed bands with fellow classmates.  When one returned from

Miami with news about a ton of clubs featuring live music every night, they all moved down south, eventually leading to the Natural Causes band.  After several successful years in Florida (and some great records), Feiles moved on to a solo career.

When the Tom Dowd produced album with Island Records never materialized, Feiles decided to hit the road.  He got in his van with his dog, and began traveling around the country, playing city to city, street corner to street corner, selling CDs out of his van.  He did this for a few years until eventually ending up in Brooklyn where he met his future wife in a music venue in the city.  A Jersey native, she brought him to the suburbs where he’s put out a series of brilliant releases.  In fact, a pair of them ended up in the book Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums By New Jersey Artists Released Between 2001-2010 (Razing A Nation at #7, and Come Sunday Morning at #33) with another, Weeds Kill The Wild Flowers, released just after the book’s time period in 2012.

On July 2, Feiles will record his next album live at the Strand Theatre in Lakewood, NJ.  Since his last release he’s composed some of his best work to date, including a beautiful song called “Wake (Don’t Back Down)” which was used in the official trailer for the Matthew McConaughey film Dallas Buyers Club, and the powerful “50 Miles,” which was written for the 50th anniversary of the death of civil rights martyr Viola Gregg Liuzzo.



The article continues after this ad

 


Feiles says planning to record an album live is exciting and immensely stressful.  In addition to needing a setup that’s far more comprehensive than a regular show, there is plenty of pre-production planning and the risk of something going wrong during the performance.

“I think the biggest obstacle is just the ability to perform the material well enough to make it worthwhile on the record,” explained Feiles.  “I don’t think the listener realizes - even with the biggest bands in the world - just how many clunkers get hit, words get missed or changed, or how many beats get dropped during a show.  When you go back and listen to all that stuff you can pick those things out.”

Generally, when bands set out to record a live album they record several different shows so they can get the right take for each track they want on the album. Independent artists rarely get that opportunity though. Feiles and his band will be recording the album in just one night.  They will, however, record a test run-through from earlier in the day to have an alternative take if needed.  With the talented cast assembled by Feiles, it might not be needed after all.  The lineup for the Strand show is expected to include guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (a founding member of the Fab Faux who has worked with artists like Patti Smith, Rufus Wainwright, Ian Hunter, and Joan Osborne), Dan B Green (a musician that has performed with Feiles for years) on upright bass guitar, and Bess Rogers (a singer-songwriter that performed with Ingrid Michaelson) on rhythm guitar.  Providing back-up vocals will be the wonderful pair of Eryn Shewell and Layonne Holmes.

Some of Arlan’s favorite artists growing up were those who didn’t shy away from being topical or even controversial.  He found inspiration in the music of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, and Bob Marley.  Following their lead, Arlan learned early on to recognize the opportunity he has in front of an audience.

“As you step on a stage, you have an opportunity to do a few things and they’re all valid,” said Feiles.  “One is to entertain the people who are there to watch you.  Another is to try to inspire them to act on something, and that’s what drives me to continue stepping on stages.  It’s the opportunity to say, ‘Hey man, you’re actually listening to me.  I have a microphone in my hand.  Let me tell you something.  We’ve got to work harder.  We’ve got to participate.  We’ve got to vote.  We need to make the world a better place because if you don’t my kids are going to suffer.  And I need you to join me to make a difference — to make changes, to be activated and involved, so that we have an opportunity to bring about change.’”

“Change is something that we all seem to want so greatly, but many of us are still struggling with ways to participate or feel that it’s all in vain — that participation is kind of false,” continued Feiles.  “Many have given up the idea that no matter what we do, the powers that be have already decided what will be.  We need more people to be involved; to be aware that their involvement can make a difference.  It’s why I write music.  My first inspiration is not the music, it’s the vehicle. ‘What is this going to say? And how is that best going to be delivered?’”

Feiles believes voting can make a difference.  It’s an issue that he believes in strongly and one closely tied to his song, “Viola.”  The song was written about Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a woman he learned about while watching a special on the civil rights movement on television.  Viola’s family learned about the song from a story in the Asbury Park Press that they saw on the Internet.  The family got in touch with Feiles, and their lives have been intertwined ever since.  They have invited Feiles to be with them at various engagements across the country.  Most notably, they invited him to be part of Selma 50, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March to Montgomery and to join them in the Liuzzo family memorial for Viola at the memorial marker where she was murdered.

As Feiles was headed to Selma 50, it occurred to him that this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience that should be documented.  As luck would have it, he had a stop in Atlanta before flying to Montgomery.  Daniel Demme Krutchkoff, a film director he had known for years, was based there.  So, he decided to give him a call.  He told him he was off to Selma and wanted to document it.  Krutchkoff wound up driving him all the way to Montgomery where the footage for 50 Miles, a documentary about this experience was shot.

“Daniel knew about the March from Montgomery, but he didn’t know Viola’s story,” said Feiles.  “I think the whole experience for him was more emotional because he was learning along the way as he met Viola’s family and heard their stories about that time and their fight for their mother’s justice.”

One of the first things Feiles learned about the Liuzzo family is that they have spent the last 50 years fighting to keep their mother’s story alive and to get the truth about her murder known.  A key part of the film touches on the family’s investigative work, which proved that the guy who shot Viola was actually an FBI plant instead of the Klu Klux Klan member which was reported.

“In order of avoiding the embarrassment of him being in that vehicle and the woman dying, they started a whole smear campaign against Viola to discredit her so her death wouldn’t be so shocking to all of white America,” explained Feiles. 

The two of them sat with Viola’s son as he pulled out a book with years of research.  He had spent years in court fighting the government to get restitution and an admission that it was actually a botched undercover job.

“He pulled out all these pictures of the crash scene and his mother’s autopsy reports,” recalled Feiles.  “He just poured through all of this stuff and it was simply astounding.  I don’t believe the story is finished being told.  As more and more people are aware of the circumstances that surround her death, I think there will eventually be somebody who reopens the case.”

Thanks to the work of her family, Viola’s name was one of forty inscribed on the National Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery in 1989. Two years later, the women of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference placed a marker in her honor on Route 80 at the place of her death. 

A good documentary tells a story that few may have known about.  A great one tells a story and affects the audience as well.  50 Miles, which premiered at the Asbury Park Music In Film Festival in April, does both.  The film explains who Viola was and why she is important in the history of the Civil Rights movement.  It details the struggle for justice and the truth that her family has fought for and continues to fight for.  And it shows the bond that has been established between Feiles and the family, and the song that changed both of their lives.

“Meeting them has been a real pleasure in a way,” said Feiles.  “When you write a book or a song about something that means something to you, was inspirational, or was about one of your heroes, there’s a very small expectation that you’re going to meet that person or their family or become part of their legacy in some fashion… talking with them about voting rights has been so enriching in my whole process.  It’s what I always wanted music to do for me.  I wanted it to activate me.  So, they are grateful that their mother’s name is being shared, and it’s an honor to help get that word out.  It’s special.  It’s a unique thing.”

Feiles was able to sing “Viola” and “50 Miles” during this trip. He describes performing the songs as a pretty intense experience — almost like a dream.  Things appeared to go by very fast and very slow all at once. He was surrounded by people who took part in that march 50 years earlier, by those whose parents had marched, and by others who, like him, were inspired by the activities of that day and what had gone on.

“Viola died for our right to vote. To be there on that moment on such a big anniversary of what happened was just a tremendous honor,” said Feiles.  “I suspect there won’t be many like that in my lifetime.”

 





For more by this author, click here






Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show.  For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27
(BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.
McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.
Bickford Theatre Presents Herb Gardner's Groundhog Jam
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The great Groundhog Jam has a long history of prying jazz fans out of their warm burrows and into the chill of February weather in order to welcome the advent of spring.  The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum continues a tradition of hosting this event on Monday, February 4 at 7:30pm. Herb Gardner, who plays both trombone and piano, is assembling a stellar group of musicians from the New York, New Jersey, and New England areas including: Fred Vigorito on cornet, Joe Licari on clarinet, James Chirilloon guitar, Mike Weatherly on bass and Robbie Scott on drums.  Daughters Abbie and Sarah Gardner will be handling the vocals and guitar.


Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.
Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center
The Grunin Center stage in Toms River, NJ is set this Saturday, December 15, 2018 with drums, a grand piano, a guitar, an acoustic bass, and various microphones for vocals. A stool and several microphone stands are bedazzled with colorful garlands of shiny red, gold, and green, and wrapped gifts are strewn on stage among the instruments. Projected white snowflakes adorn the walls, and Christmas music plays as patrons enter the theater to put everyone in the mood for tonight’s holiday show — Ana Gastayer’s Holiday Tipple!










Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

View all events










 






















For more on our awards, click here








New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.