Jim Boggia has been a staple of the Philadelphia music scene for nearly a decade, but the release of his latest CD, "Safe In Sound", should take him above and beyond the local region.
You may have heard of Boggia from a side group that he and several other members of the Philly scene put together a few years ago. The band, called 4 Way Street, included Boggia as well as Ben Arnold, Joseph Parsons, Scott Bricklin and Matt Muir. In addition to being a mainstay on the playlists of WXPN and 90.5 The Night, the band became one of Asbury Park's adopted sons. On June 21st, Boggia returns to Asbury with a stop at the Saint.
"The whole plan with 4 Way Street was to do a special holiday show for our fans," explained Jim Boggia. "And it kind of took off from there. What really wound up happening was this great cross-polination of audiences. People who had been Ben Arnold fans became my fans; my fans became Joseph Parsons fans and so on. It definitely brought all of us individually to a larger group of people and it introduced our solo work to everybody as well.
"I hate to use this word because it sounds so much like a business school kind of thing, but it was just a very synergistic kind of thing," added Boggia. "We were doing things for the right reasons and it wound up being, by our standards, very successful. I mean, when you consider what we intended it to be and what it became... We got a two and a half year run out of something we thought was going to be two shows one night in December of 2000."
It's somewhat ironic that it took four great singer-songwriters to join forces before the public (and the record industry) really took a closer look at them individually. Boggia, like Ben Arnold, was signed to a major label shortly after the group played their final show. A new label called bluhammock music signed Boggia and released "Safe In Sound" in May. Being on a brand new labels has its advantages and disadvantages says Boggia.
"The really positive thing is that they're very enthusiatic and supportive," said Boggia. "They are completely behind the record. They've got a good distribution deal so it's not totally out of people's trunks and they've hired good folks in radio promotion and pr. The downside is that they're brand new, so they don't have a lot of clout. But I'll take the enthusium and being totally committed to my music and wanting to make a really strong push to get it out there because even the big guys make mistakes."
Boggia flew out to Los Angeles to record the CD, an experience very different from the way he's recorded before. Thanks to the label, Jim was able to focus on recording for seven or eight weeks rather than worry about coming up with the money to set up a session now and then. The focus shows throughout the CD. Boggia, who is a huge fan of the Beatles has created a record that contains tracks very reminiscent of the Fab Four. The songs have both a classic rock and contempory feel. The influences may stem from the plethora of records in his collection. A record collection that began when he was only four years old. In fact, Jim often says that he has no conception of life before music.
"I have really early memories of certain records that I got at certain points," said Boggia. "No matter how far back I go in my mind - trying to dredge up my earliest memories - there's nothing that happens before there's music in my life. I guess in some ways it's a bit unusual because there's always that cliche that you get in your first band to get laid and be cool. Hey, I enjoy those things too! But my being interested and fascinated by music goes so far before any of that could have ever occured to me. It's just part of my D.N.A.
"When I think about stuff I hear sounds and chords and melodies first, and then it becomes words to me. It's why I have a harder time writing lyrics than writing music. Music to me is a much more direct expression of how I feel and trying to find words for it is not the easiest process for me. I actually think in sound first and then I hear sounds in my head and I convert it to English. English is kind of my second language!"
The CD's title comes from a line in the song "Show My Face." Jim describes it as being a description of his own personal angst or insecurities. Even though he is able to get on stage and play his music in front of people, he's a very quiet person. He grew up in a very isolated part of Michigan as an only child in an area without any other children. Born legally blind in one eye, he has been playing instruments for as long as he can remember. He would generally lock himself in his room listening to records and playing guitar and still believes he is rather uncomfortable interracting in public situations.
"Sound and music have always been my safety zone," explained Boggia. "They are always the things I go back to and the things I can relate to."
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.