Growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, Jeffrey Marshall was a lot like many other teenage boys wanting to make music and play in a band. He started out on acoustic guitar, but in a prophetic turn of events, his guitar was stolen just before finding out that his best friend’s band was looking for a new bass player.
Most of his early musical experience came from self study, learning his band’s material and writing songs together. As time went by, he enrolled in Middle Tennessee State and took jazz harmony classes and played in various groups in the small Tennessee college town’s burgeoning rock scene. After a messy band breakup, he decided to head west and moved to Denver, Colorado. After meeting some “world travelers” at a gathering one night, he had an epiphany and decided to get his affairs in order and move to Europe. He chose Prague in the Czech Republic as his destination, not knowing what might await him there, as he became yet another young American making the post college Europe trek.
One thing separated Jeffrey from his peers, though – he was born with no arms or hands, and in fact, was not expected to live more than a few months after being born. He was adopted soon after birth, and is now a 35 year old man. His full height is only 3? but he stands tall in his role as someone who has ignored his physical limitations to become what he always wanted to be… an excellent musician. He taught himself to play the bass guitar with his bare feet and has broken through all obstacles in his way. He is personable, intelligent, and has seemingly no trace of a chip on his shoulder or a “why me” attitude. He not only plays the bass guitar, he writes songs, sings in a strong baritone voice and even plays harmonica on a rack while playing shows with his band “Supercool.”
Once he settled in Prague, he began meeting people and becoming part of the local music scene. After a while, he was introduced to another expatriate American guitarist and singer, Daniel Levanti, through a mutual friend, and they very quickly began hanging out and writing songs together. Before long they left the band they had just joined to start their own band, Supercool.
Supercool’s music is intense, hypnotic, and emotional, and its eclectic nature defies easy description, but you could say it sounds like “progressive rock meets R&B and folk” with a lot of dynamics and tempo changes, Daniel Levanti’s high voice and jazzy guitar stylings contrast with Jeffrey’s deep vocals and earthy, percussive bass approach, which drives the band rhythmically as much as the drums.
I first heard about Supercool through a Canadian producer I was working with who came into a morning session raving about this band he had heard the night before in his Music Row hotel. A week later, after hearing them play a 30 minute set in the infamous Hall of Fame hotel lounge, I was flabbergasted. Everything he had said was true, but I was still unprepared not only for the extreme visual of a bass player laying on his side on a table and playing phenomenal percussive and melodic bass licks on a Hagstrom hollowbody bass WITH HIS FEET (!?!), but I did not expect to also be blown away by the power of Supercool’s music and Jeffrey’s seeming nonchalance about his “situation.”
At first, it was pretty much impossible to separate the music from the visual image, and I went through what I imagine many people do, going from intrigued to amazed to inspired, sometimes in a matter of moments, and found myself closing my eyes to make sure I really liked the music as much as I thought I did. And yes, I really did. I came to see them for a number of weeks in a row, and brought many friends to check it out, perhaps looking for validation that I wasn’t crazy, that these guys were GREAT! Everyone who came on my recommendation was blown away, and ultimately I knew what I had to do.
After meeting them and seeing quite a few gigs I approached them about working together. I had gotten to know Jeffrey and Daniel fairly well by this time, and was impressed by their intelligence, focus, and drive, and especially their deep friendship and mutual respect. Circumstances had stranded them in Nashville and so we took advantage of the time to record. We cut a couple of songs at my studio and they came out very well.
Seeing Jeffrey up close and watching him laying on the floor and executing very complex hammer ons, pull offs, and percussive slaps, all while singing a lead vocal was nothing short of astounding. We kept talking and decided to move on and complete the record, and release it on my label, Earwave Records. They had some existing tracks from Prague that were in various stages of completion, and we added some things and finished them up. Around this time I was looking for a way to augment the band’s studio sound without simply adding another guitar. I had played some lap steel style bass using a Curbow 7 string on my solo CD “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and so I tried it on a few Supercool songs and it seemed to really fit without covering up Jeffrey’s basswork in any way.
Finishing the CD was a labor of love and in the end we were all extremely happy with how it all turned out. We did a few gigs around Nashville to celebrate the release of the show and filmed a 10 minute “mini-documentary” that captures a good bit of their story, combined with some strong live performance footage.
I can say honestly that working with Jeffrey and Daniel during the making of the record was a life-altering experience for me, and for them I think it was satisfying to release a record out that captures their unique sound. I learned a lot from the experience. I no longer take the simple things for granted, and I know deep down that the human spirit is alive and well in Jeffrey Marshall. Supercool is currently working on touring opportunities both in the States and Europe and hopefully will be headed to a town near you soon. In the meantime, you can check out their music at www.earwavemusic.com.
President, Earwave Records