Jeff Symonds
EPK Pro

Jeff Symonds

Berkeley, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2020 | SELF

Berkeley, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2020
Solo Rock Classic Rock

Calendar

Music

Press


"Premiere: SF Rocker Jeff Symonds Releases New Single + Video"

"Unabashedly catchy, “Emily” sounds best cranked up in a convertible, but will work anywhere you listen to music." - Vents Magazine


""Emily" Single Review"

"“Emily” evokes many memories of an earlier time for rock n roll. Electric rhythm, fuller backing vocals, and a fuller, live-band sound with a storyline that is entrancing while remained an emotional distance with its storytelling." - Phork


"Interview"

Marty Duda interviews Jeff about riverrun. - The 13th Floor Music Blog


"riverrun review"

Musician Jeff Symonds released the superb album ‘Riverrun, in December 2020. It is a wonderful classic-rock album that needs to be heard!

‘Florida’ opens the release. Gorgeous guitars swim into the sonic spectrum and instantly demands the listener’s attention. We adore the captivating storytelling nature of the song. Jeff Symonds is a musician with a poets heart.

‘Out of Here’ is a standout song. The driving nature instantly grabs the audience’s attention. We adore ‘Shades Of Grey’ from the staccato guitars to melodic bass and charismatic vocals; it is a brilliant track.

‘Kissimmee’ is the lead single from the album and we can see why! It is a catchy and captivating song that will have the listener reaching for the repeat button. - FVM Music Blog


"Interview"

‘Riverrun’ is a brilliant classic rock album, what draws you to the genre?
Thanks! I really appreciate it. I tried to make an old-school double album in four parts, and I hope that the narrative comes across. And I tried to get everything I love about rock music in there— the energy, the volume, the authenticity, the tension between playing tight and loose, the crackle of electric instruments, melodies worth remembering… that sense of organized abandon that great rock music has, if that makes sense. - FVM Music Blog


"MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST JEFF SYMONDS RELEASES FIRST SOLO ALBUM ‘RIVERRUN’ – IN CONVERSATION WITH"

For many years Jeff Symonds’ were the man you called when you were in need of a talented multi-instrumentalist – whatever the job might be. But it wasn’t until March this year that Symonds’ decided to record and release his own tunes. A fantastic decision that resulted in a 10 track album named ‘Riverrun’. A tasty classic rock and roll record full of exciting and glorious tunes about the transition from childhood to adulthood and the difficulties and lessons it brings. Symonds play more or less every instrument on the record confirming the musical talent that he is. With ‘Riverrun’ out we had to learn more about the musician from Berkeley, US. - YMX Music


"Album Reivew"

Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Symonds has played with innumerable artists, and has appeared on plenty of recordings playing the guitar, bass, and keyboards. Hundreds of concerts and tours later, Jeff Symonds has released his first solo album "Riverrun" a week before Christmas, 2020. For thirteen songs and more than an hour, Symonds presents music so various, it could be the soundtrack for liberty. "Riverrun" is a colourful bouquet of amazing Rock music. Jeff Symonds and his guests provide us with the finest sounds of Americana, Class Rock, Blues Rock, Alternative Rock, Rock'n'Roll, Alt Country, and much more. Each song on this 13-track piece has its own theme and mood. And yet, there is coherence, and "Riverrun" works as a whole.
It is an album without big twirl because it does not need them. Jeff Symonds' debut stand solid as a rock and spreads the feeling of freedom and independence from beginning to end. Even ballads like 'Music I've forgotten' conveys this air. It is hence a musical work for roadtrips, for the campsite, for open air festivals, and for dreaming of summer. - MangoWave


"Interview"

After years as a beloved sideman, Jeff Symonds is stepping out of the shadows and unleashing his own music on the world. When he headed into the studio to record his own music, he planned a few tracks and left with Riverrun. The old-school double album is filled with great hits that you will get lost in. We sat down with Jeff Symonds to talk about the album, working on his own music, musical challenges and much more!

OSR: You have played in bands, worked as a session musician and a touring musician over the years. What made you decide to head into the studio on your own to record your new album?

Symonds: There were a bunch of factors. You’re right that I had spent the last several decades helping other people bring their music to life. In the autumn of 2019, the bands I play for were all in hibernation at the same time, so I was a little restless. I was determined to make some art in 2020 and I just happened to write a few songs that I got really excited about, so I spread out all the songs I’ve written over the years out on a table, picked ones that went together, put them together with some new ones and realized I had a record I wanted to make. Everything just kind of came together and I leaned into it.

OSR: Is there a concept or theme to your album Riverrun?

Symonds: There is, it’s an old-school double album in my mind. Four sides, each about 15 minutes long. Blonde On Blonde, London Calling, that kind of vibe. There is a theme, it basically tries to cover life from childhood to adulthood. It doesn’t really tell a story as much as it tells a series of stories that hold together and speak to one another. The first four songs are about my childhood in Florida, then there’s a series of songs about adolescence, then early adulthood, and then growing up and hopefully figuring a few things out. So the kid in song 1 is and isn’t the same person in song 13. They definitely know each other, though.


OSR: Were the tracks for the album sitting on the shelf or did you write them after decided to record the album?

Symonds: About half of the songs are brand new and the other half vary in age. Some are a few years old and some are from the early 90s. I usually write 5 to 10 songs a year, and so after not playing them for anyone for decades, I had a big pile to choose from. I don’t think I would have made the album without the new batch, but I’m really glad I went back and rescued some of the old ones. I’m really happy with how they fit together.

OSR: How different was working on your own music compared to working with others?

Symonds: The main difference was not having to explain what I was going to do, I could just hit record and go. The music just lived in my head for the whole process. I would wake up in the middle of the night and scribble down a note about a part or a chord progression and go back to sleep. I also didn’t have to make sure that I was making choices that fit the artists’ vision because I was the artist this time. So I was free to make all the bad decisions I wanted.

OSR: While you play almost all the instruments on Riverrun, can you tell us a little more about the artists you collaborated with throughout the album?

Symonds: I was lucky to have lots of friends on the album to help me, especially on vocals, but a few folks really went above and beyond. James DePrato plays almost all the lead guitar on Riverrun and he’s a brilliant guitarist and friend. I seriously like every note he plays and I wrote several songs for the record with his playing in mind. Gawain Matthews engineered the record and he’s a brilliant collaborator. Megan Slankard and Rich Price, both of whom were nice enough to have me in their bands for a long time, sang beautifully all over it, and Rich co-wrote the single with me.

OSR: Riverrun is a true classic rock album. Was this what you wanted when you first started recording or did it evolve as you went along?

Symonds: I really wanted to make an album that was a blend of the sounds that were the soundtrack of my life, since it was roughly about my life, but that also sounded like me, that was the goal. I wanted people to be able to hear the inspirations but also feel like they were hearing “me”. I think I pulled it off, it sounds like what I was hoping it would sound like when I started, so I’m pretty happy. You’re right that in the end that turns out to sound like a god old-fashioned rock record. I’m actually doing a podcast called “Ghosts of Riverrun” that tries to answer this question in way more depth.

OSR: If people could take only one thing away from listening to the album, what would you like that to be and why?

Symonds: Well first, I’m hoping that people will listen to it! That’s my great hope, that the album will find an audience. It’s a lot to ask people to take the time to interact with your art. If they do, then I hope it brings them joy. We’re in short supply of joy right now and I hope the record can deliver some. I hope they hear something that feels committed, I gave it my best shot.

OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you recommend and why?

Symonds: Oof… that’s too hard. I think ‘Breathe It Out Again’ is my current fave and it probably has a little of everything I can do in it. I’ll go with that one.

OSR: What was the biggest challenge you faced creating the album?

Symonds: I’m not sure. Probably the fact that I hadn’t recorded under my own name in forever. I had to remember that I was the artist and that I had to like it enough to put my name on it at the end. So the biggest challenge was my own critical filter. I wasn’t willing to make a bad album just to say I made one. It had to be good for me to bother to release it. Other than that, it was fantastic.

OSR: What else can we expect from you this year?

Symonds: 2021 is about getting Riverrun out there for me.

I have some singles with some cool b-sides coming and I’ll play live the second we’re allowed to, but right now I’m all about the album and doing whatever I can to give it some life. - The Other Side Reviews


"Reiview"

The idea of being the supporting cast member has been continuously popping up in my life over the past couple of months. From conversations about being a better assistant than a boss to being a supporting actor in this crazy thing, we call life, to digging deep into the life of the Bay Area’s go-to guy when it comes to booking a touring or session musician, Jeff Symonds.

For the past 25 years, Jeff Symonds has been that guy in the background helping everyone around him shine, but now he is ready for a little of that light himself. With that, he released a jam-packed debut, ‘Riverrun.’


Creating a baker’s dozen worth of tracks, Jeff Symonds did not hold back with his debut. He threw himself into ‘Riverrun’ and no pun intended, ran with it when it came to delivering a record that could satisfy a variety of music lovers out there. The album kicks off with a gritty tale of a family tree with “Florida” and then suddenly invites listeners to a party with the upbeat ways of “A New Place.” Along the way he shows off a lot of heart in songs such as “Elegy” and “Luckiest Person Alive,” but it is when he gets into more alternative beats that he soars.

There was a decent amount of this record that played like a classic college radio station in the ‘90s, complete with flannels and REM posters on the wall. Be it the underdog anthem “Out of Here” or “I Never Lie (When It Comes to the Truth),” a song that could have been on the soundtrack to Winona Ryder’s ‘Reality Bites’ back in the day. Or it could very well be on the soundtrack to any movie looking to explore that era once more in the future. Even “Kissimmee” with its more country intro, settles into a song that Michael Stipe fans would adore. Each of these would be a great addition to a radio playlist, but my pick for radio domination would have to be “Shades of Grey.” That is a song meant for the FM-dial.

Throughout the record, what stands out above everything is the way Jeff Symonds is able to weave together words in ways that relay actual stories to those listening. As soon as “Florida” plays, visions of that grandma are as vivid as the diner in my personal favorite, “Music I’ve Forgotten.”


I could probably write a whole other review on this song alone as it reminded me a bit of the way John Mellencamp delivers his songs – that sort of mix of singing and talking to a tune that one just cannot ignore. It is a love song, but it is also a memory that 99.9% of people can relate to because who has not shared a meal with someone they were infatuated with at a diner, at a Denny’s? I live for a Grand Slam, and I live for “Music I’ve Forgotten.”

Jeff Symonds has spent a quarter of a century helping a cascade of Bay Area musicians with their careers. Whether it was sitting in with them at the studio, showing up to a gig to play in their band, or hitting the road to support – he has been there. Now, it is time for him to step away from the background and towards the front of the stage because ‘Riverrun’ has more than proven he is ready.

‘Riverrun’ is like a sample platter when it comes to genre as Jeff Symonds pulls from various decades and styles, and the result is a record that people from all walks of life can enjoy. So if you are music collection has an array that features REM, The Police, and/or Counting Crows, then you will want to add Jeff Symonds’ ‘Riverrun’ into the mix, and enjoy.

Jeff Symonds’ ‘Riverrun’ is available now on all major music and streaming sites.

Written by Kendra Beltran

Q&A with Jeff Symonds

Q: Was there a pivotal moment that led you to step out of the shadows at the Bay Area’s go-to guy for touring and sessions, and into the spotlight as a solo artist?

JEFF: There sure was, I woke up one day and realized my next birthday was my 50th, and I was hit with a desire to make some art to mark the time. I was like an immediate promise to myself. At the same time, all of the artists that I usually make work with were not planning to record, so I realized that if I wanted to make art, I’d have to make it myself. So I booked some studio time and went in without any real expectations, and ‘Riverrun’ is the result. It came together really quickly once I took the first step.

Q: The best records are the ones that surprise you at the press of play and take you on a journey. ‘Riverrun’ has so many styles coming together under one roof. Have you always been someone who likes to pull from various places for inspiration?

JEFF: Absolutely, my friend James once said that no one he knows chases new sounds like I do. It might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me. I was deliberately trying to reference a lot of different sonics on the record. It’s supposed to be a journey from childhood to adulthood over the course of the record, so I tried to have the song’s inspirations draw across time as well, so there’s 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s stuff in there, but hopefully through my filter so that they’re a little unique and sound like me and me imitating someone else.


Q: A couple of songs that really captured my heart were the ones that reminded me of ‘90s-alt radio. Songs like the underdog anthem “Out of Here” and “Kissimmee.” Looking back at the ‘90s and then looking at music today – what do you think has been the industry’s best move, and what has been its worst from then to now?

JEFF: Oooo, good question. The industry’s #1 mistake, without question, was not getting in front of Napster. Once the iPod came out, all the record companies should have come together and created a Spotify-style music hub: $20 a month, with 100 free downloads, all at the highest quality with a great organization.

They would have had quality control (half the stuff on Napster sounded awful), would have continued to hold people to the idea that music has monetary value, and they would still have total control of the industry today. Who wouldn’t have paid $20 a month in 1999 to have all music at their fingertips? It would have felt like the deal of a lifetime. I couldn’t believe they didn’t do it. I kept waiting for them to figure it out. Instead, they took people to court, ran CDs into the turf, and musicians have had to reinvent the model themselves.

In terms of best moves? Live performance matters again; to survive as a band now, you need to be able to bring it on stage, and not much makes me happier than seeing a band do a great set. I welcome the pressure of being a great live act—I’m glad that’s part of the success equation again.

Q: While I adored those songs, my favorite was “Music I’ve Forgotten” because who doesn’t fall for a love song set in a Dennys? With that, if you had to compare the musical aesthetic of ‘Riverrun’ to a diner menu item – what would it be and why?

JEFF: Ha! Yeah, I’ve had way too many important life events happen in a Denny’s. Classy guy. In terms of a menu item…hopefully, ‘Riverrun’ feels like comfort food that doesn’t make you sorry you ate it afterward. In keeping with the Denny’s theme, it’s a breakfast: bacon, eggs, pancakes, and coffee? MAYBE a cheeseburger for lunch, if that’s your thing? I think eating anything Denny’s serves only after 6pm is just asking for trouble.


Q: Every song was like a story to unfold. Were you someone that grew up always jotting your thoughts down?

JEFF: That’s interesting – not consistently. I kept a journal for two to three years just for the discipline of it, but it wasn’t particularly artful or exciting to read. But you’re right that I love stories. A lot of my closest friends are amazing storytellers and funny as hell, and songs have been one of the ways that I’ve captured and made stories of my own.

Q: ‘Riverrun’ is out now and wonderful, but are you already planning the follow-up? Are the creative wheels turning when it comes to making new music?

JEFF: Aw. Thanks, and yes. I have a series of new singles that will start coming out this summer, and I have 3-5 tracks ready for the next one. It turns out the once you turn on the faucet, water keeps coming out of it. That said, I do hope to get some time playing ‘Riverrun’ live over the next year and living with the album as it is; I hope people find it worth hearing and then coming back to.

Q: Lastly, what would you like to say to others out there who are touring or session musicians who may be too scared to do their own thing?

JEFF: It takes a big leap to decide that your art is worthy of other people’s precious time and attention. It’s even harder is to finish it, let go of it, release it, and let other people own it. I gotta say though, it feels great. Having all these songs that now live on their own makes me feel like I’ve done my part and contributed to the thing I’ve loved my whole life.

Interviewed by Kendra Beltran - Rising Aritsts Blog


"Review"

Jeff Symonds has been a staple on the San Francisco music scene for decades. The multi-instrumentalist has been playing a variety of instruments since age 12. He’s played guitar, bass and/or keys with more than 30 different bands. Inspiration struck and Symonds decided to release his first solo album at age 50. Since then, he hasn’t looked back.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Jeff and got some more insight into riverrun, details on the album release party, and what he’d like to say to his fans if he had the chance.

For updates be sure to follow Jeff on Instagram and Twitter.

‘I love a rock and roll band in full flight live — the pandemic created my longest break from live performance since I was 10, and I cannot wait to get back up there’.

-Jeff Symonds

What info would you like to share about the new album?
riverrun is an album in the old-school, big double vinyl sense– it’s got four parts / four sides, and it follows a character from childhood (mostly set in Florida) through adolescence, complicated adulthood, and finally a sense of contentment. I play all the instruments on the record, and I tried to cover all the styles and sounds that I’ve fallen in love with along the way– it’s my whole ball of wax, the kitchen sink, whatever metaphor works.


Tell us a little bit about how riverrun came together.
For the last decade, I’ve been playing primarily for other people. and as 2020 rolled around, none of the other projects that I work in were recording, and I was determined to make some art in 2020. So I pulled out all the songs that I’d stuck in a drawer over the years, wrote a dozen or so new ones, and chipped away from about 60 until there were 13 songs that told a story and hung together. I booked a series of sessions for myself with my friend Gawain Matthews, and riverrun is the result. It’s not really a COVID record, as I had all the songs done and had already started it before we were shut down, but the pandemic definitely gave me the sense of urgency and focus to finish it.

Any shows (or live streams) you have coming up?
YES! We’re doing a CD release show Thursday, September 30th at The Ivy Room in Albany CA. It’s one of the best rooms in the Bay Area, and we can’t wait– it’ll be the world debut for a bunch of tunes.

What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
I love that question. It’s a combination of the craft of writing and recording a song that’s worth hearing, and hopefully hearing more than once, the community of people I’ve so fortunate to play with, and the sweat and volume and energy of taking it to the stage. I love a rock and roll band in full flight live– the pandemic created my longest break from live performance since I was 10, and I cannot wait to get back up there. We are going to bring it in September– I already feel like I’m pacing in a cage in anticipation.

Share an interest outside of music.
Reading and travel– I’m a high school English teacher, and I’m on a futile attempt to read everything interesting that’s out there.

What message would you like to share with your fans?
Thank you to everyone taking the time to engage with my music– it’s super generous, and I deeply appreciate it. I hope it gives back to you as well. - MendoWerks


"riverrun"

"Jeff channels our common idols into incisive writing delivered with the requisite abandon of rock and roll. Moreover, his holistic approach to the recording process proves a virtuosity laced through his punk rock cred. The enthusiasm of his drum performances alone would be worth the price of admission, but luckily, that's just the beginning.” - Matt Jaffe


"riverrun"

“"Riverrun" is a masterful debut full of vintage sounds and fresh ideas. It's hard to believe that with but a few exceptions, this project was just a two-man operation between writer and performer Jeff Symonds and engineer Gawain Matthews. Listening from start to finish will take you on an honest journey, full of unbelievably catchy melodies and delightful stories that you won't be able to help rocking out to.” - Megan Slankard


"riverrun"

"Riverrun is an actual record, and not just a bunch of songs thrown together haphazardly. Not only does it let you into Jeff’s mind and memories, but it eloquently illustrates what it means to put time and devotion into one’s art. Unsurprisingly, Jeff’s raw talent is unmistakable and most importantly, he never once scrimps on excellence." - Joe Deveau


""Emily" single review"

"Remember that great track from Get the Knack by The Knack? It was called My Sharona, and had just the catchiest upbeat tempo you wanted in any single. Jeff Symonds seems to have taken notes, because his new single Emily is as catchy as that one, with a whole other mix of effects." - Sinusoidalmusic


Discography

Solo:
Jeff Symonds-- riverrun

As band member:
Rich Price-- All These Roads (2007)
Megan Slankard-- A Token Of The Wreckage (2011)
Rich Price-- Moonlight Breaks (2011)
Wafflebarrel-- Wafflebarrel (2013)
Megan Slankard-- Running On Machinery (2015)
Wafflebarrel-- II (2015)
Megan Slankard--- The Weeds (Single) (2020)

As session player (selected):
The Sweet Remains-- Laurel And Sunset (2008)
The Welcome Matt-- Members Of Sound (2010)
Joel Streeter-- Matador (2010)
Jesse Brewster-- Wrecking Ball At The Concert Hall (2011)
Jeff Campbell-- Stop And Go (2012)
The Welcome Matt-- More Empire Days (2017)
The Welcome Matt-- American Depression - Single (2020)

Photos

Bio

Jeff Symonds is a Bay Area multi-instrumentalist who has shared the stage with hundreds of others and appeared on dozens of other artists' recordings. He has played bass, keys and guitars for over 30 bands for over 30 years, including sixteen years and counting with Megan Slankard and the Wreckage. He has played over 500 shows in 37 US states and Europe, from national television to your backyard.

Band Members