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How Jacob McCurdy created the powerful, soulful ‘Make a Fuss’

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This is how you make the most out of a pandemic. When singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jacob McCurdy saw all of his scheduled gigs evaporate when Covid struck, he pivoted to a period of unbridled creativity. McCurdy established a year-long virtual composer symposium he billed as Songwriters in the Round, a series of songwriter get-togethers utilizing the Zoom app streamed live to Facebook each Sunday. He met a bunch of creative new friends and eventually connected in person with some of them to collaborate on a series of songwriting retreats.

“Make a Fuss,” one of the songs inspired by those sessions, has just been released as a single. It’s a soulful and powerful song of thankfulness.

McCurdy is a busy guy. He hails from the Bangor area, currently resides in Kittery and performs five or six nights a week at dining and entertainment venues in and around Portland, Portsmouth and Boston. My interview with him was conducted as he traveled between gigs.

In addition to solo performances, McCurdy is a member of The Dapper Gents, an impeccably dressed foursome specializing in wedding entertainment. The group is cheekily billed on their website as “a folk-rock band with killer harmonies and filthy cello solos.” He says they average about 30 weddings per year.

McCurdy says that when he wrote “Make a Fuss” with musician Alex Calabrese of the Boston-based indie-folk band Old Tom & The Lookouts, he knew he had something special.

“The guitar riff just kind of came to me and I dove into the song, probably too much,” McCurdy says, adding he spent about four months recording “Make a Fuss,” but he’s thrilled with the result.

On his Bandcamp page, McCurdy explains the meaning behind “Make a Fuss”:

“We never want to be a burden to the people who helped shape us, or to “make a fuss,” but we still need help from time to time. This song addresses that pause,” he writes.

Recording in his home studio, McCurdy concentrated on the song’s lead vocal, guitar, keyboards and synth parts then transmitted his tracks to other musicians to add their parts. Calabrese added bass and backing vocals, Ryan Scalia added drums, Nick Cabrera and Johnny Clay Shanks each played lead guitar while a horn section comprised of Jonah Bruce, Jesse Wakeman and Ralph Peterson contributed brass.

“It turned into this elaborate production which wasn’t what I’d planned but I’m really pumped with how this song came out,” he says of “Make a Fuss.”

McCurdy says it was surprisingly easy for the musicians on his song to send tracks back and forth online thanks to the fact that many songwriters and musicians invested in home recording gear during the pandemic. McCurdy majored in audio engineering in college and has always mixed his own material but says he became oversaturated trying to achieve a perfect mix of the finished tracks for “Make a Fuss.” He ultimately decided to send the whole shebang to Tyler Nicolo in Philadelphia for mixing and mastering.

“It was such a treat to have someone like Tyler take the song and totally nail the mix,” McCurdy says.

McCurdy’s songwriting partnership with Alex Calabrese resulted in more than 100 songs composed over a period of six months. Half are earmarked for future McCurdy projects, the other half for Calabrese’s group Old Tom & The Lookouts. Two days before I spoke with McCurdy, he could be found performing live with that band on WMSC, the radio station of Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“Playing these tunes that I had a hand in writing and producing was an incredible feeling, I’m getting goosebumps now just thinking about it,” McCurdy says. “Honestly, the best feeling in the world is the feeling I get when I’m playing my own music at a show.”

McCurdy will no doubt have that magic feeling when he and the seven other musicians we hear on “Make a Fuss” perform a special live release concert at Portland House of Music this Friday, December 17, at 8:00 p.m.

“We have a rehearsal scheduled on Wednesday with the entire band and I think this show is going to get wild, I can’t wait,” McCurdy says.

(“Make a Fuss” is available now on all digital platforms, including iTunes, Spotify and YouTube. You’ll also find it (in addition to previous McCurdy releases) at www.JacobMcCurdy.Bandcamp.com. Tickets for the “Make a Fuss” live release show, Friday, December 17, are available in advance at www.PortlandHouseofMusic.com.)

Last modified on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 07:50

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