Half way across America for the 2nd time in two months, Aaron Lee Tasjan is putting his van in storage before he leaves on yet another tour, though this time someone else is doing the driving. For some, playing guitar for Todd Snider in Pennsylvania, driving back to New York City overnight, getting into Alberta Cross’s van at 8am and driving straight through the night again to open for them in Milwaukee the following day might be a bit too much…..but this is where ALT lives. These roads are where his stories come from and these stories are his songs.
The songwriter, guitarist and producer grew up in the middle of the middle, central Ohio, USA. It was there he learned to play the guitar and by the age of 16, had performed with Peter Yarrow and made his first trip to New York City where he was given the Outstanding Guitarist Award by The Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center. Though a full scholarship to the Berklee College Of Music was offered to him following his high school graduation, he chose to return to New York City instead and it was there he met up with Justin, Cole and Dan to form the band Semi Precious Weapons. As SPW began performing around NYC, Tasjan caught the eye of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s front man Kevn Kinney who had just relocated to Brooklyn. Kinney subsequently took Tasjan on many tours as both a guitarist and opening act and became a mentor to Tasjan guiding him towards the revelation that in music, you never have to be defined by one sound or genre. This idea would shape the form of Tasjan’s own music significantly over the next few years.
World re-known producer Tony Visconti produced SPW’s debut album, We Love You, which landed them a deal with Razor & Tie Records, however, it would also mark ALT’s departure from the group. He went on to perform in 2008/2009 with the New York Dolls as lead guitarist while simultaneously forming his own band, The Madison Square Gardeners. The critically acclaimed “Gardeners,” as they became known, were hailed by The Village Voice as, “The best NYC has to offer”, and the songs Tasjan penned for them received many accolades for their no frills, simple, from the heart approach to Rock’n'Roll. As the Gardeners slowed down after 3 years of touring and four records, ALT reunited with Rock’n'Roll poet and former Semi Precious Weapons manager BP Fallon to write the song “I Believe In Elvis Presley” which was subsequently produced by Jack White and released on the Third Man Records label. Fallon and Tasjan continued their collaboration joining up with Sean Lennon and Irina Lazareanu in the art rock band Operation Juliet, and the two have since formed yet another project called BP Fallon & The Bandits that also features Rock Hall Of Famers Clem Burke, Ian Mclagan and Nigel Harrison.
In 2011, Tasjan got the attention of Texas Country superstar Pat Green, when Pat recorded Tasjan’s poetic, socially conscious, rambling tune, “Streets Of Galilee,” for the album Songs We Wish We’d Written 2. Green was so taken with the young songwriter that he even invited Tasjan to perform the song with him on the record which reached number 15 on the US Country Billboard Charts.
If it seems strange to you that a young man would find himself treading ground with everyone from Peter Yarrow or Pat Green to Jack White or The New York Dolls, Tasjan can explain this easily. “When I learned how to play the guitar I was obsessed with songs…I didn’t care about soloing or anything fancy at first.” As Tasjan explains his creative process, we begin to understand the amazing array of sounds in his songs. “When I write songs I try to put all of my favorite things into each one, and those things happen to be loud Rock’n'Roll, folk and country music. It’s a hodge-podge or a melting pot…it just occurred to me one day that I’d love to see someone singing real songs with beauty and grit, then launch into some sort of stadium rock-esque guitar solo and then go back to the song again. I decided to do my best to land somewhere between a folk singer and the dude with no shirt on as the wind blows through his hair and a fucking eagle lands on his guitar neck.” Here is a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he’s dead serious about that notion.