We begin the new year with a new episode of the Agents of Innovation podcast. On Episode 13, I had the opportunity to interview JD Eicher, who is a singer/songwriter and the frontman for the band, JD Eicher and the Goodnights. Most of the band, including JD, is from Youngstown, Ohio, while one member is from nearby Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They recently finished a tour with Sister Hazel, playing such venues as the House of Blues in Chicago. Soon, they will be heading south of Ohio across the Southeastern United States, playing a mix of venues and house shows before eventually reaching Miami, where they will be playing on The Rock Boat, a 5-night music festival that takes place on a Caribbean cruise ship.
JD first started playing guitar around the age of 12 or 13, he recalls. Just the basics. Then, later in high school and at the beginning of college, he started writing his own music. “[Songwriting] got me through my own personal growth and development issues as a college kid,” Eicher says. “Songwriting was the one thing that could reset everything for me and I could just kind of escape for a little bit. That’s what kind of started me down this crazy path.”
And what a path it has been.
While at Westminster College, JD pitched his school on an interdisciplinary degree that was a mix of business and music courses. A great idea for someone who wanted to use his talent as an artist, while maintaining a career that could sustain his livelihood. Also during college was the first time he started taking the stage and playing gigs, where he soon learned his love for connecting with the audience. “As soon as you get that bug, it’s a tough one to escape,” says Eicher.
Eicher has now produced three albums with his band. The first was called “The Shape of Things,” the second was titled “Shifting,” and the third was “Into Place.” It’s a trilogy that, put together, brings us the phrase “The Shape of Things Shifting Into Place.” All three albums were named ahead of time by Eicher, but the songs – well those had to come together as part of the larger story he wanted to tell.
“Maybe it’s a little bit of nerdom too,” says Eicher. “I love Lord of the Rings and Star Wars – there’s a lot of big trilogies in my life.” But mostly he likes to create albums that are about something larger. “I really like when albums tell a story and when there’s a kind of overarching theme rather than just a bunch of songs,” said Eicher. “I tell stories and personal accounts. It all kind of falls along this theme of hope and love and acceptance and a coming of age and a comfort of who you are as a person.”
For those who have met JD Eicher in person, you know he represents the Midwest well – he’s one of the kindest, nicest people you’ll ever meet. Midwest nice. And this personality trait of his seems to come through in his music and songwriting. “The whole human condition thing is something I can’t seem to get past. A lot of the records is me struggling with identity and purpose. I try to lay it out in a somewhat cohesive way across these three albums.”
His songs have also gained some commercial success. “Level Out” was used in a teaser for the movie, “Departure Date” for Virgin American Airlines. And the song “Aaron” (which is featured at the end of episode 13) has been used in an Olive Garden commercial. Recently, JD was also asked to be part of a collaboration with the band Melodime (who were featured on Episode 9 of the Agents of Innovation podcast). In fact, his song with them, “The Underdogs” is the title track on Melodime’s B-Room Diaries: Volume 3. “It’s a special thing when you’re asked to be a part of someone else’s project,” said Eicher.
During the Agents of Innovation podcast, Eicher discusses the balance of producing art and trying to maintain a living. “If I was trying to make money, I probably wouldn’t be an artist anyway.” He’s doing what he loves. And somehow he isn’t yet a starving artist. But I’m sure he would appreciate if you check out his albums on iTunes and listen to Episode 13 of the Agents of Innovation podcast to hear more of what this up-and-coming artist has to say. For all you Rock Boaters, he’ll be joining you soon. For all others, check out the tour dates on his website: http://www.jdeicherandthegoodnights.com.