Vintage Life caught up with singer Jarrod Dickenson to talk music and vintage clothing.
Hi Jarrod, thanks for chatting with Vintage Life! Can you tell readers a little about yourself?
I am a reasonably tall, ginger-bearded, hat-wearing Texan, currently living in Brooklyn, New York, and on my better days I am a singer and songwriter.
I grew up under the bright lights of Waco, Texas (yes, THAT Waco, Texas); a city whose population is roughly the same as the yearly attendance at Glastonbury Festival, but a bit more spread out, and far less muddy. I moved to Austin when I was 20 to finish college at the University of Texas. I moved to Nashville when I was 24, L.A. when I was 25, and 6 miserable months later, after realizing that I couldn’t stand Los Angeles, I moved to New York, where I’ve been the last 5 or so years.
How did you get into music and performing?
Like most Texans, I grew up playing sports, but music was always a big part of my life. I was always sifting through my dad’s record collection, listening to people like The Beatles, The Stones, Paul Simon and Jim Croce. When I was 18 years old I decided to pick up a guitar, not with any career aspirations, but more just to see if I could make anything come out of it. It quickly took over everything, and that started me on this strange, difficult and beautiful journey of making music.
How would you describe your style of music?
I suppose I would put my music under the giant umbrella of Folk music, or what is often being branded as “Americana” these days, which really just means that I can do pretty much anything I want! It has elements of Folk, Blues, Country, R&B and Rock & Roll. I don’t like sticking to one restrictive genre. I like to let each song be its own thing. Storytelling plays a huge role in my music. I love to create characters and situations to which the everyday person can relate.
You are a vintage clothing enthusiast, how did this come about?
I’m not sure I would necessarily call myself a vintage clothing enthusiast, but I’m certainly a great admirer of classic and vintage style. I have a handful of lovely pieces of vintage clothing that I’ve managed to find at various thrift stores in NYC or my grandfather’s closet, but my wardrobe is mostly comprised of modern-made clothing, while giving a nod to the look and style of yesteryear. The most important thing to me when considering an item of clothing is the fit and cut. A well-tailored garment, new or old, is hard to beat.
My love of vintage style started with my grandfather. I’ve always loved seeing photographs of him as a young man back in Texas; always dressed to the nines, and looking like he could be an actor in a Humphrey Bogart film. Through the rose-colored glasses that someone like me, who didn’t actually live through it, views the 1930s, 40s and 50s, it seems like an impossibly romantic and classy time. Of course, the reality was that those years were filled with depression, hunger, war and uncertainty, but dammit, they sure looked sharp!
Hats play an important part of your style, what draws you to them?
Again, my obsession with hats started with old photos of my grandfather. He always had a fine lid perched atop his head. Like most men of that era, he didn’t consider himself to be fully dressed until he put on his hat.
I started wearing hats about 10 or 11 years ago when I was in college. I wanted to look like my grandfather, or Bogie or Cagney. I was also playing a lot of gigs in the Austin music scene at the time, and the style for most musicians in the area then was a ratty pair of jeans, a wrinkled pearl snap shirt and head of hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in a week. I thought one way to stand out a bit from the rest of the crowd would be to dress less like I was unemployed, and more like Sinatra.
That got me out of t-shirts and long hair, and into suit jackets and fine hats, but what really kicked my hat obsession into overdrive was moving to New York City. Shortly after moving to New York, and realizing that music alone wouldn’t cover the extortionate rent, I got a part-time day job at New York’s oldest hat store, JJ Hat Center, which was founded in 1911. Not only did this allow me to pay my bills when I wasn’t on the road, but it also fed my addiction, and saw my hat collection grow at a frightening pace.
New York, and especially JJ Hat Center has played a big role in the development of my personal style. You see some of the most stylish and creatively dressed people on the planet walking around the streets of New York, and many of them darken the doorstep of JJ’s. That inspired me to step things up a notch with my own wardrobe, and to be a bit more adventurous.
If you could perform for anyone, who would you choose and why?
There are plenty of artists and musicians I would love to see perform, or those I wish I’d had the opportunity to see before they left this world, but as for who I want to perform for…anyone…everyone. I want to share my songs with as many people as I can. It’s an incredibly humbling thing to have someone want to hear what you have to say. So my dreams are not to sing for any specific person or celebrity or powerful politician. I just want sing for anyone and everyone who wants to listen.
Who or what influences you?
I’m influenced by many things. The obvious one, of course, is other music. I’m always discovering something new to love, whether it’s a record that was recorded 60 years ago, or yesterday. Music is a powerful and special thing.
I’m also hugely influenced by literature. I love reading. I love stories. There’s something really wonderful and liberating about just getting completely lost inside a great story.
My family would also be a big influence. I’m very fortunate to have grown up with incredibly supportive parents, and the greatest grandparents anyone could ever hope for. I have and continue to learn so much from them.
Jarrod’s new album, Ready The Horses, will be released on 29th September. Find out more at www.jarroddickenson.com