In many ways, our experience capturing a piece of backstage magic with Stephen Jenkins of Third Eye Blind
is a lot like the music the legendary, modern rock outfit have released over the course of their impressive, almost 20 year career. When we arrived at Pier 97, we envisioned a summer oasis slicing out into the middle of the Hudson on a perfect, Friday afternoon; the ideal setting for the catchy, upbeat, and anthemic songs Third Eye Blind are known for. But there's always been a darkness churning under the surface of songs like "Jumper" and "Semi-Charmed Life" (about suicide and crystal meth addiction). Like those undercurrents, our session would also take an unexpected turn.
When we arrived at the venue, 3EB was soundchecking, making sure everything was perfect for the Gotham stop on their summer-long tour with Dashboard Confessional. The setting was everything we had hoped for, but sound issues - specifically Dashboard running through their soundcheck - made a wide-open, New York City setting impossible. So we retreated to a slightly less picturesque, wood paneled production trailer backstage. It was not exactly pretty; it was not how we drew this one up, but it did make for a compelling visit with Jenkins in an intimate, backstage setting...something we never would have gotten with perfectly manicured production on the pier.
In this 2 song session, Jenkins tries out acoustic versions of "Blade", as well as stand out single, "All These Things Are Yours", from the band's excellent new album Dopamine
. "This weekend I'm going to record an acoustic version of this song for the B Side of the vinyl we're going to put out in November. So I'm going to use this session as a chance to practice", Jenkins joked. Practice, I suppose, was the appropriate word...there was a moment in session when Jenkins flubbed a note. But then Jenkins plowed ahead and the tape continued to roll.
"The greatest gifts come with shadow," Jenkins later told us about the song. "For me, so much of what I do with my music is the process of coming to terms with that shadow and getting it incorporated. If you get it incorporated then you're really eligible for joy". I guess the little goof in our session was the shadow part. Hence our joy over this honest session turned out.
"All These Things Are Yours" is a song inspired by both John Coltrane and Jenkins own mother. Coltrane is one of the greatest contributors to American Culture. He was also a heroine addict. Jenkins' mother had her own battles as well. "I thought about my mother and her own addiction with alcohol. All the difficulties that brings to a family but also all these hugely generous offerings that she gave me." Again, the greatest gifts come with shadow.
So maybe our session with Stephen was never meant to be a perfectly staged, perfectly produced, glittery session on the water. Instead we were treated to something real, something authentic, a fly-on-the-wall observation of an artist quietly playing his songs backstage, ruminating on their origins, all while preparing to entertain thousands on a picture perfect summer evening in Manhattan.