Jeff Meyers, Jr. takes cues from the blues, channeling pain into art while transforming his solo project into a full-band affair
By day, Jeff Meyers, Jr. is an insurance adjuster, and at a certain point in his career, he worked 12-hour shifts for six months straight. To cope with the stress, he hit the bars after work.
“I was going out every night, getting off at nine o'clock and just being like, ‘How do I forget that I'm a claims adjuster? How do I erase from my mind that I do this?'” Meyers said.
At the same time, Meyers was dealing with trauma at home. “I had someone living with me, and I wasn't [previously] aware that they had a drug problem, and then there were threats of them killing themselves,” he said. “It was eight months of that. … There are things there that I won't be able to erase from my mind — images.”
While working overtime, Meyers struggled with PTSD from the scenes he couldn't delete from his brain. And the late-night binges weren't helping. Eventually, he reached a breaking point and sought help.
Everything started to get better when two things happened: He got medication for his PTSD, and he began to process everything through music, writing songs and testing them out at a Wednesday open mic night at the Shrunken Head.
Previously, Meyers, a multi-instrumentalist, played in the band the Weight of Whales, but after that project dissolved he began to write and record bluesy indie-rock songs at home under the name Good Reverend, releasing EPs Mutt in 2016 and No Prophets in 2017. For Good Reverend's new EP, Bonehoney, Meyers worked for two years with producer/drummer Eric O'Neill at Capital University to capture the full-band sound he'd always wanted for his music.
“I don't write songs with the intention of playing it by myself,” said Meyers, who, after recording Bonehoney, put together Good Reverend's new lineup featuring guitarist Lorenzo Doyle, bassist Dan Sherwood and drummer Jason Winner. (The band will host a house show release party on Thursday, June 13; message the group at facebook.com/thegoodreverendmusic for details.)
While Bonehoney showcases Good Reverend in high fidelity, the EP retains Meyers' powerhouse vocals and his love of the blues, which he traces back to a high school experience with a buddy. “We had just gotten done doing a choir performance,” Meyers said. “We were sitting in his car in the parking lot. He was having a cigarette, and he put on ‘Ball and Biscuit' by the White Stripes.”
The song was a game-changer. From there, Meyers began exploring the White Stripes' influences, which led him to blues musicians like Son House, Elmore James and Muddy Waters. “Blues is one of the truest forms of people channeling pain,” Meyers said. “And it wouldn't resolve. It was just, ‘Everything sucks. I got all this shit going on. Let me tell you about it. There's like four things going on right now that suck.'
“And not only the message,” he continued, “but the music — the artistry, the rawness. The imperfections often define the song. That's what kind of symbolizes emotion.”
On Bonehoney, it's the title track that most clearly channels the pain of that inordinately traumatic period of Meyers' life. “The other songs kind of dance around and use metaphors,” he said. “But that song is the summary of my two years — my struggle, drinking a lot, and straining every ounce of honey that you could get from it. I was drying out my bones and left with a jar of honey and didn't know how to put it back in me.”
Turns out the music itself provided a life-giving infusion.