Getting Jared Feinman to talk isn’t easy. He’d rather play you a song. “I don’t love being the center of attention––I’m an introvert,” the Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter says. “But I do enjoy being on stage. I’m just trying to service the song. It’s less about me than it is about the music.”
That focus on the song serves Jared well. His blues-tinged jazz and misty-eyed pop have won fans in both intimate rooms and festival crowds, satisfying close listeners and vibe seekers alike. With his debut album, Love Is an Obstacle--released on February 12th, 2021-- Jared ups the creative ante: the lyrical vulnerability, perfect pitch, and expressive piano audiences have come to expect are still there, but joined by sophisticated ensemble arrangements and bold dashes of theatricality. The effect is sometimes invigorating, sometimes haunting––and always accomplished.
“I like being able to create something out of nothing––out of thin air,” Jared says. “As a songwriter, I only have a small amount of time to get the story across, but one can do so much, just with a few words.”
Music grabbed Jared early. He began classical piano training at 6-years-old, immersing himself in masters such as Debussy and Chopin. He studied piano for a decade, then strode down the traditional path that stretched out before him: business school at the University of Richmond. But five credits shy of a business degree, Jared stopped and took stock. It didn’t feel right. “It was a very trying time––I dropped out and didn’t know what to do with my life,” he says. “The environment I grew up in was, ‘You get a safe job after school.’ But I couldn’t stay. They called my name at graduation, but I never showed up.”
That’s when music beckoned again. A close friend from home who attended the Berklee College of Music had repeatedly argued that Jared should be there, too. Then, that friend died in a tragic accident, leaving Jared to miss him dearly and reconsider his advice. Jared had never considered studying music at a higher level, but free, a bit lost, and with nothing to lose, he applied to Berklee on a whim. He was accepted. “I really wasn’t ready, musically, but I guess they could see I had some talent,” Jared says, characteristically modest and genuine. “I grew a lot there.”
At Berklee, Jared designed his own major, focusing primarily on songwriting and performance. He fell in love with the earnest candor of 70s songwriters––especially Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Randy Newman. His piano playing took on new dimensions of jazz, pop, and blues, while his vocals settled into an easy confidence. After studying under greats and learning from his virtuosic peers, Jared gained what he needed to pursue a life in music.
Jared’s new music benefits from those years at Berklee, from his childhood spent playing keys, and from his soul-shaking willingness to explore the pain and longing that define many adult experiences. Unlike many contemporaries, Jared writes, arranges, and produces his recordings. He collaborates with musicians and engineers from all over the country, including Grammy-winning engineer Frank Filipetti, who mixes all of Jared’s tracks.
Mournful “Inside a Reverie” is a dreamy and devastating look back on love, with its own gorgeous instrumental prelude. “It’s not simply unrequited love––that aftermath of being caught up in the daydream of a person who meant a lot to you,” Jared says, trailing off. “I wrote this in a fragile place.”
Launching with lone piano that is soon joined by hushed percussion and horns, “The Sinner’s Last Song” is a self-deprecating heartbreaker, anchored in tearful but sly jazz phrasing. “Some Final Thoughts” is a stunner with only strings, somber and majestic. Previously released “88” lays relatable worries bare over piano and harmonica. Jared wrote the song while at Berklee, using pianos Boston placed throughout the city for anyone to play. “The song questions my relationship with the piano and with music,” Jared says. “I’d just been fired from a weekly piano-bar gig, and my future in music was uncertain.”
“All My Life” pines for what can’t be. “I started writing this song at the end of a relationship with the intention of winning her back,” Jared says. “When I sang it for her, we both cried and realized we were not meant to be together. She took me to the train. I finished the song on that train, which you can hear at the beginning of the track.”
Lilting and brimming with hurt, “Love is an Obstacle” pinpoints intimacies with disarming detail. “Butterflies and Blues” moves anxiously, as vivid imagery that melds hard luck with delicate hope reverberates throughout the track. “To me, it’s all a huge metaphor about waking up with anxiety and trying to find my place in music,” Jared says.
Jared points to the intricate and earnest “New Life” as a change in songwriting form, fueled by tender attention to telling detail. Aspirational and cinematic, “(Let’s Sing For) Love and Be Free” cries out for reconciliation in the midst of a fractured world. “I felt like it was a song I needed to hear––a song that could bring everyone together,” Jared says.
In the midst of so much uncertainty, Jared knows he will always find his way with his piano. He hopes what he finds will bring others comfort, too. “Sometimes people need to cry it out,” he says. “These heartbreak anthems I’ve written––people who have really gone through something have needed them. I sense that.”
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