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Jeff Stanley on songwriting, Hendrix and Buddy Guy

Jeff Stanley's keenness for guitar hails from a letter he received in 1988 from a friend in America who wrote that he'd picked up a guitar and was playing rock songs by Canadian band Rush. Stanley was about 16 and living in East Africa with his parents, who worked for the Peace Corps.

"That sounded so exciting and like so much fun to me," Stanley says. He'd been playing piano since age 9. "I bought an electric guitar and started playing."

Today, he's a professional singer, songwriter and guitarist — who shares residences with his wife, Denise, in Ashland and Sydney, Australia  — with many albums and a long list of live performances with well known musicians to his credit.

The Jeff Stanley Trio — with bass player Joey Capezza and drummer Sandy Metcalf — will play a mix of Stanley's original music and a few covers of such artists as Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and Lynyrd Skynyrd at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at Lounge South, 66 N. Pioneer St., Ashland. The cover is $5. Call 541-499-9651 for information.

"I'm really excited about music right now," Stanley says. 

He played the Britt Performance Garden on Thursday, Aug. 21, before the festival's Peter Frampton and Buddy Guy show.

"Both of them are so awesome," he says. "It felt good to play music at Britt and be a part of the scene. After my set, I packed up my gear as fast as possible so that I could hear Buddy Guy and Frampton. I was stoked.

"I'm also taking a more in-depth look at Jimi Hendrix right now. I learned some of his music about 15 years ago, and I'm enjoying the subtleties of his genius."

He's working on new songs: "Jesus Christ of Nazareth" is a complicated composition in E flat that he's been working on for months, and he's toying with the rhythms on his ode to the environment, "I Like Trees." 

"All of my songs could be challenging," he says. "But, in reality, some songs come about quickly. 'Grassy Head' (named after a town in Australia where he and his wife vacationed) came in about a half hour. I was reading a book called 'Effortless Mastery,' picked up the guitar and the song just came to me." 

It would be ideal if all songs came that easily, he says. But some are more fun to work on.

"It was my father's idea to write a song about the environment," Stanley says. "I thought I'd write something with a lot of depth, poignancy and significance, but it came out simplistic. At first it had kind of a punk-rock style, then I put more of a Jack Johnson, Hawaiian groove on it. We'll do that one at the show for sure."

Stanley and his group will play other newer originals — "Real Man," a blues instrumental, and "Muso Blues," a country ballad about the joys and challenges of being a musician (muso is short for musician in Australia) — along with songs from his albums "Inside Effects" and "32,000 Chances," including "You Lift Me Up," a song written about his wife, Denise, recorded as "Reason for My Season" on "Inside Effects."

"I'll open the show with an arrangement of Franz Schubert's 'Ave Maria,' written by Gilbert DeBenedetti, which I learned on the piano, an instrument I'm getting back into," Stanley says. "It's a beautiful, succinct arrangement which states the melody. I like to start shows with a kind of slow song, then go into dance, rock, funk, blues and jazz, ideally ending with a chaotic crescendo of joy ... or another slow song."

Stanley began to emerge as a songwriter when an instructor in San Francisco, Matt Lusby, encouraged him to write his own songs while he was young.

"It was a positive moment in my life," Stanley says. "After 20 years, I still think of him as such a fantastic inspiration. Not a day goes by that I don't think about Matt. He took me under his wing and gave me a great learning experience. I really took it to heart.

"Maybe some day I can open for Buddy Guy."

Left to right: Sandy Metcalf, Jeff Stanley and Joe Capezza are the Jeff Stanley Trio. Photo by Jamie Lusch