Among the many crossover artists to make a bid at a country career, Jaron Lowenstein of Jaron and the Long Road to Love seems to have found his way in through a back door. Like some other recent arrivals, he first found commercial success on pop radio.
Performing with his twin brother, Evan & Jaron’s “Crazy for This Girl” was a Top 10 hit in 2001, and two more songs charted in the Top 40. But rather than aim for a country comeback with a tailor-made sound, he found himself in country by popular demand. After writing and previewing “Pray for You” — a contentious breakup song about praying for some not-so-nice things to happen to an ex-girlfriend — his fans began requesting it at radio. Country radio, to be specific.
Now that “Pray for You” has broken into the Top 20 and two videos have begun spurring interest on CMT and CMT.com, Jaron released a full-length album, Getting Dressed in the Dark, last month. He recently stopped by the CMT offices to talk about his new music and the move to Nashville, as well as the discussion surrounding “Pray for You” and what he has in common with Mark Twain.
CMT: Can you tell me about the name of the project, because it’s not a band, right?
Jaron: The Long Road to Love might some day be a band, but right now it’s really just my story. It’s just about my relationships and how I’m on this long road to love. And I’m just trying to figure it out. All the songs I’m singing about right now are ones that talk about the highs and lows from my relationships — where I got it right, and, unfortunately, as in the case of “Pray for You,” where things didn’t go too well.
After your success with Evan & Jaron, what brings you to Nashville and country music?
Well Evan and I took a year off in 2003, and then it turned into six years. In 2009, I said “Evan, I want to go make some music.” And he said, “I can’t go on that dream with you.” So I had started writing in L.A., where we were living, and I was too comfortable there. And I knew if I was going to start over, I really needed to just start back from square one. I went to Nashville because it was a home away from home. I didn’t really come here for the music business as much as I came to get away from L.A. and all the beautiful distractions there. I wanted to go somewhere that was comfortable and also a place where people love music so much.
What are the big differences between the two places?
I wanted to sort of hide away a little bit. I think that here, in Nashville, it’s easy to isolate yourself and spends weeks at a time without … you know, you can get away to that sort of country really quickly. And I needed that. I needed to isolate myself from all of these outside influences so that I could just go over who I was. Tap in and take emotional inventory — see who I was at my age and what I needed to say.
What can your fans from early on, and new ones, expect from Getting Dressed in the Dark?
Well, I love pop melodies, so it’s still going to be rooted in pop melodies. But I’m a storyteller, and I’ve been a storyteller all my life. They can expect to hear songs like “That’s Beautiful to Me,” which is all about the quirky, beautiful things that I found in an ex-girlfriend of mine. And it’s funny because the people that we love the most are the ones that we can also hate the most. They are the ones that can really get to us. And that’s how some people are like, “Well, how’s ’Pray for You’ about the same girl that you actually write some of these nice ones about?” … People can expect to hear all sides of a relationship. Songs like “Without Her Leaving” were about how I can’t seem to get it right. I can’t seem to fall in love with a girl until she leaves, which seems to be, I think, universal with men. … I think the album definitely has a lot of situations that didn’t go great in relationships. But there is a silver lining, and there is a lot of hope about getting it right.
Can we talk a little about the “Pray for You” video?
So there are two videos. There is one that follows the story line of the lyrics really well, and that’s the original . And then there’s the prequel, with [actress] Jaime Pressly trying to kill me, which is hysterical. It’s basically the back story. It sort of explains why … this seemingly nice guy would write such a mean song. It’s really dark comedy. It’s meant to be inflated and a lot of hyperbole. But it’s meant to be big and cartoonish just like the song is.
How did Jaime Pressly get involved?
We wanted to find the right girl that could really be beautiful but could play the comedic parts and could really send the message across that she was serious in the video — but funny at the same time. She was just the perfect choice for it.
Do you see the song as tongue-in-cheek?
Yeah, I mean it is tongue-in-cheek. It’s funny, you know, when people say this song is tongue-in-cheek, I say the song really isn’t tongue-in-cheek — the song is serious. But what makes it funny is that we find ourselves in it. … When comedians make honest observations, that’s when we laugh the most because we find ourselves in them. When people hear the song “Pray for You,” they laugh because they go, “Oh, my god. That was me.” And we laugh because we are almost embarrassed a little bit that we got that angry.
Do you find anybody that isn’t willing to open up to that idea?
Everybody who has said that they don’t like the song — there are a handful of people who don’t get it — everybody who has said that is in a sort of predicting business. Sort of saying, “I don’t think this is good for other people. I don’t think they’re going to like it.” And I say, “Do you not like it?” And they go, “No, I think it’s funny.” It’s the people who are like the tastemakers that are thinking it might not be OK. They are underestimating the audience. But the audience, literally across all ages, understands the song for what it is. It really isn’t a mean song. They really haven’t taken it as a call to action that we should be mean and take up arms. It’s really about the opposite. It’s not about going out and praying about bad things for people. It’s a release. It’s a cathartic release and it relieves the tension. People are actually happy from it — they laugh at it. That’s the real reaction that’s been happening. If you look on social media and you follow what people are doing and you watch the fan’s reaction — their honest, unadulterated reaction — it’s all comedy. It’s all smiles. It’s not causing people to become angry.
When I heard it, it reminded me of writing a letter and mailing it to yourself just so you can write down everything you want to get out of your head.
That’s what Mark Twain used to do. He would write these angry letters to people all the time. And he would stick it in his mailbox and his wife would take them out. So he got that cathartic feeling of having just said the words he needed to say, and he wrote it down. It never got to the person, but sometimes just saying it and hearing it out loud for yourself is enough.