Jeff Paxton’s tone and lyrics feel raw and real. Everything that indie is supposed to be.
He released “The Great Southwest” before, but now it’s under new management — Minor League. The newly formed band describes the song as a portrayal of two characters contemplating the inevitability of death. Quite a topic to tackle, for sure!
Our first character embraces the idea of death, even romanticizing it.
The great Southwest doing tricks doing pirouettes
Are we there yet?
Look at me I’m a red rosy silhouette
Are we there yet?
The second character on the other hand, prefers to work until death stops him in his tracks.
Please stop, I don’t want a shoe shine
Are we there yet?
Steel toed, my coat is flannel-lined
Are we there yet?
Lying awake is for quitters and hipsters he said
I wanna feel my flesh and blood I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Both characters understand that death will come. For one, death provides peace and maybe even escape. For another, death is an inevitable inconvenience.
And me I think I have found a way
You see this could be our breakaway
You see, I won’t let you slip away
‘Til we’re digging holes in the ground
With lyrics like these, Minor League addresses a serious topic with a tune that sticks and lyrics that anyone can relate to regardless of their place in society. The instrumentation fits the southwestern theme and characters well, but the beat and strumming pattern feel slightly counterintuitive to the introspection produced by the lyrics. This dissonance seems to be a trend in recent indie artists. Just by listening to this one song, you can tell that Jeff Paxton and his band Minor League know what they’re doing. And they’re probably fun to see live as well!
I had the privilege of hearing Jeff’s perception of “The Great Southwest.” Check out what he had to say:
You previously released a live version of “The Great Southwest” on The Tomes’s Live from Chuck’s House, but this new version has a slightly different feel. Can you explain the subtle changes in the new recording?
The first released version of Great Southwest was a live, house concert recording. For what it was, I think it turned out really well. All of the live recordings on “Live at Chuck’s House” really capture the energy I wanted. Live albums are always my go-to albums for any band, so I wanted to have one for myself as well.
What changes can listeners expect in your songwriting and sound in this new endeavor? Will we see more of The Tomes’s music remastered by Minor League?
Beyond just being a new name, Minor League is a more specific direction for my music. The Tomes was beyond eclectic. Our first album “The Importance of Being Shackleton” had 11 songs and 11 genres. As a young band that no one’s ever heard of, you need to give people something they can easily define. Minor League is joyful, melodic, 90s-leaning rock and roll music. Put a bow on it. As for re-mastering The Tomes, we’re definitely planning on re-recording some of the songs from Live at Chuck’s House that fit into that style. I’m thinking New Pair of Pants will be the next song we record.
Can we expect more of this storytelling style from you in the future?
I’m not a “storyteller” songwriter in a traditional sense. I’m not Willie Nelson writing a concept album about the “Red-Headed Stranger.” My writing is rarely (never?) literal. Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) uses the word “impressionist” to describe his writing, and I think that fits my style as well. Yes, I am telling stories in my songs. No, there’s not a narrative arc or other literary elements. I enjoy describing experience in unique ways that create different impressions and feelings for different people.
You describe the song as “lighthearted” although death is the underlying theme. Is this move intentional? If so, what is the reason behind it and can we expect more of these counterintuitive combinations in later releases?
My favorite quote is by a U of Texas philosophy professor Paul Woodruff from his book “Reverence.” It says: “Reverence and a keen eye for the ridiculous are allies.” I think the key to being a great poet is to know what things should be taken seriously, and knowing what things should be blown to pieces. Death is serious, but the way people insulate themselves from its seriousness can be a little humorous. “Bury me in the shade with a cigarette…”
In what environment do you feel most inspired?
That’s easy: outside on the porch, early in the morning, with a big cup of coffee. I’m creatively worthless after 2pm.
Do the majority of your songs spring from personal experience or do you tell the stories of others, whether fictional or real?
Both, equally. Something doesn’t have to be literally true to be real and have truth in it. That’s why we feel so much when we read a great work of fiction. It’s real and has true meaning, even if it didn’t actually happen. As a songwriter, how can I express truth? Guys like Paul Simon have mastered this. One of my favorite lines in any song is: “She comes back to tell me she’s gone / As if I didn’t know that / As if I didn’t know my own bed / As if I’d never noticed the way she brushed her hair from her forehead (Graceland).” I don’t know if this actually happened to him, but it doesn’t matter. It’s such a beautiful scene that it will stick with me forever.
Which artists would you most like to perform or record an album with?
I’d want to record an album with George Martin (r.i.p.), the producer who helped make The Beatles the greatest and most innovative band of all times. Without George Martin and his relentless creativity in the studio, The Beatles may have just been The Rolling Stones (sorry, Mick Jagger).
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This question haunts my dreams. Why would you do this to me? I’m just going to not overthink it and say Toots & The Maytals – “Funky Kingston.”
Houston has become quite a hub for aspiring artists. In what way has this helped you as an individual and as a band?
In Houston, there are so few legitimate opportunities, and audiences are so bad (really), that you have to get everything right. My wife and I critique every performance, because you just have to be perfect if you’re going to get anything done here. Also, all of this fighting for scraps has forced us to be solution oriented. My friend Patric Johnston and I have recently created a label (Lucky Jim), because we saw a need for representation, and we had to make something happen on our own..
What are you doing to set yourself apart from other artists?
My goal as an artist is to show that joy is something we should take very seriously. Joy isn’t cheesy or just for holiday decorations. I want my music to be joyful in a really profound way. Joy is the distillation of what’s beautiful about being a human. I want other artists to see that you don’t have to be dark and brooding to be a serious artist. When they listen to my music, I want people to feel the way I felt as a kid when it was time for PE class.
And one last question, just because – If you were a condiment/sauce which one would you be and why?
Butter. Because butter.