Q&A with NY-based singer, songwriter and actor Jann Klose, ambassador for Desmond Tutu's TutuDesk campaign

"Helping others and doing good through your own success is very rewarding. It’s also complicated as there’s a whole set of issues and other people’s expectations can play a huge role. However, I think it’s a responsibility of success and the rewards come from within."

Jann Klose: Lyrics, Melody, Style & Light

Award-winning artist Jann Klose’s new single and music video “Pilot Light” has passed 1,000,000 views on YouTube. The video was shot during lockdown after the passing of Jann’s manager Gary Salzman from Covid-19 related illness. Jann asked his current NYC band members to tape themselves at home playing along to the track. Most recently, Jann had two songs placed on movie soundtracks, including his hit duet “Love You the Most” with Alicia Madison in the movie “Married Young” (Amazon) and “Let Me Be Brave” in the film “One Little Finger” alongside contributions by Quincy Jones, Siedah Garrett and Julian Lennon. Klose is an award-winning pop singer-songwriter, who has released six albums and two EPs. Jann was raised in Kenya, South Africa, Germany, and the United States and now resides in New York City. His music has been streamed over 1,000,000 times online and his album IN TANDEM (2018) feat. collaborations with Annie Haslam (Renaissance), Karen Zoid, RJ Benjamin, Tamara Dey, Ziyon (Liquideep), Peter Gabriel, Tlale Makhene, James Stewart (The Usual), Larry Beckett (Tim Buckley) is now available via Gallo Record Company/Sheer Sound. Jann is an ambassador for Desmond Tutu’s Tutudesk campaign. Jann’s album, MOSAIC (2013) featuring ‘Make It Better’ entered the Roots Rock charts at #22 and won three Independent Music Awards. The record also made the first round of the 2014 Grammys® in the categories Pop Vocal Album & Album Of The Year.                                                          Jann Klose / Photo Credit Mikiodo Media

His voice is featured in the movie 'Greetings From Tim Buckley' as the voice of Tim Buckley starring Penn Badgley and Imogen Poots. His songs have been heard on the Grammy® nominated 'Healthy Food For Thought' compilation as well as MTV Cribs and movies 'Dead Broke' featuring Paul Sorvino and 'A Venue For The End Of The World' featuring Dick Cavett and Ian Anderson. Jann scored the music for the award-winning short ‘The Beauty of Disaster.’ He has performed as an actor and singer in touring companies of Broadway musicals, including 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' 'Jekyll & Hyde,' and 'The Who's Tommy.' In 2005, the off-Broadway production 'Moonlight Interior,' a musical based on Klose's music, premiered in New York City. Jann Klose has periodically collaborated with members of classical rock group Renaissance and tours regularly in the U.S., Europe, Africa and Asia. He has worked with a wide range of artists including Pat Benatar, John Oates of Hall & Oates, Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole, Annie Haslam, Denny Laine and Steve Holley, Ann & Liz Callaway, Gary Lucas, Brett Dennen, Rusted Root, Vonda Shepard, Ben Taylor, RJ Benjamin, Karen Zoid, Tamara Day, Ziyon, Shekhinah, Amanda Black, Majozi, Jeffrey Gaines, Bret Michaels, Rosanne Cash, The Byrds' Roger McGuinn, Marty Stuart, The Yardbirds' Jim McCarty, Pete Seeger and Les Paul.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Rock Roots music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Any style in music to me is mostly about storytelling. I think that my life and travels influence how I write and what I choose to write about. In turn, a great song about someone else’s journey will have an effect on me if I can rate to it and if the combination of the lyrics, melody and style grabs my attention.

Where does your music creative drive come from? How do you want your music and lyrics to affect people?

I don’t really know where it comes from per se. All I know is that music has always had an effect on me I couldn't possibly deny. It’s been my best friend when I didn’t have anyone and it’s been my lover when I’m alone. I would hope that the same goes for my own music. It always feels like a small miracle when that happens considering the amount of content now available.                     Jann Klose / Photo Credit John Mazlish

"Any style in music to me is mostly about storytelling. I think that my life and travels influence how I write and what I choose to write about. In turn, a great song about someone else’s journey will have an effect on me if I can rate to it and if the combination of the lyrics, melody and style grabs my attention."

How started the thought of "Pilot Light"? How has the Covid-19 influenced your views of the world?

The song was initially written during a breakup but when we lost my manager and friend Gary Salzman the approach to the release changed completely and footage we had already filmed was shelved. Instead, I asked my NYC band and musician friends to film themselves at home playing along to the track and then Alex Vishno and Morey Levovitz (who are also behind “Love You the Most”) cut the footage together into what you see now.

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Well, there are many, but I would say that coming to the United States first as an exchange student was life changing. I ended up immigrating to the the U.S. from Germany and have lived in New York City for almost 20 years. It’s been one hell of a wild ride and the adventure of a lifetime!

What do you love most about the act of writing a song? What is the relationship between Lyrics and Poetry?

I like the digging… And by that, I mean the search for deeper thoughts and ideas. Writing songs (or poetry for that matter) can be an exercise in connecting with emotions that haven’t yet been uncovered.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Too many to count… I’ve met some great artists over the years and some have become dear friends, Annie Haslam of Renaissance, Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds, Larry Beckett (Tim Buckley lyricist,) Ann Hampton Callaway… John Oates, Suzanne Vega, Pat Benatar are folks I got to open for (in John’s case also perform with) and who’s music I grew up listening to. Les Paul, Gary Lucas, Pete Seeger… I’ve been lucky!

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Recording Peter Gabriel's “Don’t Give Up” with Annie Haslam at Rave Tesar’s studio with members of Renaissance and my own band was great. I loved the Kate Bush/Peter Gabriel collab on his album SO and am delighted I got to record the song with Annie for my album “In Tandem” in 2018.

"That collaboration is the key to success." (Jann Klose / Photo Credit Mikiodo Media)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I try not to think about the past. There’s so much new music that’s really good. I love writing not just for myself but also for and with others. Streaming has created a whole new marketplace and I think it should be embraced more broadly. I also think that streaming rates for artists and songwriters need to increase.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Nothing. All is as it should be. It’s just constant and very fast changes happening right now. Dealing with that better myself is the only thing I would change but hey, we’re all human!

Are there any memories from Annie Haslam, Les Paul, and Pete Seeger which you’d like to share with us?

Sure! Annie really gave me my first big break when I got to open for Renaissance on their 40th anniversary tour. She hadn’t really performed much in years and a concert we played in 2008 where my band, John Tout and Annie and myself performed together at the Sellersville Theater in Pennsylvania led to Annie getting Renaissance back together and touring the following year. She’s become a great friend and I love our version of Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” that we recorded together a couple of years ago. We have a couple of co-writes we are working on as well.

Les Paul just was one of the nicest, kindest people I’d ever met. He was so sweet and I was virtually pushed on stage (by Joey Reynolds, radio talk show host) at the iridium on Broadway for an impromptu version of “Summertime.” It was a most humbling experience! I remember taking the subway home and thinking, “did that just really happen?"

Pete Seeger, same thing… One of the nicest people you’d meet! Kind, intelligent, full of wisdom and much like a walking encyclopedia of music and history! His ability to remember detailed impressions from a particular moment in time was mind-blowing! His eyes were the brightest blue I’d ever seen.

"I try not to think about the past. There’s so much new music that’s really good. I love writing not just for myself but also for and with others. Streaming has created a whole new marketplace and I think it should be embraced more broadly. I also think that streaming rates for artists and songwriters need to increase." (Jann Klose & Pete Seeger / Photo Credit Emily Trower-Young)

NYC is a meeting point for artists of all ages. Why this city was/is a Mecca of avant-garde people?

I don’t know… It has always attracted everyone from every part of the world and every background, especially artists and actors. Still does! I just hope that we can get back to normal soon and open Broadway, the village rock clubs and music venues and theaters all over the area back up. It doesn’t feel the same without them.

How does activism affect your inspiration? What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?

I think it’s important to draw attention to social issues whenever possible. If I can do a small part in pushing things along and creating a little more awareness, I feel like I’ve done my part. There’s a real resurgence now with the Black Lives Matter movement that’s LONG overdue. People don’t feel powerless anymore. That was always the worst part of it for me personally… A sense of feeling like you had no control… That is changing for the better. Now we have to keep that work going. Doing that will have lasting effects, I think.

What touched (emotionally) you from Tim Buckley's music, "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "The Who's Tommy”?

With Tim it was the raw nature of the singing, the writing and instrumentations, the freewheeling and experimental quality that was always a part of his creative approach. JCS is just unlike most other shows… Great melodies and storytelling! The Who’s Tommy is probably one of my favorite shows and pieces of music ever. I can relate on a personal level to many of the songs and deeper messages. It was an amazing first gig to get after moving to New York! So inspiring.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in music industry?

That collaboration is the key to success.

"Well, there are many, but I would say that coming to the United States first as an exchange student was life changing. I ended up immigrating to the the U.S. from Germany and have lived in New York City for almost 20 years. It’s been one hell of a wild ride and the adventure of a lifetime!" (Jann Klose / Photo Credit Mikiodo Media)

What is the impact of music to the socio-cultural implications? What touched (emotionally) you from Tutudesk campaign?

Helping others and doing good through your own success is very rewarding. It’s also complicated as there’s a whole set of issues and other people’s expectations can play a huge role. However, I think it’s a responsibility of success and the rewards come from within.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Great question, thank you! As scary as this sounds but it would Berlin, Germany in the late 20s! The music, the theatre, the politics, the societal challenges… A writer's paradise!

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