Brite Winter 2016 Artist Spotlight: Thaddeus Anna Greene
By Rachel Hunt
“You know how you expect that moment to feel, right? When somebody is coming out to see you? It was not like that,” TJ Maclin, front man of the soul-rock group Thaddeus Anna Greene shakes his head, dreads moving side to side. He’s telling the story about how the band had almost called it quits after a period of inactivity, but were offered an opportunity that turned into the perfect second chance.
It was August 4th in 2015: Maclin’s 25th birthday. It was one of countless Tuesday nights that have passed at The Grog Shop since opening at its current location on Euclid Heights Blvd. in 2003. “They helped us out,” says drummer Anthony Foti about booking the Coventry Village club right around the corner from where they all grew up. “We explained why we were doing it. We were essentially playing a showcase that night.”
The showcase: part of living the dream as a musician, but depending on how it goes it can easily become a nightmare. No matter how good you sound on Spotify, it is the one true way that A&R reps can see what a band is truly made of. If you’re not engaging onstage or you like to drink more than you love to play, the chance at stardom could be as good as gone. “We went from doing nothing to really having to be on top of it, but it was exciting,” Foti explains. Not surprisingly for those who have seen Thaddeus Anna Greene perform live, the reps were equally as excited to finally see what they had been hearing.
“We bounced back like Spandex,” matter-of-factly states Maclin.
Thaddeus Anna Greene has always had a knack for swagger, dating back to the release of their debut album Directory Of Thieves in 2011. They posted the bluesy rock and roll tracks on ReverbNation, a free music-sharing site with a hands-on approach to promoting emerging artists across multiple platforms. “We had been getting emails from them, but we thought it was just solicitation,” Maclin says.
“We really did. We thought they were just mass emails to join a new program,” laughs Foti. “Then, to put it nicely, shit got real and they started sending us personalized emails saying, ‘Hey, we want to come out to Cleveland and see you guys play.’ They discovered us, really.”
After not having a clear vision of what was in store for the band, Maclin, Foti, guitarist Ryan Augusta, and newly recruited bassist Matt DeRubertis put their lives on hold and left for New York in early October to record six songs with ReverbNation and play on their CMJ Festival Showcase at The Rockwood Music Hall. They were named to ReverbNation CONNECT’s “Watchlist” and had their newest single premiere on FADER. They shot video and interviews as well as took the band to see Electric Lady Studios, Jimi Hendrix’s own “playground” and one of Maclin’s biggest musical inspirations.
It is not a stretch that 2015 was a huge year for Thaddeus Anna Greene. The new single “Heart Out” takes their sound, rooted in Cleveland’s rock and roll history and sets it to lyrics inspired by present day political turmoil. “It was written out of frustration with current events,” Maclin elaborates. “How I can sort of see myself, my siblings, my cousins, or friends in the situations that people have been in lately, in the news. It’s frustrating, it’s scary, and it makes you mad. […] Verse one is me, the kid, having these bad things happen to him, and the second verse is somebody telling you what you got to do to stay above that.”
“The earlier stuff was a lot more playful and a little fantastical, a little more based in things that hadn’t happened yet,” Maclin says discussing the difference content-wise between The Directory of Thieves and the music Thaddeus Anna Greene is currently making. “We’re going to have those moments of humor and emotion, laughing and joking, that’s just who we are. But overall, we’ve grown and we’re writing about stuff that’s happening in our adult lives.”
“I think that the music has grown a lot too,” elaborates Foti. “We’re writing songs that we wouldn’t have written back then or couldn’t have written. The new material is a lot more eclectic in terms of style. We’re writing stuff that has an old school vibe, RnB and soul, more of a Sly Stone direction. It’s a broader palette now; it’s matured a lot.”
Foti and Maclin accredit the subtle change to being good listeners and sharing a range of new music with one another. “They got me hip to DeAngelo,” Foti uses as an example. “That’s going to allow me to go to a place with the drums and allow me to understand where something could go as a musician where before I wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
Music is the way that the newly re-formed Thaddeus Anna Greene speak to each other best. Their vocabulary exists in the sound, the emotion buried in the mood of each track. Even as their work matures with age, added knowledge, and better production, those qualities that make them a true new-school soul band remain intact. They may have started out playing Brite Winter Fest at the now defunct Garage Bar, but this year the band brings with them the confidence of finding some national attention and continuing their mission to make a sum greater than their individual parts.