LBI and music go together. I would go so far as to say that just about everyone who comes to LBI for a visit will listen to live music at some point during their stay. It is part of LBI experience tradition these days. There are multitudes of venues including bars, coffee houses, art galleries and public parks all hosting, usually free, live music events. The style of music is diverse to satisfy every taste, jazz, classical, reggae and of course, classic rock.
Rock music seems to resonate with the island the most, which makes sense since the Jersey Shore was the starting point for some of the biggest talent from the Garden State. Bruce Springsteen, had been known to play on LBI in the 70’s before he made it big. In the 80’s Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Joan Jett were some of the stars visiting or playing on the island. LBI made it to the big screen with a scene in the 1983 movie, “Eddie and the Cruisers”. Celebrity sightings on LBI these days are mostly Pop stars including Taylor Swift and Christina Aguilera. Growing up some of my favorite places to see live music included Rick’s American Cafe, Joe Pop’s, Nardi’s and The Tide. These days I go to Ann Coen’s Gallery, Ship Bottom Fire House Block Party or Harvey Cedars Sunset Park to see live music. My gallery has its own little art and music festival, the annual Summer Art Opener, featuring three local musicians or bands. All great places to sip some wine while swaying to the rhythms of sweet tunes in the warm summer breeze as the sun sets.
Today’s local musical talent is deep and varied. There are times when I am listening and I say to myself, “This artist is going to be big. Enjoy them now.” I sense they are playing for the love of their craft. The honesty reverberates through their guitar licks and lyrics. Whether it’s Sahara Moon at the LBIF, Ryan Zimmerman at Ship Bottom Brewery or Ty Mares as the featured artist for Monday Concert Series at Bayview Park, I find myself not distracted by my phone or conversation, but focused on their music.
One of the hardest working musicians on LBI has to be Greg Warren of Harvey Cedars. Greg plays in three bands, Chevy Lopez, Warren Brothers Band and the Moondrips. When not playing in a band, he plays solo gigs. He plays three instruments: guitar, drums and piano. To top it off, he writes and produces his own music. His interest in music encompasses a variety of styles including jazz, which with its diverse manner of expression, appeals to Greg the most. The freedom it allows a musician to explore and move around best suits his aesthetic. Inspired by the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, John Coltran, George Benson and many others, it provides a creative blue print for pursuing his peaceful, groovy sound.
Greg started out like most musicians, playing piano as a kid, then guitar in his tween years and most recently, as a result of exploring new instruments during jam sessions, discovered a natural aptitude for the drums. In the beginning he played in front of shops and restaurants for tips eventually catching the eye of Woodies owner, Pete, who was the first to hire Greg to play. It was during these early years when Greg saw the impact his music had on people, how much they enjoyed it and how this could be the start of a musical career.
For this story I followed Greg around for about a month. First, with the Moondrips at m.t.burton gallery’s, Summer Art Opener in Surf City. Then again with the Moondrips at the Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House in Manahawkin, Chevy Lopez at the Ship Bottom Fire House Block Party and finally The Warren Brothers at the Daymark in Barnegat Light. The Moondrips have a jazzy, chill and groovy sound. Guitar, bass and drums at m.t.burton, guitar, bass and sax at the OC. Two different vibes but in both gigs you could get a feel for the soul of Greg’s music. Chevy Lopez has more of a funky R&B sound that got me groovin’. The Warren Brothers has a feel-good eclectic jam sound. Greg easily moves back and forth with his stand out guitar sound.
After the dust had settled Greg and I hooked up for a little Q & A.
Matt Burton: I met your parents at Daymark, they are very supportive - how have they shaped your musical direction?
Greg Warren: I can’t even put into words how supportive they have been. Ever since I was very little they encouraged me to explore music in any form, on any instrument. They got me my first guitar, they got me my first lessons, and tolerated me playing all the time when I wasn’t very good. They let us turn our basement into a makeshift recording studio full all sorts of equipment and ungodly noises. They would drive me to open jams in the area when I was 16 and encouraged me to get up on stage and play with people who were 3 times my age.
They also have an impeccable taste in music. I remember long car rides where I was introduced to all sorts of genres and artists that shaped my musical taste. My Dad is always listening to music and is always searching for new artists - which is really inspiring to me. He listens to all sorts of stuff and I found a lot of my favorite music through him. My mom has a lovely voice and has always encouraged me to grow as a musician. She would drive me to all my lessons as a kid and loves when the band comes over and crashes after a gig. They are both incredibly patient and have tolerated a lot of shenanigans throughout the years. Without a doubt if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be the person or musician I am today. Hell, I probably wouldn’t even be a musician!! They are my biggest fans and supporters and come to every gig. I couldn’t have a more supportive family and I am extremely grateful for that.
MB: What is the goal for you as a musician?
GW: I would say that my main goal is to create a peaceful and groovy vibe that is always growing and NEVER the same twice. I like to be unobtrusive and different than most of the musicians that play around here. I Feel that by playing a lot of songs instrumentally it invites people in and grabs their curiosity while they try to pick out the melody and figure out what tune I’m playing.
MB: How’s the music scene on LBI?
GW: It’s interesting… there’s obviously the stereotypical shore standard of bar bands playing popular cover songs to tourists who only want to hear exactly that. However, if you dig a little deeper there’s an incredible scene of some really talented artists that have emerged in the last few years. Some of my close friends are in some really incredible original bands such as The Double Negatives, The Off White, Late Night Episode, Ryan Zimmerman, The Danksters, and Funk Shway.
MB: What’s the most difficult part of being musician?
GW: To me one the most difficult parts is the self-promotion and business end of it. It seems now that it’s more important to have cool pictures and a presence on social media then it is to create good music. I really like to let my music speak for itself and not worry about how many followers I have on Instagram or making “tour” posters of a few local gigs. I know that this side of it is necessary to get your art out there, but I hate when that outshines the music. I believe in building from the ground up and I’ve found that if the music is good then people connect with it and spread the word organically. Social media has really diluted the music scene and buries a lot of the truly talented musicians with people who are more focused on gaining followers with a façade of being an artist.
MB: Do feel you get support from the community?
GW: 100%. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support from the community. Thanks to people like Anchor Produce and Woodies who encouraged me at a young age, and now the bars that I play at regularly like The Arlington, Plantation, and Surf City Hotel. Perhaps the most support that I’ve gotten is from a wonderful lady named Joni Bakum. She has been supporting me and other musicians for a while and is extremely dedicated to helping musicians and artists. She has facilitated tons of shows of original music at Bay View Park and elsewhere. She is definitely a driving force behind local Original music.
MB: What would you do to help musicians in the area?
GW: I would say don’t get caught up in the expectations of the stereotypical shore band music scene. Look inward and seek out what interests you and follow that passion because that’s when you will find out what really inspires you and staying inspired is really the most important part. That’s the fuel that will allow your music to grow and take you to new places. Also, take risks and never get caught going through the motions. Always challenge yourself when playing.
MB: If there was one thing you would change or add to the area to help musicians- what would it be?
GW: I feel that we really need a venue that is made for music, and specifically focused on original music. A place with a stage and good acoustics. A place where people would go expecting to hear something new and different.
MB: With this article you have a platform- what do want to tell the people?
GW: Music is the commonality between everyone and everything. Everyone connects with some form of music and there is no right or wrong, or cool or uncool. Its whatever makes you FEEL. Not just feel good, but just feel anything. There’s SO MUCH music that has been created and yet people still listen to the same songs over and over because that’s what’s played on the radio. With today’s technology we have centuries of music at our fingertips so find something new and continue searching. You will not be disappointed. Be open to new music and always support young musicians.
As I was doing my “research” for this article I noticed some similarities between visual artists and performing artists. In this case I was the “viewer”. Just like viewing a painting on a wall there was space between me and performer (the art). I was another spectator in the crowd. The artist elevated, eye level on stage. I would step back and move around for another perspective or different view point. I couldn’t help but want to get closer. Unable to get close enough to touch. Licks of the guitar like the stroke of a brush. Rarely does the “viewer” get to go back stage and share in the moment with the artist. This was my opportunity to get up close. I highly recommend the next time you are out in front of our local bands, get up close as you can and feel it.
Greg is also an avid surfer and Program Director and instructor at the Barnegat Light Yacht Club sailing program. He can be heard live every Sunday at The Arlington in Ship Bottom. Visit chevylopez.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to book Greg for weddings, private parties or businesses. Go to https://soundcloud.com/greg-warrdoggy to listen to Greg’s album, “Easy Does It”.