Geoff Jewett braves the spotlight of new solo career

Jason Savio

You can’t be afraid to take chances. That’s the motto Geoff Jewett is living by these days. The former guitarist in local hard rock band Switchblade Suicide has traded in his power chords for a different approach to songwriting, one that he has never tried. The risk is great, but the reward could be even greater. To make it more difficult, he’s doing it on his own as a first-time solo artist.

If you’ve been around the Worcester area during the past decade, you likely have heard of Switchblade Suicide. The homegrown rockers hit their stride when they won Best Up and Comers and Best Metal Act at the Worcester Music Awards and then proceeded to open shows for major headliners Cheap Trick and KISS in 2010. They ended up dismantling in 2012, but Jewett decided he wasn’t done yet. Instead of resting on his laurels, the Holden native saw the change as an opportunity.

“Once the band stopped, it felt like a good time to buckle down and try something different,” said Jewett. “It was an opportunity to write some music outside of the hard rock genre. I embraced some of my other influences to see where it would take me and started to accumulate a bunch of material.”

It’s certainly a scary proposition – going from being a member of successful group to suddenly being on your own, attempting to write and perform a different kind of music. The music in question, according to Jewett, is all singer-songwriter, folk, country and Americana focused. This sounds like a far cry from Switchblade Suicide, but, as Jewett says, it was always there waiting for him.

“I have always been a fan of Southern rock, Heartland-type rock, folk and country as much as hard rock and heavy metal,” said Jewett. “It was music my father used to play and that I started listening to as a kid and listened to while I was playing in Switchblade Suicide. While I was in the band, I was writing songs in those genres at the same time as working on songs for Switchblade Suicide.”

With a new lease on his music life, Jewett seems to be relishing the moment. He recently performed his first full acoustic show at Vincent’s, where he was able to try out some of his new material in front of a live audience. By the end of the show, two of his former Switchblade Suicide bandmates, Dennis Vasconcelos and Brian Hoffman, joined him on stage for a couple of songs.

“Geoff had a killer spot that night, and everyone there was digging his stuff,” said Hoffman, who played bass in Switchblade Suicide. “He did a stellar job that night, and it was so pleasing to see him playing this entire new set of songs, which is fitting and very natural for him. He has a very versatile style, and it’s great to see him out there singing and playing guitar exclusively.”

“It was great to be up there with him again,” added Vasconcelos, Switchblade Suicide’s singer. “(It was) just like riding a bike … drunk. We fell right back into our old roles and had a blast.”

It may sound like Jewett has glided rather easily into his new solo position, but he’ll be the first to tell you that hasn’t been the case.

“There were definitely some growing pains,” said Jewett of his transition from being in a hard rock ensemble to a solo singer-songwriter. “You spend seven years playing with people who have your back, and you have theirs. You work as a team to play and put on the best show you can. As a solo artist, you are up there alone. It’s a different and much more vulnerable feeling.”

Jewett likens the experience to a song written by Chuck Cannon and Shawn Mullins – “The Great Unknown,” in which the narrator is a singer who braves the stage alone.

“It really does feel like a void and this great unknown – looking out at a bunch of strangers, hoping you’re going to make a connection through your music,” said Jewett.

Making that connection doesn’t only happen on stage, however. It also takes root in the studio. Right now, Jewett is in the very early stages of putting together his first solo recording. He’s currently going through material, figuring out what fits together, but doesn’t have anything set in stone for a release date.

“As far as writing, I think I am getting better at (tapping) into emotion and telling a story in a song now,” said Jewett. “That being said, a lot of material gets tossed aside. I think it’s a constant development process when you are writing songs. Every time I think I have one that feels right, I want the next one to be even better.”

Hoffman can attest to Jewett’s hard work ethic, citing their time together in Switchblade Suicide and the recent gig at Vincent’s.

“Now, just like in the past Switchblade Suicide days, he is committed to his music,” said Hoffman. “He puts the work in and takes it very seriously. He spent months and months fine-tuning the Allman Brothers Band’s ‘Come and Go Blues’ for the Vincent’s show, and that is a far from simple song to play.”

It doesn’t sound like work when Jewett talks about his commitment to music. Instead, there’s a sense of fun and adventure, an energy that keeps him motivated and looking for more. Always on the move, Jewett plans on visiting Nashville this summer to “learn more about and get involved in the songwriting community there.

“I’m looking forward to learning more and being the best writer I can be and, hopefully, being a part of a song that really impacts someone’s life,” added Jewett. “My favorite part is the challenge of sitting down to create a story or moment that never existed before. How cool is that?”

For more information, visit soundcloud.com/geoff-jewett.