Jeff Mitchell
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Jeff Mitchell

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | INDIE

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Shining, creepy cacophony..."

Batteries and Blankets is the newest album by Jeff Mitchell. ...his music is characterized by smart lyrics and diverse sounds. Released in 2006, Batteries is a bold cacophony of creepy love songs and indie folk ballads. Upbeat foot-stompers intermingle with mournful tirades. The recordings, like his live performances, shine most in their authentic simplicity. His best songs purvey his distinctive warmth and show off his knack for dynamic arrangements. Jeff's proficient finger picking and simple percussion flow through the album, binding a rambling progression of sad and celebratory songs. This album leaves me missing his passionate performances and charismatic force, so conspicuous in concert, even as my appreciation of his lucid talent leaves me waiting for the next album, and his next tour.

review by Diana Witcher / Echo Spring 2007
- Echo Magazine

"see this guy..."

Jeff Mitchell has played here before and was absolutely amazing. I hope that everyone can come on out and see this guy. He is so a very good way...not in the shitty way.

- Josh-Aunt Mary's Filthy Cabbage Depository-Lincoln City,OR

"Unique tone and lyrical genius..."

...Jeff's quirky mix of folk, electronica, and "melodramatic popular song" is a combination that made him a favorite local art to catch in the upper Midwest. His unique tone and lyrical genius, along with a true folk sense, make him a shining star in the sea of solo performers... - Benji Nichols - Inspire[d] Magazine

"I Love You"

"Jeff signs "i love you" with his hands in the shape of devil horns. He's one complicated guy...kind of like Hamlet...or Jim J Bullock."
- Stephen McCabe - The Willis

"Fun to Heckle"

"Jeff Mitchell is fun to heckle.
Next time you see him, come with your A-game."
- Alex - Winona, MN


"Dude, Batteries & Blankets is a masterpiece. Very listenable."
- Chris "Sandman the Rappin Cowboy" Sand

"Strange Bastard..."

"Jeff Mitchell is the strange bastard offspring of a fractured youth culture." - Erik Berry - Trampled By Turtles

"Through and Through..."

"It's been hard to stop listening to 'batteries and blankets' - it's a fantastic record - through and through." - Charlie Parr

"Tugged At..."

"I'm at work right now at a shelter in Duluth. Everyone's finally snug-as-bugs-in-rugs. I thought my heart was done having its strings tugged at for the night until i heard 'Let's Leave Her Here'..." - Dawn - Duluth, MN

"Gang Interview"

In the world today, such as it is, what role do singer/songwriters play in the lives of their listeners? Or better yet, what do you feel you specifically offer to your listeners?

JM: Generally, I believe that singer-songwriters serve a couple different purposes. One of the biggest is to provide people with a kind of indexing and retrieval system for emotions and abstract memories. I hear an old song and it evokes feelings in me that come from both the song and whatever I was going through when the song first made an impression on me.

Another role of the singer-songwriter is inspirational. There's a broad sentiment today that all of the good ideas have been explored and played out. The urge to label artistic movements gives the impression that all areas of thought are "post" this, "neo" that, or "meta" something else. That kind of view may be right but it can get really depressing if you're hung up on the idea of being "original". When some musician takes a form as potentially limiting as the three-minute pop song and comes up with something really breathtaking, it just reminds me that it's probably still worth getting up in the morning. This is especially true when the song is written by someone I know.

Personally, I try to provide a few things for the listener. I've got this idea that people feel less isolated when they find that others have gone through similar emotions and experiences. If I can be honest about my life, maybe someone will benefit from that. People come to the show and usually laugh some. Once in a while somebody gets a little choked-up and misty. They get to go through a range of emotions inside a totally abstract, invisible space that the song creates. When things are going really well and I'm open enough, there's a feedback loop of emotions and thoughts that starts up between me and the audience. Sometimes a heckler yelling stuff at me is just what I need to get me into that dialogue, even if it's just a bunch of sarcasm and bad jokes.

When did you start playing and writing music?

JM: I started playing the piano when I was a little kid. I don't think I started writing songs until I got my first guitar. When I was 12, my Grampa Mitchell gave me one of his electric guitars and a big, old amp. I started playing mostly rock and roll and quit playing piano shortly after that. Me and my friend Arne started a band in his parents' basement and I wrote some really cheesy song on his mom's synthesizer. We've played in bands together ever since.

Did you discover the saw as a musical instrument yourself or did someone or some band introduce you to it?

JM: I'm sure I've been aware of the saw for a long time, but it first caught my attention on an R.Crumb and His Cheap Suit Serenaders record. Shortly after, I found a book in the Oshkosh library that explained how to do it. When I moved to Decorah, I got a bow and let it be known that I was going to play the saw. Everybody told me I had to meet Gordie Macmasters. He was a regional semi-celebrity saw player. I bugged him and he had me out to his farm to play together. He showed me what I was doing wrong and we played a bunch of country tunes together. He played the harmonica too, so I'd back him up on the guitar. After playing, we talked about farming for a while. Gordie passed away this year and I know that he's greatly missed.

When and where and doing what, would you say was your most satisfying performance?

JM: There have been a ton of really magical shows, but this is the one that springs to mind first. I was playing a halloween show at the Hay Market in Decorah with my friends Erik Berry and Bryan Jacks in our Black Sabbath cover band, Takoh Tuesday. It was a really loud, raw, aggressive show and everybody in the audience was in costume. At the end of the show, we were in the middle of the song "Supernaut". I was creating all these vocal loops over this huge, very heavy metal groove, Basically, we were rocking very hard and I just had my head down, creating this big, really loud, psychedelic sound. I finally looked up, and it looked like the crowd was at a rolling boil, they were all dancing so hard with these big grins, right up in our faces. I was in heaven. There's nothing quite like a very loud, electric rock show, when it's really happening. That was an incredibly good time.

How many different bands have you been in, and what style of music are they?

JM: I've been in a ton of bands. Most of them were rock, but there's been metal, alt-rock, honkey-tonk, jug-band, noise-punk, glam. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Oh yeah, we had a pep band called the Prickly Pear Pep Band. I played the bass drum. We played "Tequila", "White Rabbit", and one more I think. We always talked about starting a temperance band called the Teetotalitarians, but it never happened. Never say die, I guess.

Isn't folk dead?

JM: If folk is dead, I don't think it's really noticed yet. People keep playing it at a grassroots level, although it's morphed into many genres. Maybe folk is undead. That would make it zombie music.

During your live performances, instead of simply singing songs, would you consider also doing puppet shows?

JM: I've definitely thought about it. Douglas Johns and I have collaborated on projects like that in the past. I usually reserve that kind of stuff for my Halloween performances at the Acoustic Cafe' in Menomonie. I think eventually, I'd like to bring my interests in theatre and music into closer proximity.

What is your greatest weakness?

JM: Depends on who you ask. Over-intellectualization and self-doubt have got to be right up there though. I don't practice, write, or draw as much as I should. Nor do I floss often enough.

Do you prefer working live or in the studio?

JM: I really love them both. I play live much more though, so I've got more postive memories of that as a result. Nobody cheers in the studio, but you generally get to eat lots of junk food.

I like to hear about an artist's background, like where from and influences (not artistic). I feel like I have insight into the art that way.

JM: I grew up in Stewartville, MN, which was a town of about 6000 people or so when I was growing up. It's a bedroom community to Rochester, where the Mayo Clinic and IBM are. My dad was a technical writer at IBM and my mom was a teacher after she made it through college after many long nights. She taught learning disabilities and emotional-behavioral disorders classrooms and homerooms (I can never keep up with the proper terminology. Please don't be angry with me.) so she was always testing me and my friends for whether we were right or left-brained and stuff like that . We figured out pretty easily that I'm ADD. I'm sure that's affected me artistically, maybe in a good way.

I guess we were middle class while I was growing up, but my folks used to live in a trailer with all plastic furniture down in New Mexico when my brother was born. We used to go to the thrift store a lot when I was little. After a while, I developed this taste for Levis, which were very important in Stewartville, and I got them, so we were doing better I guess. Now I shop at the thrift store all the time again. I feel kind of bad I wasted all that money of Mom and Dad's.

How many instruments do you play?

JM: I play (in descending order of skill, depending on who you ask) the guitar, baritone ukulele, saw, kazoo, washtub bass, sampler, washboard, Moog Taurus II bass pedals, kick-drum, concert bass drum, accordion, and the radio. I'm sure I missed something.

Who has been your most significant musical inspiration?

JM: All my greatest musical inspirations are in my family. My grandfathers were both very active musicians. My Gramma on my Mom's side was a great pianist as is my Mom. My dad used to play the accordion quite well, along with the harmonica and guitar. Now he claims that he only plays the radio, but he could be rocking if he wanted to. My brother is a huge reason I play guitar. I used to do everything he did, growing up. He ran cross-country and track, so I did too, and so on. We both got electric guitars around the same time and he used to introduce me to all kinds of great music. He got me into some stuff that continues to interest me deeply, like Mr. Bungle and The Pogues.

Who are some of your all time favorite musicians?

JM: Just to name a few: The Pixies, Leon Redbone, Patsy Cline, Congratulations On Your Descision To Become A Pilot, Neutral Milk Hotel, Tom Waits, Iris DeMent

In 3 sentences or less, how would you describe your music?

JM: My music is a deeply personal method for me to communicate with my own subconscious mind, experience true, momentary freedom, and engage in an abstract dialogue with the world.

What do you love about music?

JM: What's not to love? It's totally necessary for me. Music is constantly full of surprises and beauty, even when it's noisy and harsh. I love to rock out very hard. I love delicate music. I love music.

If you could go learn/study music in another part of the world, where would it be and why?

JM: I've always fantasized about studying the Gamelan music used in the shadow puppet plays on the island of Java in Indonesia. I am fascinated but profoundly ignorant about it.

What are the rewards of being in the music business?

JM: If you can get yourself paid, you can go on vacation for free when you tour. People cheer and clap when you get done working, which makes it a pretty unique job. You get to meet and collaborate with some really wonderful people, including the audience. You get to wear your heart on your sleeve and be rewarded for it.

What are the hardships of being in the music business?

JM: If you're a lousy businessperson like me, it can be incredibly stressful. People feel licence to loudly criticize musicians they don't like which they don't feel towards folks in other professions. Sometimes, it gets to feeling very self-indulgent, pretentious, and arrogant to be running around singing your songs. That kind of self-doubt can be pretty unpleasant.

What sparks your songwriting process? and what's the process--do you write in bits and pieces or do you work on one song at a time?

JM: Usually the song comes out all at once, but sometimes I'll work on a song for years, so they kind of overlap in that way. See above for sparks. Horrible life catastrophes are usually pretty reliable inspiration though.

- Jeff Mitchell email list members


Doubleplusgood Records (Minneapolis, MN)

Jeff Mitchell: vocals, guitar, Moog bass, organ, bells

Stephen McCabe: synthesizers, electric piano, organ, marimba, pedal steel

Mark Powers: drum kit, cajon, percussion, loops

Justin Perkins: electric bass

1. Five Stars
2. Born Pathetic
3. House on Fire
4. Let's Leave Her Here
5. New Finger
6. Batteries and Blankets
7. Seeds of Aster
8. Sister Liz
9. Rottweiler
10. Wildwood Flower

Recorded by Justin Perkins (Smart Studios) at Topsoil Studios in Oshkosh, WI

Distribution: Southern, Carrot Top, Choke





Jeff Mitchell's songs are flashes of memory, emotion, and dry humor. His raw approach to fingerstyle guitar shifts from the pedestrian to the uncannily bent with little warning. His live shows have earned him a reputation for emotional intensity, lyrics that silence a room, and the occasional barnburner freakout.

Mitchell is a native of rural Minnesota transplanted to Milwaukee. His time spent living in small towns is essential to his songs and is obvious to listeners from out of the way places. He is a lifelong devotee of early music and singing old country songs passed down in his family. He also came of age in some gloriously ragged garage bands. Over the past 20 years or so, his interests in writing and experimentation have grown to combine his portraits of midwestern life with a strange undercurrent of dark, electronic psychedelia.

Jeff is perhaps best known as collaborator with others. As a founding member of Field Report, he spent two years in the arranging, recording, and subsequent intense touring behind the group's debut album. Mitchell is also known for his live work with Duluth fingerpicker Charlie Parr, a decade-long and very deep relationship with a collective of rock and folk musicians in Oshkosh, WI, and formative work with a group of close friends in Northeast Iowa including bassist/mandolinist Erik Berry, now of Trampled By Turtles. Most recently, Jeff has been performing with the instrumental trio, Dryhouse Ruins, with Damian Strigens (ex. Field Report, Testa Rosa) and Jim Warchol (Death Blues).

While Jeff may remain obscure as a solo artist, he continues to build a body of work which resonates very deeply with certain people. His songs are stark in their honesty and vulnerability but filled with an eerie beauty revealed by careful listening.

Band Members