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You were dropped before the record was released?
Right, typical major label story. We spent some time touring and putting it out ourselves. I always wanted to do my own thing and the band was really cool, but I just played guitar in that band. I had always wanted to write and sing my own songs and stretch out on guitar, and that band was kind of the opposite of that. I just needed to go and follow my heart and do what I wanted. That’s why I left and started doing my own thing again.
Is this when you did The Coast EP? Was that a reaction to your band/label experience?
The first CD of mine, The Coast EP, was done after doing maybe two or three demos of me writing a bunch of different material and finally figuring out the direction I wanted to go in, but playing all of the instruments myself was definitely a direct reaction to being in a band. I wanted to do everything because I didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s comments, arguments, anything.
Jared Scharff and the Royals
Yeah, I wrote my own guitar parts but the singer brought in the songs. We didn’t have the best relationship as a band and I just didn’t want to deal with anything like that – I wanted to do everything the way I wanted to do it. I was pretty efficient at the instruments I played on the demo and I knew that I could do it really quickly. I didn’t want anything to stand in the way of my vision. And also, as part of your question, it always had been a dream of mine to do a record myself, like David Grohl or Paul McCartney. I play all those instruments and love it. I started playing out and I finally got a band together who ended up being some of my closest friends.
Yeah. Eventually, once we all kind of realized that was the jam, we were all like, “All right! Let’s do this!” Then we gave the band a name.
Is the Royals’ material a natural progression from The Coast EP – is it similar stylistically?
As it’s gone on, it has gotten more focused, but, yes, it’s similar material. The material has certainly continued to evolve and become more specific.
Have you been able to get things where you want them?
We put out another EP after that, called Jared Scharff and the Royals. And again, that was all me playing everything, and even from there we’ve gotten more specific. Now we are actually putting out a new EP with the whole band on it – we’re working on that now. That will probably be the most realized sound we’ve had yet.
I noticed that the tunes you have posted on your MySpace page are really radio friendly. The guitar, the riffs and the solos all serve the tune. You’ve got some pretty obvious chops – when you guys are out playing out do you stretch that out a little bit? Do your three minute songs turn into six minute songs or do you keep it pretty focused and structured?
Tom Petty is like my biggest hero of music, and I just wanted to write really great rock-pop songs that were a more classic-oriented but also a little edgy and modern. I just try to create an interesting solo that fits within the framework of that. You still get the guitar aspect of that and people say, “This is kind of different – there’s a guitar solo. No one’s doing that anymore.” That was the goal of that.
Live, there are a couple songs where we do stretch out – there’s probably three songs we stretch out, where we just go off and do the thing. For me that’s really important because that’s what I love to do when I play – I love just having an open road and being able to go where I need to go. And that probably brings me back because of my influences when I was in high school. All those jam bands – Phish and the Dead and the Allman Brothers – were really exploratory and creative, and that was something I was always interested in. So we definitely do a little bit of that, but we don’t do it all the time – we just do a little bit of it for our own fun and to change it up.
How did the Saturday Night Live gig come about?
Well, I’ve known Dr. Luke, who besides being the SNL guitar player for the last ten years is also one of the biggest songwriters out there right now. He’s responsible for “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson and “Girlfriend” with Avril Lavigne. You name it, he’s been a part of it. I’ve known him for a bunch of years and he wanted me to audition for the gig. I met Lenny Pickett, the bandleader, and he had everyone come in to hang. I basically brought my guitar, met [Lenny] and talked for two hours, played through a couple of SNL charts and that was the audition. I got a callback to play with the entire rhythm section and Lenny. I’m not exactly sure about the numbers, but I think it was something like 20 or so guitar players that went to that first audition. But every time I talk to somebody they’re like “Yeah, my friend auditioned for that” so maybe there’s more.
I got a callback, along with three other guitarists, to play with the rhythm section at a rehearsal studio on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. For a musician, that’s pretty much torture – I don’t usually go to sleep until four or five in the morning. But, I just went early and tried to warm up and listen to what was going on. In the rehearsal room, I tried to hear what I was in for – even though I really didn’t – and I did the best I possibly could. That was probably the first time in a really long time where I was actually nervous.
I was going to ask when that “Holy shit! This is Saturday Night Live” moment happened.
It was probably at that point when I knew I was playing with world class musicians. I’ve played with some great musicians in my time, but I haven’t necessarily played with people with credits like this. I was really nervous – it was scary, as well as interesting and exhilarating to play with them.