Speaking with the 27-year-olds in separate interviews, it was easy to discern that Evan and Jaron are very different people. They have different views and write music separately. But there’s one thing both brothers told POLLSTAR in almost the same words: People should listen to their music with ears, not eyes.
Evan and Jaron don’t have the typical story to tell of playing music all their lives. Growing up in Atlanta, they were semi-pro baseball players and captains of their high school basketball, tennis and soccer teams before either picked up an instrument. Evan got hooked on guitar at around age 17 and then Jaron got pulled in.
When the two decided to become performers, they wasted no time. They started pumping out original songs and released their first demo to coincide with their first show at age 19. Apparently, they were naturals at music and business.
Their first album on their own label, sarcastically titled A Major Label Records (because radio stations said they wouldn’t play anything that wasn’t on a major label), sold around 18,000 copies as the guys took it on the road. They put away $25,000 they earned in the summer of 1995 and hired a band. Three months later, major record companies began circling.
In June of ’96, Evan and Jaron got a surprise phone call from the ruler of the Parrotheads, Jimmy Buffett. “He was talking about bringing us over to Margaritaville, which was an imprint of Island,” Jaron said. “He felt like we were little Jimmy Buffetts; he saw himself in us. He thought that we were very similar to the way he had started, and we were very hands-on in the business and in every aspect.”
With Buffett’s help, the duo secured a deal with Island Records. Unfortunately, after they finished their debut Island record, We’ve Never Heard of You Either, label chairman Chris Blackwell left. “Our record came out in April of ’98 under a new regime that didn’t really know us or care about us,” Jaron said. “And then, two months later, PolyGram got bought out so along with about 500 other bands, we got caught in the shuffle.”
Wasting no time, Jaron moved to Los Angeles and convinced his brother to come along. There, they were pleasantly surprised to sell out showcase club dates. However, they got caught in the L.A. state of mind.
“We did three sold-out shows at a small place and none of the music people could get in because all of the film studios were there,” Jaron said. “Every damn director and film person came after us trying to get us to be actors in L.A. We’re like, ‘We’re musicians!'”
In addition, the current-day boy-band phenomenon has led some to make assumptions about Evan and Jaron. “In the last three years, [music critics] have asked us, ‘Do you play your own instruments?'” Evan said. No doubt that could be taken as an insult to a pair of musicians who have written a large number of songs and toured steadily for the last eight years.
It was only a few months after the Island misadventure that Columbia Records picked up Evan and Jaron and got the wheels rollin’ again. Their self-titled Columbia debut has sold more than 172,000 units since its release in September and radio won’t stop playing the hit single, “Crazy For This Girl,” literally.
“We’re trying to go for our new single and stations are still playing ‘Crazy For This Girl.’ With some stations, it’s still going up. They’re adding rotations,” Evan said. “We’re like, ‘OK, OK, OK. We want you to play [the new single] “From My Head To My Heart” now.'”
Not that the brothers are complaining. They know the routine of playing markets over and over to build a fanbase through touring, and they’ve been proud of their results. But radio has brought things to a whole new level.
“Now, we’ll show up in a city that we’ve never even played before and because of the radio support, we’ll sell the show out or there will be like 750 people or 1,000 or whatever it is and you’re like, ‘What the!'” Evan marveled. “The power of radio is so not to be underestimated. It’s huge.”
Their widening fanbase means the expansion of their business, and Evan and Jaron stay hands-on. Because they came to Columbia with their homework already done, they are team players with the label, Jaron said.
“We understand that it’s about the music but we understand that it’s about the business, as well. At the end of the day, my bottom line is the continual growth of my art. At the end of their day, it’s the sale of the record,” he explained. “You have to meet in the middle and realize that as long as your record company is continuing to nurture your artistic growth, then you’re gonna have to go out and, unfortunately, be a salesman at times.”
“For that one hour a day I’m onstage, I become an artist, but for the rest of the day, I’m a salesman. Hopefully, if I can sell my record, it will give me another opportunity to go out and be an artist.”
Both brothers are very happy with their live show, which Jaron said includes crazy theatrics, all in the name of fun. They just embarked on their first major headline tour, which will hit cities all over the U.S. through June.