by Kenny Kerner

Jeff's story is kind of unusual. He grew up in a "hippie family," as he puts it, and as such, inherited his family's record collection. After seeing an episode of The Monkees on television, Jeff thumbed through the records trying to find one of their LPs. But what he thought was a Monkees LP turned out to be Revolver. "I put the LP on the turntable because on the back cover, they sorta looked like the Monkees. But when the music came on I thought--wow, this is a lot better than the Monkees! I was about six or seven years old at the time and fixated on 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Yellow Submarine' and the obvious stuff. From that I inherited their entire Capitol Records catalog."

By the time Slate turned thirteen, he had written his very first song--"Times We Spent"--and was already performing with local bands. He learned bass and then picked up guitar and piano. Although music was always his first love, Jeff went to college (New York University) and spent three additional years in law school. "I spent seven or eight years in New York City just dabbling in one project or another and trying to find my way musically. It was really hard to find your way musically in the 80s because there was no music happening. I cannot think of more than a couple of albums from the 80s that I still listen to. My heart was really into the music from 1967--the year I was born. Everything I wrote sounded like it; everything I heard in my head sounded like it."

From the very beginning, Jeff just wanted to make records. Thoughts about becoming a star came and went, but the desire to record burned strongly within him. "I always just wanted to make music for a living--write songs and make records. In 1980, I sent a tape to Geffen Records and got a response from someone named Carole Childs. It never amounted to anything but I was 13 at the time and her answers inspired me to continue with music. It was really nice."

Name: Jeff Slate
Residence: New York, New York
Age: 33
Occupation: Musician/Web Developer
Joined TAXI: 1998
Songs Forwarded: 30+
Deals: planetjam (Internet label)
Slate was determined to succeed and tried everything he could think of to get his music heard by someone who could make a difference. "I would watch TV and if I saw Lou Reed on a show I would find out who managed Lou Reed and get a tape to that person. Or, sometimes I'd find out where Lou lived and drop a tape off at his house. These tapes were terrible, but because I was tenacious, I sometimes was able to get a person on the phone. I did this all through the late 80s and early 90s but nothing really happened."

Though Jeff was making lots of new friends and building a fan following, he wasn't really making any progress toward recording. Then, in 1993, things changed: "I was out one night with some friends and I ran into Pete Townshend. We ended up going out drinking until about five in the morning. Later on, he was in New York doing Tommy and he and his buddy decided to do a production deal with me. They put about $30,000 into the recording and I was shopped to all the big labels. We had big meetings with big people but it just didn't happen. I didn't have the right manager, didn't have the right people, I wasn't in the right place."

A couple of years of meetings, frustrations and spinning his wheels led Jeff to retreat--both to get some rest and regroup and to create some new material. "I had always seen the TAXI ads in Musician Magazine and it looked like the only thing that was legit. This sounded real so I investigated but still couldn't raise the money to join. Eventually, after my girlfriend gave me the money as a birthday present, I signed up. It was great. I was then able to, at my own pace, and at my own discretion, put songs out there."

Though Jeff had been writing songs for some 15 years now, the feedback he received from the TAXI screeners didn't really tell him anything he didn't already know. But, joining the indie A&R company did two very important things for him: "First, it got me off my ass. Seeing the new listings in my mailbox every two weeks reminded me that there is opportunity out there. The forwards also allowed me to build relationships. It plugged me in. I now have no trepidations about submitting any of my songs. It focused me."

Jeff didn't hesitate to recommend TAXI to aspiring songwriters the world over. "I asked around and they seem pretty above board. Everyone I asked told me they were real and legit. I did not hesitate when it came time to renew my membership. I had connections. I had all sorts of doors open for me but I never felt like I was in control of the direction. I had connections and TAXI was infinitely beneficial. If you're not plugged in, then TAXI is absolutely essential. Not just because it will focus you but because it really opens those doors."

You can find out more about Jeff at these Web sites: Jeff Slate and Digital Retro.


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