JacksonVegas: Jacksonville’s Dilatory Troubadour

Even a chameleon must return to its natural color. So it is with multi-genre artist and JacksonVegas front man Grant Nielson, who has returned to his folk roots with the release of his six-song EP, Someday is as Good as Any Day.
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For Nielsen, who can wear the crown as Jacksonville’s troubadour son as justifiably as anyone, the EP is a return to his metaphorical musical home, paying homage to artists he grew up with and influenced him the most: James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell.

Nielsen first embarked on his musical odyssey by studying jazz at UNF on scholarship. He then followed the R&B/Rap/Funk siren in 2001 as one of the original members of the popular and enduring Fusebox Funk, a group that has mined that genre mix successfully.

“I spent my younger years doing everything but folk,” says Nielsen. “I wanted to experiment.”

In 2010, following the urging of friends and family, Nielsen returned to his folk beginnings and started JacksonVegas, with whom he sings and plays guitar.

“I wanted to come back to my roots and get serious about singing and songwriting,” he explains.
The songs are a partial compilation of his work during that time. Nielsen says that the EP is best described as Americana as it’s a blend of pop, country, blues, and rock. adding, “Because I’ve played so many different kinds of music I have a hard time staying focused on one style.”
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Nielsen’s description of his music belies its complexity. He creates haunting hooks that rarely resolve in an expected form, while varying melodic themes. “Within Your Skin” displays his smooth tenor working seamlessly in and around the interplay of his guitar and strings. “Only Your Soul” is an indie anthem that can stand up to anything of Mumford & Sons or Phillip Phillips (a very underrated songwriter) in its élan and cathartic stadium chorus. And on “Some Kind of Stranger,” Nielsen shows he can put an edge on his vocals to reflect the song’s soul-searching message.

Like his musical icons, Nielsen’s songs can be provocative, political, and pensive, questioning vanity (“Within Your Skin”) and exploring the unquestioned allegiance to one’s call to duty (“Only Your Soul”). He also expresses his love and allegiance to his hometown, particularly its downtown, in the workmanlike song, “Chip Away.”

“I believe this is the last opportunity for a renaissance for Jacksonville in my lifetime,” says Nielsen, who served as marketing director for Downtown’s entertainment district, The Elbow. “If it wants to climb out of its hole, now is the time. We can’t let this opportunity pass us by.”

Just as the melody structures of his songs rarely repeat identically, neither do JacksonVegas concerts. Nielsen often has a family of notable Jacksonville musicians, including John ParkerUrban, Cyrus Quaranta, Phillip Pan, Brett Bass, Bea Gayle and Frank Desalmo, who appear  with him live, making, as he says, “no two concerts the same.”

Someday is as Good as Any Day can be found at www.JacksonVegas.com.

Article written by Mike Bernos

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