John Cregan=J.P. Cregan
In my formative musical years, I operated many noms du roc. Just from my high school/college-era bands alone, the list is legion: "D.J. Stephanie," "Dex LaMama," "Brian Winston," "George Spelvin" and many, many more.
As I've been occasionally asked, why not just be...me? Like maybe use my real name for my music. Like once, even. Answer: because putting my own music out there is terrifying.
I may be only a semi-talented musician and weekend songwriter, but I do posses some command of Music History and Music Theory. Which gives me just enough knowledge and self-awareness to always make me pull back a little when asking others to listen to my stuff. More than anyone, I am painfully aware of my musical dents and shortcomings. (When you're a professional creative, self-loathing is a very underrated trait.)
So when I started making solo music (as myself) about 12 years ago, my (now departed) mother asked me if I was "finally going to be J.P."
You see, when I was a little kid, Mother had pressured me to go by "John Patrick" or "J.P."...anything but "John." She kept pushing the name change, even into my 20s. Like when I moved from D.C. to L.A. for film school, her only word of advice was that "switching coasts would be a PERFECT time to switch to J.P."
I never made the professional switch...but I knew J.P. Cregan was a good Power Pop name. So there it was/is. I picked "J.P." to make Mother happy.
I kind of see Twenty as the end of the J.P. Cregan trilogy. Three albums that track the last twelve or so years.
In 2008, I decided that J.P.'s albums would have a heavy autobiographical bent. Since I've always been too lazy to keep a journal, I thought of these albums as kind of a running diary. When you're making music on the side, and you want to tap into something real, and something fast...your own life tends to provide solid emotional cannon fodder.
I was entering fatherhood. Home ownership. It was of the dawn of true grown-up-ship. The education of a personage.
Man Overboard is about that initial maturation move. Letting go of the stuff you get attached to in your teens and 20s. I called it Man Overboard because it felt like I was abandoning my old, largely collegiate lifestyle. "Count to 3" is about seeing the first ultrasound of our son Flynn. The title track is about me being on a tour with a friend, and realizing I was way too old to be on any kind of tour at that point.
That album also contains the still-catchiest of my musical tropes: The Jeni Song. "Jeni" was the first song I ever wrote about the (then future) Mrs. Cregan. And "Jeni" is still kind of my national anthem. It sounds good in any style. I remember the first time I ever played it live (at the long-dead Coconut Teazer on the Sunset Strip), the sound guy interrupted the show to ask "who wrote that?" over the PA. When I said "I did." He yelled "that's a hit!" Now, I've never had an actual hit, but "Jeni," relatively speaking, is my greatest hit.
I've written almost 30 songs about Mrs. Cregan since "Jeni." They're measuring sticks of how I'm progressing - personally and musically. Man Overboard has three Jeni songs: "Jeni," "Out of Our Minds," and "The Underdog." Songs that sort of reflect that first unsinkable rush of love, marriage, etc.
Elba offers three more Jeni songs: "I Want to Let you Know," "Simple Fears" and "Fall With Me." But they're very different from the three Jenis on Man Overboard. They're shakier. Moodier. I called the record Elba because I felt like I was living in a odd brand of emotional Napoleonic exile.
I offer Man Overboard is a catchier album. But Elba is a deeper dive. It's weightier, more mature, and (IMO) better-written. I'm not saying it's Time of the Last Persecution or anything. But relative to the J.P. Cregan universe, Elba's more of a full-course emotional meal.
"Wreck," "Here It Comes Again," "I Want to Let You Know," "Simple Fears," "Wishing Blue" and "Fall With Me" are still tough for me to listen to because of the difficult events they memorialize. Taking care of sick family members, scary illnesses, dog attacks, crippling back injuries, professional disappointment, sudden familial deaths, recession, fear of losing one's home, financial problems, business problems...and deciding to have a second child in the middle of all that difficulty.
Elba also contains my vote for the best song I've ever written: "The Maritime." It has nothing to do with the heavy themes forming the rest of the album. It was an self-assignment: to write a satirical story song a la John Prine.
Y'see, in 2012, I was scratching my head with alarming frequency over all the NPR-fueled hyperventilation for the Northwest-based wave of what I called the "Ye Olde Faux-Indie Troubadours." Frowning, self-serious artistes who were cravenly biting everything they could from a certain brand of Gilded Age-esotericism. It was a shallow parlor trick. An aesthetic shortcut. But the gatekeepers back then went buckwild for it. So I turned all that willful lifting into "The Maritime"'s cautionary tale...a parable on the perils of rushing to crib style instead of laboring to create substance.
I've written about 160 songs over 30-plus years. I'd say about 15 of those 160 songs are objectively "pretty good." But about 5 of the 140 are "really good to containing a scintilla of great." "The Maritime" is my personal favorite of that top-5. ("I Want to Let You Know" is another top-5er.)
A lot of crazy things happened in and around Elba. But things went downright cattywampus after that. Put it this way: Twenty was originally supposed to 15. A song cycle celebrating me and The Current Mrs. Cregan's Fifteenth Anniversary.
Twenty lays out the story of the last twenty years or so. My moving to California, film school, meeting Mrs. Cregan, marrying Mrs. Cregan, having children with Mrs. Cregan, and undertaking various adventures.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my former next-door neighbor and current friend Nik Freitas.
Nik engineered, recorded and produced Man Overboard and Elba, and produced three songs on Twenty (along with playing drums on nearly every track). If you want to listen to actual music, check out his amazing albums, and look to book his state-of-the-analog-art Poppy Peak studio (that is, if you're in it to win it.)
If you want a quick primer on the other bands listed on the site:
Dynamite Fraulein was a sorta punchier power pop band that featured an enlivening girl/boy vocal dynamic (where the girl could REALLY sing). It's got two of my personal favorites: "I Never Knew" (co-written with Tawni Freeland) and "What's Left of My Car."
Parklane Twin was kinda Alt-Country, I prefer the more esoteric term "Popicana." I always thought of it as what would have happened if the Beatles had stayed locked into their Beatles for Sale sound, and been one-tenth as talented (speaking for myself, not the rest of Parklane Twin).
Hunter Sandison wrote my favorite song on the album, "I've Been Had." My favorite contribution to that entire album is my harmony vocal on "I've Been Had." (In summation: I really like "I've Been Had.")
It also has another one my favorite compositions, "Tears Flowing Down." I don't remember working on that song. I just remember being upset about some recent tumult, picking up my guitar, staring in a mirror, and having that song fall out in about 2 minutes flat. That's usually the sign you've hooked a good one.
"Montgomery Ward" is a sleeper, a song I wrote for one of my grandmothers (Eugenia Johnston). I like "She Walked Me Down" because it's one I specifically wrote for someone else to sing (Pete), and I always relish that assignment. "Everyday is a Saturday Night" is about a Portland-based bender - it's one of those songs that could have been a hit for someone else in another decade. But the anthem of the album has to be Hunter's "Econoline."
The Devolved soundtrack has some good nuggets from friends of mine, including Nik and Aaron Wilson. It has the Spanish version of "What's Left of My Car" (reimagined as a Botellita de Jerez tribute) It has one decent J.P. Cregan song you can't find anywhere else: "Gonna Make It Home Tonight." Solid Chris Bell/Emitt Rhodes-cosplay.
Wrapping up the bio: I write things, direct things, write even more things, am available to officiate weddings (I am a Friar in the Church of Universal Life), once co-founded a film label (Severin Films) and have served as a fantasy NBA columnist for ESPN.com for about ten years. (The term "Master of None" tends to really resonate around these parts.)
I reside in Pasadena, California, with my oft-sung-about better half, two children, two dogs, and a Gecko.
(But If you want the REAL truth, here's the bio my PR team wrote for Spotify:)
Born J.T. Cregan many moons ago in Washington D.C., J.P. achieved early local fame as a child dynamite fisherman, winning multiple televised "Blow-Ups" hosted by WBFF's Captain Chesapeake. As a teenager, he lived in Arlington, VA, where he spent most of his days running for his life from the now-notorious packs of easily-outraged, extremely caucasian upper-middle class Straight Edge kids that terrorized North Arlington at that time. Then one night, while looking for a place to hide after a Uniform Choice show, J.P. stumbled inside a Tascam Portastudio 424. He hid inside the 424 for 6 months, but his fear of the sobriety-addled Mackayites prevented him from hitting "record" and following his musical dreams. To get out of Arlington alive, he accepted a scholarship to Syracuse University, where he majored in Ars Perfecta Motets, Bob Costas Cosplay, and being savagely beaten by various fraternities. J.P. then moved to Los Angeles to attend a film school founded by the Executive Producer of Howard the Duck. Post-thesis, John went on a 2-year absinthe bender/vision quest, which led to him co-founding Severin Films, known for their industrial training videos. He also began writing for ESPN, but to this day gets no Disney discounts. After years of Janovian Therapy, J.P. finally got over his fear of the Greek System & Youth of Today (actually the same organization) and began recording music. He cut his teeth in two reggae outfits (Dynamite Fraulein, Parklane Twin) before going solo.