Sometimes an artist’s destiny comes from the simplest places. For Jack Vandervelde, an accomplished lacrosse player and indie movie actor, the essence of his music emerged from the fragmented life he found himself in. An avid music lover, the pieces of here, there, friends found, left and reconnected turned into the acoustic pop of “Pick It Up Sometimes.”
“You start to realize,” says the golden Massachusetts native, “that your life is always going somewhere else. It’s everyone my age. You wanna have your friends and be in love, but you know… your life is going to carry all of you away. You have to decide: live without ever having relationships, or have relationships that you can pick up whenever you’re together.
“That’s what ‘Pick It Up Sometimes’ is all about: being connected so much that when you’re apart, it’s okay, and when you’re together, you can pick it right up.”
Vandervelde represents a new kind of pop music. Not so slick, not so glossy, not so mindless, it feels good – and lands in the sweet spot of what makes life worth living. Not a preacher or a profit, the self-taught musician leans into the things that face the people he knows, seeking to find the good and the grace in all of it.
After being drawn to drums as a kid – rhythms seemed to inherently flow from the all-American boy – he taught himself guitar, then piano. Drawn deeper into the music, he swerved from the punk aggression of Green Day to the rhythmic complexity of Jack Johnson, from the post modern street corner poetry of Ed Sheeran to the glisten of Bruno Mars’ sleek pop.
“…My eyes are never red, but my body slowly drowns
But I never let it get to me in this God forsaken town
I’ll see you in the morning when the light creeps through my shades
Taking out my old guitar and I’m tying up my cape…”
-- “Suburban Superhero”
But Vandervelde’s acoustic pop offers something a little truer. From the haunting voice and piano “Suburban Superhero” to the staccato roll of “Trouble,” the blond songwriter presses into the life beneath the surface. It’s the knowing – the smother of a small town, the inevitable tug of a relationship that never quite quits, but can’t work – that takes the infectious grooves, the melodies that get inside your head, the hooks that contain deep truths in simple terms that sets the 20-something’s songwriting apart.
Having starred as the token white kid on an all Native American lacrosse team in 2012’s indie film “Crooked Arrows,” Vandervelde understands the place of being an outsider even when you belong. After a year at Nashville’s Belmont University – drawn for the music, but craving a more normal college experience – he spent a year at the University of Indiana, studying political science before honoring music’s pull.
It’s a long way from stealing his mother’s pots and pans to catching the ear of noted music industry executive Jeff Rabhan, whose helped guide and advise Kelly Clarkson, Jermaine Dupri, DMX, Michelle Branch, Kelis and Everlast. But with the almost hypnotic self-validating “God Save The King,” the tropi-pop of the minimal “Island of Mine” and the slow sweep “One Life,” Vandervelde creates a new world order that gives hope and resilience a feel good musical bed that lasts long after the euphoria of the tracks wears off.
“I think music should feel good when you’re listening to it,” he explains, “but it needs to stay with you after the song stops playing. For me, these are the songs that came out of my life – and the lives of the people around me. We are a generation trying to find our place in a world that really doesn’t have room for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it any way.
“We are young and aware and willing. If anything, I wanted my songs to show that, and to put the world on notice. Together we can find a way, live lives that are joyous and feel good, and still deal with the way things are. Telling the truth doesn’t have to put people off – or bring you down – but it needs to be told.”
“…I’ve been around this trouble before
Sun in your eyes, watched it steal the floor
If I leave right now, would you do me a favor
Burn ever bridge to the ground
from here to later…”
With residencies in the Northeast and a UK tour with Emilie Sande under his belt, Vandervelde’s handmade songs are finding like-minds and like-hearts in disparate places. Like so many young artists with a truth to tell, he’s sending his music into the world and following where it leads. For the songwriter/artist, the path appears to be everywhere.