Parting Shots: Jim Dolan
When it comes to legendary New York City venues, Cablevision president and CEO Jim Dolan oversees three of them: Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre. And, somehow, between operating the venues and the cable company, owning the New York Knicks and Rangers and sitting on the board of Live Nation Entertainment, Dolan finds time to pursue his deep love of music. With two albums and the recent Midnight Run EP under their belt, JD & The Straight Shot is more than a businessman’s vanity project—it’s legitimate band that continues to evolve.
When did you first pick up a guitar or sing?
I first picked up a guitar when I was 16 years old and I heard an Allman Brothers record, At Fillmore East. Somebody had a guitar—I don’t think I actually played it but I tried to. I was so taken with that album, that really pushed me right into guitar and I never let go after that.
You’ve talked about how music brings balance to your life in relation to your other work. How so?
I don’t construct cable systems. I don’t go hook people’s TV sets up. I don’t write the programs. It’s not my work—it’s my management of that work. I don’t shoot baskets—I’m not an NBA player—but I manage the NBA product. This is the only thing in my life, really, where it’s my hands, my voice—just me. There’s nothing between me and the product. I am the product. The songwriting is mine, the vocals are mine. That aspect of it is very appealing to me because I don’t have it anywhere else in my life.
Joe Walsh has been a mentor. What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
One piece of advice he gave me was, “When you bend a string, always make sure you end up with a trill.” Which I notice he does: It’s not a fast trill, it’s a slow trill. When I first started doing this seriously and I met Joe—he’s mentored me all along the way—he listened to the first thing I wrote and recorded and gave me advice from there. He always told me to do my own stuff. “Don’t play other people’s music—play your own music.” I’ve stuck with that.
Is The Allman Brothers Band annual residency at The Beacon Theatre, which you oversee, been particularly gratifying for you?
It’s crazy. [Smiling.] I idolize that band. I used to follow them all over the place and I had never met any of them. As a fan, you knew all their stories. The first time I met Gregg [Allman] and Butch [Trucks], my mouth was hanging open. It’s wonderful that they’re there. We have a little bit of a relationship because of that. I confessed right away that I was an eternal fan and talked to them about the records they had done.
Any tips from Gregg, whose solo album Laid Back you’re a big fan of?
No, none. Although, several times, they’ve invited me to play with them and I will not do it. [Former Yankee star and guitarist] Bernie Williams is a friend and he went up and played with them. And he says, “Why don’t you go up?” And I’m like, “I just can’t. I can’t. Bernie, it’d be like you pinch-hitting for Babe Ruth. I just can’t do it.” [Laughs.] I’m sure I would totally freeze up and it would be a mess.
The reviews of JD & The Straight Shot have been mixed, with some notably harsh reviews coming from places like The New York Times. What drives you to keep recording and playing despite negative reviews?
The music. I believe in the music, particularly this last record and the music we made from there and we’ve been playing. The reception we’ve gotten is really good—really good.…What I’m doing with my music is expressing myself. Every artist, when they’re writing, particularly when they’re doing their lyrics, you have to hang yourself out there. That’s the only way it’s any good. People know whether it’s real or not.
You certainly did that with your song “Fix The Knicks” which almost seemed masochistic in its invitation for fans’ vitriol and ire.
It’s indicative of my writing. I will write when I’m feeling something or I’m in a situation and it will come out in a song. I wrote that song with Brian [Mitchell] and Marc [Copely]. Brian came up with the melody lines to it. And we said, “What are we going to make this about?” And I was right in the middle of the Carmelo Anthony free agency craziness. And I was like, “Well, you know what? I really like the tune. The hell with it—let’s bite the bullet, do this and get it over with, and then, I won’t have to do it again.” So we wrote it and it was kind of fun. I don’t really play it that much anymore because I worry that it distracts the audience from the music.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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