grey eye glances mailing list:
- by Jim Bessman
- Printed February 8, 1997
- NEW YORK- Not to suggest that they
are in any way bookish, but there is a certain
literary quality about Grey Eye Glances. Namely,
their name, which is taken from Edgar Allan Poe,
also, their primary means of exposure to date,
which has been touring bookstores.
- The Maple Shade, N.J., trio, whose
Parachute/Mercury Records debut album,
"Eventide," emerges Feb. 11, came to the label
after getting established via heavy touring of
Borders bookstores throughout the Northeast. In
fact, pianist/vocalist Dwayne Keith, who joined
forces with lead singer/12string guitarist
Jennifer Nobel and bassist/vocalist Eric O'Dell
in Philadelphia three years ago, worked at two
Borders outlets prior to commencing
pre-production on "Eventide" a year ago.
- "I started in the espresso bar as a coffee
person and worked my way to special orders and
corporate accounts, and ended up as CRC, or
community relations coordinator," says Keith,
who worked at Borders' Marlton, N.J., store for
three years before moving over to the chain's
Chestnut Hill location in Philadelphia.
- The group was then called Sojourn-and had
self-released two albums as such-but had to
surrender the name to another Sojourn with an
earlier claim. The new tag derives from a
favorite Edgar Allan Poe poem, Keith notes,
explaining that "grey eye glances " from Poe's
"To One In Paradise," is a metaphor for
- "We thought of calling ourselves 'Borders,'
" Keith adds, "but it would probably have been a
pain in the neck!"
- Perhaps, but the bookstore chain has always
been wholly supportive of Grey Eye Glances, and
thanks to Keith's CRC position-which involved
booking bands and author events at the store-he
was perfectly situated to help bring the group's
music to has become the 126-store Borders Books
& Music web.
- What is now Grey Eye Glances formed as
Sojourn in 1991, though Keith and O'Dell had met
12 years earlier playing street hockey, and
Keith and Nobel had toured Europe in 1985 as
part of the American Music Abroad choir. "There
wasn't music in the Borders world at the time,"
says Keith, "but we had the band together and
decided to set up and play on a Friday night [at
the Marlton outlet] and went over so well that
we played twice a month for two years-and then
at all the Borders stores in the area."
- But these weren't ordinary half hour music
in-store sets. Rather, Sojourn played full,
two-hour shows in the stores' coffee bars, and
while the pay was minimal (and sometimes in the
form of gift certificates), the group managed to
sell nearly 9,000 copies combined of its two
self released CDs, "Songs Of Leaving" and
"Further On . . ."
- The strong grass-roots sales base was duly
noted by Tom Vickers, Parachute/Mercury's senior
director of A&R (U.S.). Vickers had seen the
group several times in Philadelphia and had been
struck by their sound.
- "It was very distinctive," says Vickers. "It
had elements of Celtic music, folk, and an
ethereal quality that was unlike anything I'd
heard. And to top it off, you had a great singer
in Jennifer Nobel and the group's extremely
strong songwriting. But when Dwayne mentioned
how they had built a huge fan base through
playing at various Borders stores in
Philadelphia and the south New Jersey area, I
thought it was too good to be true.
- "Then I saw them perform at Borders and draw
over 200 fans, and I knew I was on to a band
that had both a distinctive sound and a
distinctive way of selling themselves."
- "Eventide," which was produced in Nashville
by Glenn Rosenstein and engineered by Steve
Boyer (Peter Gabriel's "So"), is something of a
"compilation of everything we've written to this
point," notes Keith, and includes new recordings
of three songs from "Further On . . ." mixed in
with fresh material. The newer tunes, he adds,
are mostly group co-writes; Keith was the
primary songwriter early on.
- The new album also features instrumental
buttressing from Grey Eye Glances' usual backup
support team: guitarists Brett Kull and Bill
Belcher, keyboardist John Avarese, and drummer
Paul Ramsey. (These accompanists have performed
live with the group in the past and will tour
with it in the future.)
- "It's really well-produced," says Bruce
Warren, music director at noncommercial triple-A
station-WXPN Philadelphia, about "Eventide." He
notes the group's "progressive sound in the way
of October Project [whose debut album was
produced by Rosenstein and Renaissance,"
together with their pop-tunesmithing prowess.
- "Mercury had a little showcase at the Tin
Angel-a wonderful acoustic music club here-and
it was amazing just watching," continues Warren,
whose station supported the preceding Sojourn
releases. "Everyone knew the words to every
song, and the band put on a great show and wowed
all of us."
- Mercury product manager (U.S.) Meg Ritschel
also notes Grey Eye Glances' "strong
foundation," which, in addition to a fan base
linked by the group's mailing list and an active
World Wide Web site, includes manager Bill Eib
of O Management and agent Adam Kornfeld of QBQ.
"So besides having music that's highly developed
and stylized and to the point where they're
ready to put out a major-label album, they're
very well organized," she says.
- Mercury has serviced a promotional CD of the
"Eventide" track "Halfway Back" to triple-A
stations, and Ritschel reports good early
feedback nationally, with "great crossover
potential" to modern rock thanks to its
perceived appeal to a younger college demo-as
evidenced by forthcoming exposure via Spin's
syndicated radio program. Early press response
further indicates younger-than-expected
"alternative demographic" interest, adds
- A postcard mailing to Grey Eye Glances
fan-club list and Parachute's mailing list is
now going out, tagged with one-stop mail-order
information. But touring will likely be
Mercury's main promotional thrust, starting at-
- "Having that localized retail support is
tremendous," says Ritschel, who is looking to
set up listening posts and tie in radio during
an extensive Borders tour that will start in the
Northeast and expand nationally in the spring.
"We want to get people out to see them because
they're so charming live, and their music is
very intimate," she adds. "And when they play
Borders, merchandise sales go up."
- Confirmation here comes from Sean Hickey,
music manager at the Borders Books & Music
store in Bryn Mawr, Pa., who says, "There's
never a problem selling their stuff-no matter
what they call themselves. We've sold hundreds
and hundreds of their first CDs; if you play
them in-store, people stop and listen and come
up to find what it is and buy it."
- The same thing happens when they play live,
he adds, which the group has done several times
at Hickey's store.
- For his part, loyal ex-employee Keith is
more than happy to return to the Borders
- "We've turned down big offers from Barnes
& Noble-which is a great chain, too-but
Borders got us going early in," he says. "We're
not looking to make a career playing in
bookstores, but we've done over 200 now and in a
lot of suburban places, Borders is like the
cultural center. As much as we want to move on
to Shea Stadium, we're still at a point where we
enjoy selling 75 CDs a night."
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