Sure, Eric Jerardi was proud of being labeled by MTV as the midwest's Best Unsigned College Band. But that was in 1991, and in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately entertainment industry, the Dayton, Oh., native has known all along that he can't rest on his laurels. Now, with the help of some highly credentialed personnel, Jerardi is out with Virtual Virtue, his third studio album and fifth overall.
Chuck Leavell, who played piano and keyboard for The Rolling Stones, The Black Crowes, The Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton and the late George Harrison, among others, helped Jerardi with what the 32-year-old calls his proudest achievement to date.
Leavell, whose influence helped the band capture an already strong emotional flavor, flew into Memphis in December to record on six of the album's 10 songs. "I'm thrilled to death with the music on this album," Jerardi said.
Add to the mix Nashville veteran Willie Pevear, whose extensive producing resume includes work with the Neville Brothers and Lyle Lovett, and Jerardi can't compare Virtual Virtue to any of the band's previous efforts. "I've been pretty proud of what we've done so far, but this one blows me away."
Jerardi, whose listeners will never accuse him of leaving his personal life out of his lyrics, said that Virtual Virtue will once again reveal the musician's emotional side. With tracks like "Tomorrow," "Pain" and "Tortured Soul," the breakthrough album shows that Jerardi was capable of much more than playing a mean guitar. In fact, "Tortured Soul" was such a hit that it was featured on the House of Blues Radio Network with Dan Aykroyd.
As his songwriting skills continue to turn heads, Jerardi knows that his raw and loud guitar is what draws fans to his performances. Influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower and B.B. King, among others, Jerardi has gone from a kid strumming an old guitar in his parents' basement to playing before sold out crowds as far away as San Diego, which he did in a west coast tour last winter.
Jerardi's songs remain honest. "Don't get me wrong," he said. "When I first started, I tried to write about things that never happened to me. And well, they came out sounding like things that never happened to me." Regaining the songwriting bug wasn't difficult. In fact, Jerardi's lyricism earned high praise after the west coast tour. "Jerardi is dedicated to the cause, and the six hard road years have given the edge he was seeking," Vintage Guitar Magazine wrote in December. "When you consider that a number of the more recognized members of the post-Stevie (Ray Vaughan) School, the majority don't sing or write their own material. But Jerardi is a standout."
These days, there's no doubt that Jerardi likes what's happening to him. He's among Fender Guitars and Amps' current catalog of major performers, and twice has been featured in its magazine, Fender Frontline.
Meanwhile, the band gets continued support from Budweiser, one of Jerardi's early sponsors. "To have my picture in Fender Frontline, along with people like Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy, is just amazing," Jerardi said. "That brings credibility to what I'm doing." And listeners will likely agree that so will Virtual Virtue.