Have you ever loved a song so much that every time you hear it, you can’t help but stop and listen, and move your head to the beat – because the lyrics hit you just right, and the music really defined the moment you found yourself living in? We have. To us, music and songwriting is like breath and life. In many ways, it defines us. It motivates us. We write music because we’re songwriters. Life any other way would be unnatural.
We are two brothers. We grew up together and have made music for as long as either of us can remember. Our earliest musical influence was our mother, whose piano- and guitar-playing – and that beautiful voice – was a main-stay of our home. We have distinct memories of our mother playing for us: “Daddy’s Hands” after her father died (we were 11 and 5 years old), Christmas carols in the heat of summer, and songs from her own days studying music at Oak Park & River Forest High School.
It was a house full of music of all kinds. Our parents both loved listening to the radio – mostly Oldies and Country (though in the early- and mid-90’s it was a different kind of Country music than today). In heavy rotation on US 99 at the time were artists like George Strait, Dolly Parton, Clint Black, Hank Williams Jr., Reba McEntire, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Alabama, Johnny Cash, and tons more. On the Oldies side, it was all about The Beach Boys, CCR, The Temptations, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers… You get the picture.
From the beginning, it seemed a natural fit that “the boys” would collaborate. But it took a long, long time for us to get serious. Over the years, we’ve always critiqued each other’s songs and have always held the opinion of the other in extremely high regard. We’ve sung BGV’s on one another’s recordings – especially Michael, helping out his elder brother, Jay.
After a number of casual conversations about seriously collaborating, Michael was the one that really pulled the trigger. One cool night in early September, 2012, he said to Jay, “I want to write and play music with you. And I want to use the name The City.” Jay not only didn’t say no, he immediately pulled out a guitar.
We’re brothers. Nobody else understands us quite the same way. We grew up together. Pissed each other off. We have different vocal ranges, but we sing the same. It’s a similar tone, and we blend well together.
The Jay-Michael outfit is a new endeavor, but we hope to build on the previous successes of the former The City incarnation. A product of The City’s earliest collaboration, a song called “More Than Alive”, was recently featured on Chicago’s WXRT and Q101 radio stations – two of Chicago’s largest rock stations. Of late, The City finds itself in “constant rehearsal mode,” working on a new record, arranging material for shows, and eating, sleeping, and doing everything else that two normal brothers do.
So you might still be wondering: why “The City”? For anyone who has been a part of Chicago life, you’ll understand. There’s something about Chicago – the neighborhoods, the clubs, the people – that’s different from the other metro areas: Atlanta, Boston, L.A., or New York. There’s a mystery here – something you can’t put your finger on, but you know it affects you. It’s the same with music – the mystery, that is. For us, ‘The City’ captures the unanswered influences of both.