Singer/songwriter J. the Savage appears with Americana legend Steve Earle on HBO Series ‘Treme’
For singer/songwriter J. the Savage, otherwise known as Jamie Bernstein, releasing his new album Very Same Dream has led to another dream, one that has happily been fulfilled. On the HBO series, Treme, which chronicles the lives of New Orleans residents as they try rebuilding the city after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Savage was given the opportunity to play with Americana legend Steve Earle. It’s quite an accomplishment for Savage, whose previous album Songs from the Tree of Life landed on roots-radio playlists in 2009. But one listen to Very Same Dream is all it takes to see that his airtime with Earle was well-deserved. Taking a massive leap in production and songwriting from his debut, Very Same Dream is two-fisted country rock, combining the confessional narratives of Kris Kristofferson and the guitar swagger of ‘70s-era Rolling Stones.
Impressed, I decided to give Savage a ring and learn more about him and his experiences with Earle.
Q: When will these episodes of Treme air with you and Steve Earle?
A: Season Two of HBO’s Treme will air this spring. The scenes I shot with Steve Earle were for two separate episodes. I am not sure which episode numbers they are. In one, I back Earle on guitar as we are busking for tips on Frenchman Street. The other scene is a very sad funeral scene. Right after the storm New Orleans was, and still is to some extent, Wild West like. A great community leader, educator and musician Dinerral Shavers was gunned down in broad daylight, and it really shook our community. The scene we are in is at Dinerral’s funeral.
Q: How did you get involved with the show?
A: I got involved in the show through my producer Derrick Freeman. He played a musician in the first season, appearing in a number of episodes. He introduced me to the musician’s liaison, and I fit the part to back up Steve.
Q: What was it like working with Steve Earle?
A: Steve was great to work with. We hung out in his trailer for a long time. I gave him a copy of my book Black Santa and signed it for him. It was right before Christmas and he was about to head to Nashville to do his yearly jam down there. We both had our acoustic guitars so we sat and sang the songs together that we were to do in the shot. The music director’s assistant listened, asked a few questions and left. Steve was great, he spoke about his family and about his upcoming album. He is just a real genuine guy. You can tell he has had his share of hardship, but who hasn’t.
Q: You mentioned to me that you recently won an award?
A: I was nominated for best Country/Folk Band in New Orleans. I find out if I won the award on the 25th of this month. It is just a real honor to be considered. I am up against Spencer Bohren, who is just a monster songwriter; I’m a huge fan. Just to have my name up there with his is a real honor. The nominations are made by a committee of music professionals from all walks of the New Orleans music scene. Only artists are nominated in each category.
Q: And you have a song in a movie as well?
A: My tune “Skippin’ at the Mardi Gras” was licensed to the film Dark Circles that was in production here in Louisiana in March. They have me, and a band, playing in a bar scene in the movie. The star of the movie is playing piano in the band. We are hitting “Skippin’ at the Mardi Gras” hard. The film is directed by Paul Soter, and is slated for release in 2012.
(Photo: HBO/Paul Schiraldi)
Official Website: http://www.jthesavage.com
Black Santa book: http://www.blacksantabook.com