Rock and roll and Wall Street don’t always go together – unless you’re Jeff Yantz
A businessman running a Edward jones branch by day and sought-after professional musician by night, Jeff Yantz – known locally as Mr. Happy – seems to have found the formula for reconciling family, work and music.
“I just think it’s the joy of balancing your life,” Yantz says. “Everyone wears different hats and I think there is a way. Why can’t a financial advisor play music at night? So also have a family and do that? For me, that’s one of the beautiful things about where we live and how we live. It’s good. I don’t have to say, ‘I’m fair this. ‘”
For Yantz, the balancing started in his first act as a booming songwriter, leaving for college and unable to bring his drums.
“Unfortunately for my brother, but luckily for me, his girlfriend broke up with him and she bought my brother a guitar. It was a Picador – I remember the brand name. It was one of the ones (where I was) probably taking advantage of a bad situation, but I was like, “Hey, you probably don’t want that, do you Mike?” He was like, ‘No! ‘ ‘Fantastic! I’m taking her to college. “
There was talk of reuniting the One Trick Ponies for a show.At the time, the John Glenn graduate in 1986 was the drummer for The Hitman and Steve. The group included his classmate Chad Cunningham on guitar and their mutual friend, Steven Klee, on bass.
Even then, Yantz balanced work and music. During the week, he was in class. On weekends at Central Michigan University, he locked himself in his dorm to record.
“I couldn’t afford a four-track cassette player, but I rented them from Cooks Music in Mount Pleasant for the weekend. They usually didn’t rent them, but they were kind enough to do it for me. It was the one on the floor, a Ross. I would just like to go out on the weekends knowing that I only had it for a limited time, like practicing with my time in the studio in mind. I stayed up late and tried to create whatever I could.
In his senior year, Yantz was also a finalist in the Campus Radio Competition, which earned him his long-awaited studio time. The winners of the competition invited him to join them in the studio. The studio was Blue Dog Audio in Shepherd. There, Yantz recorded a six-song project called Therapy.
“It was just me and songs I wrote while I was in college,” he recalls. “I made little homemade tapes and my mate Chris Flisek put it on CD years ago. It just blew me away.
In the 1990s, Yantz, right, formed the group One Trick Ponies with fellow musicians Ted Hoogland, left, and Steven Klee. After graduating in 1990, Yantz held a series of jobs across the country. He found solace in creating music with fellow Bay Cityan, Ted Hoogland. Adding Klee to bass and completing the band, they formed the One-ride ponies. They connected on their love of writing music.
In 1995, the legendary Midland Street Above Mary’s (recently remastered and re-released) was released as the debut album by One Trick Ponies. It was recorded entirely above Mary’s on Midland Street.
“Ted was in the apartment above me,” Yantz recalls. “And I had the little studio just above where Brooklyn boyz is now).
“There weren’t a lot of people doing original music. If they were, we didn’t know them. Mike Brush was doing stuff back then, but there wasn’t that mechanism (like the internet) where unless you went to his gig and found out he had an album, how would you know? “
At the same time, the independent national group Uncle Tupelo was about to burst into Son Volt and Wilco, launching an Americana Music revolution. The One Trick Ponies were on exactly the same musical journey.
“There was always a drive to create something new, (like) a painter looking for different colors in his palette, learning what other people are doing,” Yantz explains.
It was not easy to learn what other people were doing. The internet didn’t exist, so Yantz and his fellow musicians took inspiration from the writing elements of Hoogland’s beloved songs and Yantz’s love for REM. The sound they created was perfectly in sync for this Midwestern musical storm. The Ponies were a group of singer-songwriters with acoustic guitars and parquet.
“We were like, ‘Is there a way to create something from our own experience that would have merit or value? It was largely out of necessity. We knew but weren’t sure how to get some of the sounds we were hearing and some of our favorite bands playing. Also, we had a shoestring budget, which was zero except for the purchase of instruments.
Lack of money forced creative solutions.
“There’s a song called Midland Street Theme and the random beat is literally me with a broom on a screen door and Ted holding the microphone. This is how we got the “brushes sound” for the drums. So looking back, I say we reinvented the single scull, like the Bay City single scull, ”Yantz recalls with a laugh.
“We had two microphones, my four tracks – because I was in love with multitrack recording – a handful of instruments and in an apartment above Mary’s. We loved writing songs. It was simple and pure, but that’s where we wanted our energy to go.
Over the next few years, One Trick Ponies released three albums, and Yantz worked in three different locations. He also saw locals Larry McCray and The Pipe Verve take off under the spotlight of national music.
“If Larry’s album was called Ambition, ours would have been Blind Ambition,” Yantz said with a laugh. “Ambition – that one was close to my heart, because that was where I would find out where he was playing in Saginaw, go on my own and listen. Then he would talk to me between sets. He said to me, ‘You know, I appreciate that you want my opinion, but opinions … everyone has one. Just keep doing it. “
He also saw Interrogation point when her old pal Cunningham called and asked to borrow microphones. “Question Mark was at Chad’s house recording tunes,” Yantz laughed, looking back.
“So I show up with the microphone (and) all the guys are there for a session.” Chad’s eyes are wide open like “Look man!”, And I’m like, “I don’t want to bother you guys.” It’s so un-rock and roll. I was just there. In my later years, I try to embrace these experiences.
In 1999, Yantz started with Edward Jones. His family’s roots were firmly rooted in the region, and he soon played music periodically as a solo artist.
“Personally, I had the opportunity to share the stage with Faith Hill, Styx and the Bijou Orchestra“, says Yantz.
In 1995, the legendary Midland Street Above Mary’s was released as the debut album of One Trick Ponies. Recently, the album was remastered and reissued.“As for Bijou, as a songwriter, there is no greater compliment than playing your songs that you wrote with an orchestra. I always thought it was interesting, because I think I’m comfortable not really identifying exactly what I’m doing musically.
Yantz also reconnected with musicians who found their way home, such as McCray and members of the Verve Pipe.
“They were inspiring, because it was from another world, like too real. It was almost like these guys weren’t from Michigan, because look how popular they got. And we thought, ‘Can this really happen?’ It’s unbelievable, they’ve been somewhat ‘discovered’ and somehow ‘cultivated’. It was fantastic.
“Obviously years later to be able to meet (former Verve Pipe drummer) Donny Brown and consider him a good friend, to me, it’s amazing. It’s funny to be in contention for an award and a world tour, but for some reason with Donny, I was like, “Tell me about when you played in David Letterman!” You know, for me, I think it was the top. I think if I had been able to get on Letterman, I probably would have given up on him and stopped my career on the spot. “
Jeff Yantz spends his days helping people build wealth. At night, a local musician performs at bars, restaurants and events in the area.As the musician in him breathed, the businessman began to flourish.
“Over the years I get teased saying, ‘You are a musician and do you manage people’s money? It doesn’t look like these two would fit. Hopefully in 22 years I have proven myself wrong. It is the stigma of many things in our lives that we need to eliminate. “
With his daughter nearly graduating from Glenn and his growing business, Yantz has released solo albums and singles.
“Over the past 10 years that I have been able to write, record and create with the people I have had the opportunity to connect with, especially locally, it has been a huge blessing because I can learn so easily from it. musical community in the vicinity.
“I have always lived in this region and I have a passion for this region. So I’m probably biased to say that in this area we have a big enclosure of amazing musical artists. I think building this and realizing that we should – the same way as Studio 23 promotes local artists – we really have to accept that, because it is part of our place. Part of who we are in this area. It’s pretty cool to be able to celebrate that.
After naming some videos for Music award review in 2020, Yantz says the new frontier is going to stay video-oriented. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the art of song.
“I am in love with the song. Not so much the sound. I don’t care who the artist is. There are wonderful songs that I listen to all the time that have been recorded poorly. Regardless, the song shines through.
There was talk with the ponies of a meeting and a duet outing with Hoogland.
“The group was supposed to play Mittens Festival last year in 2020. Obviously that failed. But I guess the good thing was that everyone was sort of on board to do it, so maybe that’s something that will happen once things start to open up and if we find a opportunity that makes sense. We took out a rehearsal before that and that then was fun. I really would have liked to record that. It was a bit magical. It’s like muscle memory with an old band and that part amazes me.
For what it’s worth, Yantz is ready for his second wind and will bring his city with his original sound to the ride.
“It’s having the ability and a certain freedom to open up the schedule to play in other places. Expand to other parts of the state and all over the region. Yeah, I think I think I’ll be at a point where I’m able to be more open to that, which is exciting.