photo by Julie Marden
Jann Klose was born in Germany, and raised in Kenya and South Africa, and then returned to Germany as a teenager. Then he went to Cleveland, Ohio as an exchange student (where he first learned to play piano and guitar). He has been cast in the touring company of Broadway’s Jekyll and Hyde, the European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, and Tommy (where he played “The Pinball Wizard” in the NJPAC production). Jann has worked alongside artists like Les Paul, Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Rosanne Cash, and Marty Stuart.
His musical stylings have led critics to compare him to Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Seal, Sting, and Kurt Weill to name a few. His most recent work Reverie has been said to be made largely with fan support. His latest digital EP Sacrifice is available for download now. He also had a music video, “Doing Time,” which was made with fans and students at the New York Film Academy.
Jann Klose will be performing in Chicago on Nov. 16 and 17 at the Uncommon Ground for the Jeff Buckley Tribute, and then in Winnetka on the 18th for the Valslist.com Living Room Session.
Maximum Ink: What was it like to grow up in Kenya and South Africa?
Jann Klose: I got to see a lot of Eastern and Southern Africa as a child. My parents loved to travel and took us with them, everywhere. It was a very good life.
MI: Was it very different in Germany?
JK: My parents got divorced in South Africa and my brother and I stayed with my Dad. My grandparents ended up moving to Johannesburg to help out since my dad worked full time. When we moved back to Germany my brother and I lived with our grandparents for a few years. A lot changed, not just culturally, but personally in our lives after leaving Africa.
MI: What did it feel like when you first came to the US as an exchange student?
JK: I was always fascinated with American music, movies, television. Even in South Africa, there was a lot of American influence on the culture. Coming to the States was liberating, personally because I “escaped” a very strict and guarded upbringing from my grandparents. The host family I stayed with in Cleveland, Ohio was much more liberal, I don’t mean politically, of course. They live in a white suburban part of Cleveland. You could say it was a culture shock of a different kind, a lot of which I didn’t understand completely at 16 years old. Nevertheless, I think the feeling of freedom, so fundamentally American, is felt in that part of the country. On the contrary I could not figure out why you had to carry a hall pass to leave the high school class room I had go to the bathroom. That was very odd.
MI: What led you to take up the piano and guitar?
JK: I had always wanted to play an instrument but wasn’t allowed to do so, growing up. This was another liberating experience I had here in the States. When I wanted to go out and buy a keyboard, the answer from my host family was: Go ahead! What’s stopping you?
MI: Who were some of your earliest influences?
JK: I’d say that the African musicians and shows I used to see as a child were definitely a big influence. I’ve been in search of music and instruments that has a different sound ever since. But I also totally embraced bands like E.L.O., Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Beatles. I’d record songs off the radio and make mix tapes of my favorites. It was all over the place… Iggy Pop and Prince, ABBA and Mike Oldfield.
MI: What was it like to work with Les Paul?
JK: He was lovely. That’s all I can think about. Kind, caring and smart. His band was probably one of the best group of musicians I had ever heard.
MI: Do find it strange to be compared to Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Seal, and Sting?
JK: No, it’s flattering. Paul and Paul are my personal favorites.
MI: What was it like to work on Broadway? How does that differ most from working in music?
JK: Theatre is working in music, just a different form. A staged show is much more set in stone – so to speak – than a live music show, more impromptu things can happen there. But, it all depends on the show…Some combine both. Peter Gabriel’s shows always have a lot of theatrical elements.
MI: What do you hope your fans take away from your music?
MI: What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
MI: What projects are you currently working on?
JK: We started a fundraiser for a new album and I’m working on a documentary about citizenship, immigration and its relation to American music.
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CD: Reverie Record Label: 3 Frames Music
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