Vocal Duo Jackopierce Celebrates Thirty Years of Harmonies


Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce  of Jackopierce
  • Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce of Jackopierce
Jackopierce, the duo made up of equal parts Jack O’Neill and Cary Pierce, the two songwriters behind the hits “Vineyard” and “Three of Us in a Boat,” quietly celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2018. They made a big to-do over their 25th anniversary, a landmark date few bands ever hit, with a sold-out run of concerts and the release of a live album, Live 25. The 30th-anniversary celebrations were put on the back burner, though, because Jackopierce was too busy moving forward to keep an eye on the rear-view, still touring and preparing a new album, Feel This Good, released in May of last year on Foreverything Music. The duo are now on the road in support of that album, with a stop in Memphis at Lafayette’s Music Room this Thursday at 8 p.m.

Though ostensibly not an anniversary album, Feel This Good celebrates the long history of Jackopierce with tried and true elements: pristine mixes, clear harmonies, a few inside jokes, and cleanly intertwining acoustic guitars that have become the duo’s trademark. Even the album’s title track began as an inside joke between Pierce, O’Neill, and some of the staff at a venue Jackopierce performs at. “‘Every day should feel this good’ is a thing they say,” Pierce explains. “It’s a fun slogan.”

Pierce and O’Neill began tracking the album in Nashville, and Pierce did much of the preliminary mixing at his home studio in Texas. “I produced the last few studio records,” Pierce says. “In the five years we weren’t together, I produced a lot of records.” Jackopierce split, briefly, from 1997 to 2002, though both Pierce and O’Neill stayed involved in the music scene. Feel This Good includes reworkings of original tunes by both Pierce and O’Neill. Pierce reminisces about O’Neill’s contributions without a hint of ego, displaying an easy working relationship that’s been tended and grown over 30 years of
playing together. “Jack and I are like brothers,” Pierce says. “We love writing songs and telling and sharing stories.”

Jackopierce re-recorded one of Pierce’s old solo compositions, “Speed,” for the new album. A demo version of the song was a huge hit on streaming services, prompting Pierce to wonder what they could do with a fully produced version of the song. “It was a minor hit, but a hit for me, my God,” Pierce says of the demo, explaining “Speed” is a “pretty intense break-up song.” It’s about trying to find the energy and willpower to achieve escape velocity, Pierce explains, before adding that he’s not looking to wreck any healthy relationships. “I’m not saying, ‘hey, jump out,’ but I hope it’s a wake-up call.” If, he
explains, a wake-up call is what’s needed.

Also revived for the new album was “Still House Hollow,” a song from O’Neill’s 2002 release, Halfway Round the World. “I wanted to sing on it,” Pierce says, before marveling at the vocal takes co-producer John Fields got out of O’Neill — mostly by stepping back and letting O’Neill do his thing, pushing himself to reach for a higher range. “Jack is a huge Bob Dylan fan, a huge [Tom] Petty fan,” Pierce says, before taking the next logical step and mentioning the Traveling Wilburys, the supergroup made up of Dylan, Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne. Pierce says he saw Jeff Lynne perform recently and that the Wilburys, Lynne, and Electric Light Orchestra were all influences on Feel This Good.
Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce  of Jackopierce
  • Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce of Jackopierce
Producer John Fields came on board when Pierce sent some of the mixes for what was to become Feel This Good to him for an opinion. “He’s a monster player and a monster L.A. producer,” Pierce says. The timing couldn’t have been better — Fields had just moved back to Minneapolis from L.A. and was happy to work on a new project with an old friend. Pierce and O’Neill decamped to Minneapolis to finish the record they had begun tracking in Nashville. “It was a treat to get away from our daily lives.”

Speaking of getting away, Jackopierce name-checks Memphis in the title track of the new album. The band has played the Bluff City before, both at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park and at Beale Street Music Festival. “One of my favorite shows of all time was Memphis in May,” Pierce says. “We were the second-to-last band, before Dave Matthews.” 

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