The 45 Version:
For more than 20 years, Jim Boggia has been winning over fans, critics, contemporaries and luminaries alike with his uncompromising devotion to the sort of winsomely nostalgic, emotionally direct songcraft that’s impervious to age. His sonically intelligent retro-pop manifesto informs three studio albums—2001’s Fidelity Is the Enemy, 2005’s Safe in Sound and 2008’s Misadventures in Stereo—and he’s worked with a startling array of artists, including Aimee Mann, Juliana Hatfield, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Bernadette Peters, David Poe, NRBQ’s Big Al Anderson, famed Beach Boys lyricist Tony Asher, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, esteemed ’70s pop misfit Emitt Rhodes, and Canadian songstress Amanda Marshall. Also an accomplished singer and guitarist, Boggia performs with the well-known New York City-based Beatles tribute band, the Fab Faux, as well as Mad Dogs & Dominos, an 18-piece collective headed by a heavyweight roster that includes Blues Brothers alum Lou Marini and producer John Leventhal. Oh, and he plays a mean ukulele.
The LP Version:
15 Things You Should Know About Jim Boggia
1. He’s been doing this longer than you think. More than 20 years, actually. In the process, he’s won over fans, critics, contemporaries and luminaries alike with his uncompromising devotion to the sort of winsomely nostalgic, sonically intelligent songcraft that’s impervious to age. It’s emotionally complex stuff made sweetly palatable by its subtlety cinematic packaging.
2. He has three studio albums: 2001’s Fidelity Is the Enemy, 2005’s Safe in Sound and 2008’s Misadventures in Stereo. The latter two were recorded for Sony-distributed Bluhammock Music; Boggia says the first one was the most fun to make. It contains the gleefully self-evident classic “Bubblegum 45s,” along with “Several Thousand,” the tune that found Boggia a surprise Japanese fan base. “I thought of Fidelity as a manifesto on songwriting, arranging and production—and a way of getting people to rediscover things I felt were a bit forgotten,” says Boggia.
3. His influences aren’t what you’d expect. “Music from TV and movies was a big influence on me,” Boggia says. “Carl Stalling, who wrote the music for the Warner Bros. cartoons in the ’40s and ’50s, is still an inspiration in terms of arrangements and instrumentation. He also contributed to my belief that music can have whimsical elements and still be completely valid and great. The harmonic changes at the end of The Little Rascals theme music, the bridge section of The Bob Newhart Show … I thought about that stuff a lot when I was writing the horn charts on Misadventures.”
4. But never underestimate his love for the Beatles. It’s what compelled him to lure the Hooters’ Eric Bazilian and other Philadelphia rock veterans to the roof of a Center City record store on a late January afternoon in 1999. The performance that ensued mirrored the Beatles’ legendary gig atop the Apple Records building 30 years earlier—except the cops didn’t shut this one down. Boggia also performs with the Fab Faux, founded by Late Show With David Letterman bassist Will Lee and Conan bandleader Jimmy Vivino. That gig led to his affiliation with Mad Dogs & Dominos, an 18-piece collective made up of a heavyweight NYC session types—including Lou Marini (Blues Brothers) and producer John Leventhal (Shawn Colvin, Rosanne Cash)—that celebrates the music of Derek and the Dominos, Joe Cocker, solo George Harrison, and affiliated artists.
5. Vinyl isn’t just a hobby—it’s an obsession. “When I fell in love with music, it was through 45s and LPs. That’s what I spent all those years interacting with, learning from, getting excited by,” says Boggia. “I never really felt like I’d accomplished what I’d dreamed about until I put out a mono mix of Misadventures on vinyl. That’s when I finally thought, ‘I really did it!’”
6. The guy can sing.
Boggia’s raspy tenor has a soulful heft (think John Lennon meets Daryl Hall). Credit is due, in part, to an early fascination with Stevie Wonder’s classic Innervisons album.
7. He’d rather not discuss where he grew up.
“Oh, God, please no. It doesn’t matter,” Boggia groans. “I spent my childhood alone in a bedroom with records, a guitar and tape machines. It could’ve been anywhere.” If you must know, he grew up in a small town outside Flint, Michigan.
8. But he’ll gladly talk about his adopted hometown. Boggia moved to Philadelphia three decades ago to take a job with the now-defunct sampler-and-synth company, Ensoniq. In the years since, he’s never found a compelling enough reason to leave. “When I started doing music full time, I couldn’t believe my good fortune of being in Philly. Economics played a huge role in allowing me to stay in the game,” says Boggia. “If I’d lived in NYC, I’d have a day job now.”
9. He’s collaborated with an American Idol finalist. “I played with—and produced an LP for—Constantine Maroulis, who got sixth place on the fourth season,” Boggia says. “That was a trip into a very different world.” An accomplished guitarist, Boggia has also worked with Juliana Hatfield, Mike Viola, Tracy Bonham, Bernadette Peters, David Poe, NRBQ’s Big Al Anderson, famed Beach Boys lyricist Tony Asher, and Canadian songstress Amanda Marshall. Interestingly, he also co-wrote “Glory,” a No. 1 single in 1998 for Christian Latino pop singer Jaci Velasquez.
10. He’s kissed the girl who wrote, “I Kissed a Girl.” Before the Katy Perry hit, there was Jill Sobule’s 1995 version. Boggia and Sobule have been close friends for years, so he must have kissed her at some point. “She freed me from the tyranny of the set list. Now, I figure out what song I’m going to play first, and everything after that is based on reading the crowd,” he says. “I learned that from Jill, and it transformed my live performances.”
11. Critics dig him. Paste has described Boggia as a “first-rate audio architect.” The Washington Post has praised his “soulful voice, experimental instrumentation and encyclopedic knowledge of pop music,” while the Los Angeles Times deemed his songs “welcome reminders of the days when ‘pop’ wasn’t a dirty word synonymous with Orlando-based svengalis or soft-drink commercials.” According to All Music Guide, he “knows his craft like nobody’s business, and just as importantly, he never stops improving his game.”
12. He hates playing to half-empty houses. Hence, the tongue-in-cheek title of his 2013 live album, Ample Seating Available, recorded at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, The Living Room in New York City and Think Tank Studios in Hoboken, N.J. The Philly tracks feature a tremendous (if short-lived) 11-piece band.
13. One of his songs was used in a BlackBerry commercial. The track in question, “Live the Proof,” is from Safe in Sound, his first dip into the music industry’s shark-infested waters. Making the album was a struggle almost from start to finish. Even so, it features some of Boggia’s most compelling tunes—“Underground,” “Show My Face Around” and the stunning semi-autobiographical title track—plus guest appearances from notable names like Aimee Mann, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, Attractions drummer Pete Thomas and esteemed ’70s pop misfit Emitt Rhodes. Boggia’s music was also featured on MTV’s The Real World and the ABC series Men in Trees.
14. He plays a mean ukulele. Boggia is a KALA Ukulele Artist endorsee; his version of “Thunder Road” will kick off the upcoming Born to Uke remake of Springsteen’s classic Born to Run; and a take on “Getting Better” was included on 2012’s The Beatles Complete on Ukulele. “A huge influence that goes unacknowledged is my dad’s accordion playing. He’d take arrangements that were supposed to be played by big bands or orchestras, and find a way to play all the parts,” says Boggia. “I made that concept the basis for my guitar style—and now my ukulele style.” Check out Boggia’s prodigious uke chops on YouTube—in particular, his exceptional renditions of “Over the Rainbow,” Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” and the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Even better, his Patreon campaign features new videos every few weeks (www.patreon.com/jimboggia).
15. He can’t get enough of Japan. Boggia has made seven trips to Japan since 2010, when an offer to play there came seemingly out of the blue. The second night of his first visit, the promoter asked him to play “Several Thousand.” By the time he’d gotten to the first chorus, everyone was singing along. As it turns out, well-connected Austin musician Bruce Hughes (Poi Dog Pondering, Bob Schneider) had covered the song a ton in Japan with his side project, the Resentments. Boggia has since partnered with Hughes and fellow Austinite Miles Zuniga (Fastball) for a series of Japanese shows. “The place is beautiful, the food is amazing, and the fans have been so generous,” he says. “Just the fact that there are people in Japan who are fans of my music still blows my mind.”