Musical duo The Roosevelts releasing debut album “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn” April 22
Jazz singer Nat King Cole’s oft-covered 1948 hit “Nature Boy” featured the line “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn/is just to love and be loved in return.” That line is featured in everything from the musical “Moulin Rouge” to the lyrics of England hardcore band Gallows’ “Orchestra of Wolves.”
The Roosevelts — Jason Kloess and James Mason — aim to dissect that phrase on their debut full-length and explore what it means to love and feel loved. According to Kloess, he and Mason drew from their varied musical backgrounds when writing and arranging the album, aptly titled “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn.”
“I grew up on James Taylor, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers,” Kloess said. “Growing up in Birmingham I listened to a lot of rock as well as a lot of country; I don’t know that James listened to as much country. He grew up on James Taylor, he’s actually named after James Taylor.”
Kloess said Mason writes music in the singer/songwriter style of artists like Ryan Adams, while he writes with a full arrangement in mind, building parts around the whole. His style can be traced back to when he was in kindergarten and learned songs by ear in lieu of practicing because he didn’t like practicing.
“Every week you had to learn a song, but I wouldn’t actually read the music, I’d listen to it and learn it by ear,” Kloess said. “As I’m playing it back to my piano teacher I’d just pretend to turn the page at the right time and I’d always get it wrong. I’d always get caught.”
Kloess switched to guitar by the time he was in sixth grade; “Nirvana, Bush, Green Day, none of those had piano,” Kloess said. After his dad taught him the basic chords he began playing in bands during high school. He continued though college and when he moved to Austin, Texas, with a friend from high school named Whitaker Elledge, Elledge introduced him to Mason.
“James actually went to college with him and that’s how we met,” Kloess said. “I have a finance degree and I actually started working at a bank for a couple of years, which is a blast and it’s perfect for me because I could work from anywhere,” Kloess said. “Once The Roosevelts started taking off and we could tour a little bit and I could work from the road; I was in the back of the van having conference calls with some of the heads of these major companies we were working with.”
When it became clear he couldn’t continue to do both jobs efficiently, Kloess chose to pursue music. On Feb. 17, Kloess and Mason wrapped up a Kickstarter campaign that attracted 566 backers and raised a total of $43,556 to help fund, distribute and organize a supporting tour for their debut album. Their initial goal of $35,000 was met with a week to spare, and stretch goals like back stories for songs from “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn” and free koozies and stickers helped push the total even higher. One of the more interesting incentives was the group’s own beard oil, available to backers who pledged $30 or more.
“My sister bought me some for Christmas a couple years ago,” Kloess said. “I was like what, this is weird, but I started using it and was like man, this stuff is pretty awesome! I ran out and beard oil is $20 or $30 a bottle; it’s not necessarily cheap, so James was like, why don’t we start making it ourselves, so we did. We hand-make it and every time we take it on the road we sell out.”
Kloess described their live show as energetic, lively affairs that feature stage banter and self-deprecating humor; interested parties can check out their tour dates at wearetheroosevelts.com. “The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn” is available April 22.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts