“Maybe I’m crazy maybe insane maybe over the edge, but I’m only twenty and I’m too young to have already seen all this shit”If that sounds like a troubled soul who has hit rock bottom and pulled himself up out of the mess that was his life, then you’ve just been introduced to the mind and creative outlook of Jeremy Tolin. Born and raised in the Carolinas, Jeremy Tolin is a talented and promising folk rock musician who is currently recording his debut album titled A Smiling Face in a Broken Society.
Long before he wrote songs of personal ruin and finding redemption, Jeremy grew up in a musical family and played with toy guitars. He performed lip-synched concerts at home and he also sang hymns in church. Jeremy started playing music in his church’s youth group when he was 14, the same year he first started playing guitar. Playing praise songs in church and then writing original songs in his bedroom led to Jeremy performing in a few local coffee shops and high school parties.
Tom Petty, John Sebastian, Bright Eyes, Josh Ritter and countless others inspired and influenced Jeremy as he continued growing as a musician and learning his craft. After graduating high school, Jeremy moved up to playing at local bars. He says performing and writing his songs was his version of therapy. Music, and writing original songs, is just an outlet for me to let my emotions out,” Jeremy says. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to say what I mean just through conversation so I let it out in my music.”
“Being musically creative,” Jeremy continues, “is a way to escape reality,” and a way to deal with reality. “Songs come along that you can lose yourself in. Music is sometimes just the best thing to pick myself up from those painful moments… it balances me out.” On his upcoming Kamikaze Dogwood Records label debut A Smiling Face in a Broken Society, Jeremy reflects his Christian roots and shares his disillusionment with what he calls hypocrites in the church, all while exorcising his inner dark side in an effort to find light through that darkness.
Jeremy’s favorite track on the album is “Ain’t it a Shame,” a song he says is about “getting out of the same routine (drink, drama, vomit…repeat) and instead going somewhere else to pursue his dreams. The stark instrumentation and piercing, painful lyrics reveal Jeremy as an artist to be both simple in his approach and amazingly personal and heartfelt in his delivery: “I said I feel like I’ve already been to hell and the devil stole my soul and he auctioned it off for sale. But I never felt the pain, not with cocaine running through my veins.”
Jeremy delves further into his psyche for the bitter confessionary tale told in “Bad Habits,” where the listener finds Jeremy bitterly examining the futility of prayer to a person who has already fallen and seems abandoned in the turmoil. “That song is about my religious background. I was raised Southern Baptist and still consider myself a Christian,” Jeremy says. “But as I got older, I realized that 99% of these ‘devout Christians’ were just hypocrites who looked down on everyone else when they really should have been examining their own lives.”
Jeremy’s real life drug experiences after high school fuel the song’s brutally honest lyrics as he looks at his life gone wrong: “They say when I die the good Lord’s gonna take my soul away, But it’s strange and odd how nothing ever happens when I pray. What’s the point in the savior when I use chemicals anyway? But you can still find me in the Church leading praise songs every single Sunday.”
Jeremy says he went through a period after his second year out of high school where he experimented with different drugs, but says “They were just bringing me more down than up, and music just helps me stay happy through the ups and downs of that period.” As Jeremy puts that ‘up and down period’ of his young life behind him, he speaks of “the passion I put into writing songs.” “I hope that people who listen to my music will be able to relate my stories and thoughts to their own lives,” Jeremy says. “I just want people to think I am true to who I am and that I sing simple songs about real life things with sincere, honest lyrics and a bit of optimism at the same time.”