Where’s that old ’90s radio-rock jangle gone to anyway? I’m not talking about that Matchbox 20 drivel, nor the wet-noodle moaning of The Gin Blossoms. I’m talking Wallflowers, Counting Crows, rattly train-rumblin’ rock ‘n’ roll! Thankfully, somebody still knows his way around an electric guitar around here. Meet Jay Biddy, one such rootsy songwriter with a straight hip-hop name. As the frontman for This Way (www.myspace.com/thiswayband), Biddy’s been crafting this honest sound for some time, soon to break out with a stripped-down follow-up to This Way’s anthemic debut, “We Could All Make History.” GO stopped in to see how the record was coming.

What kind of band is This Way, anyway?

This Way, in its current format, rides the line between alt-country and roots rock with a full-blown melody addiction. Our sound is somewhere between Woody Guthrie and The Beatles, and conveniently, that turns out to be quite a lot of space. We play music that is simple enough to remember and nuanced and dynamic enough to keep you coming back for another listen.

How is the record coming along? Where’s your comfort level with the progress as compared to a month ago?

The new record is sounding absolutely incredible. We are all very excited about the progress This Way has made as producers of incredibly unique, original music. Things were a bit up in the air about a month ago with us losing some very key members of the band, including guitarist Max Cantlin. However, not more than a few days later, I got a call from my good friend Andrew Martelle, saying he was moving his family from Nashville to Portland permanently and wanted to start playing music regularly. I said, “Boy, do I have the job for you.”

We just recorded the fiddle parts, and all we have left is the harmony vocal parts from Anna Patterson, some more mandolin and accordion. We’re in the home stretch! 

What kind of record was “We Could All Make History”? What kind of record is this?

“We Could All Make History” was a rock ‘n’ roll album through and through. I’m talking anthem rock chock-full of mighty hooks, soaring guitar solos and an all-around bombastic nature, for the most part. Our new record, tentatively titled “Feels Like Home,” is just that: the kind of music that feels a bit more like home to the current members. “Feels Like Home” is more of the kinds of songs we would play in our living rooms and backyards with our friends and family. The songs are just more honest and focused and less aggressive. 

What does Andrew Martelle add to the band?

Andrew is This Way’s long-lost missing member. He brings with him the wherewithal of being a pro on the Nashville scene for a decade, playing fiddle and mandolin everywhere from the honky-tonks to the Ryman Auditorium. His presence in the band completes the more Americana approach we’ve been increasingly leaning toward for the last year. We’re really fortunate to have Andrew in the band. He’s without a doubt one of the best musicians I have ever played with. 

What’s your favorite room to play?

For sound, Port City Music Hall is kind of the cream of the crop in Portland at this given moment. In terms of atmosphere, I’ve always loved the vibes of playing at Empire. It’s a smaller room and much more intimate, which usually makes for sweatier and more natural performances. 

What does it mean that “there’s a song in every minute worth living”?

Much of my work as a musician and songwriter goes back to my dad. Music was always a huge part of my family’s day-to-day lives. My grandfather was a conductor on the railroads, and he would constantly be singing these old American folk songs, and when I was growing up, my dad would sing these songs all the time as well.

It would actually annoy me when I was young and some part of a conversation would trigger a song in my dad’s head and he would just belt it out. But it’s funny, because now I do the same thing. Our family actually speaks in song form.

Philosophically, I believe there is music and rhythm in every moment of life, and if you’re not hearing or feeling it, you’re not really living. If there’s no song, than you’re probably wasting time. 

Who has helped you along the way?

Without a doubt, my parents have helped me the most in achieving my musical goals. Taking up music was never an option for me; it was mandatory growing up, and I’m thankful my folks always shelled out the money for instruments and lessons, even when I would have rather not been the band geek all the time.

Much of the biggest help I’ve gotten along the way is just the inspiration I get from the songwriters I respect the most: Dylan, Lennon, Springsteen and Johnny Cash. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Studying the lives and careers of your biggest heroes can be the greatest help you can get.

My bandmates and friends continue to push me to write better and better songs, and my wife, Flora, pushes me to be a better and better person, so big thanks to them always. 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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