Guess who’s back? — Interview with original American Bombshell frontman Jay Cee
INTERVIEW WITH AMERICAN BOMBSHELL FRONTMAN JAY CEE
Date: February 11, 2022
Photos: Courtesy of American Bombshell / Chris Goody Carr
BACK ON JULY 22, 2021, AMERICAN BOMBSHELL FRONTMAN JAY CEE MADE THE SURPRISE AND SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE WAS NO LONGER IN THE BAND AND THAT HE WAS RETIRING FROM THE “BAND SCENE” AND DOING LIVE MUSIC. SIX DAYS LATER, AMERICAN BOMBSHELL ANNOUNCED THAT THEIR NEW LEAD VOCALIST WOULD BE JEFF STEARNS. BY EARLY DECEMBER 2021, THE GROUP REVEALED THAT IT HAD PARTED WAYS WITH STEARNS. FAST FORWARD A FEW WEEKS LATER, AND JAY CEE WAS BACK FRONTING AMERICAN BOMBSHELL FOR A SPECIAL INTIMATE GIG FOR THE BAND’S LONG-TIME FRIEND YOSHI BAXTER (WHO SADLY LOST HIS FIGHT AGAINST CANCER A FEW WEEKS LATER). IN MID-JANUARY, JAY CEE FRONTED THE BAND ONCE AGAIN FOR A BENEFIT SHOW IN GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN, USA.
SLEAZE ROXX IS HONOURED TO OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCE THAT JAY CEE IS BACK AS AMERICAN BOMBSHELL’S LEAD VOCALIST. FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT NOT BE FAMILIAR WITH AMERICAN BOMBSHELL, THEIR DEBUT ALBUM ‘NO REGRETS‘ LANDED THE #6 SPOT ON THE SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2016 AND THEIR SOPHOMORE RECORD ‘TATTOOED ‘N BRUISED‘ WAS VOTED TO THE #4 SPOT ON THE SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2019. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH JAY CEE WHO OPENED UP ABOUT WHAT LED HIM TO LEAVE AMERICAN BOMBSHELL, THE RATHER SUDDEN AND UNFORTUNATE WAY THAT HE DID IT, AND EVENTUALLY WHAT LED HIM TO GET BACK IN THE BAND.
Sleaze Roxx: So great news that you’re back in American Bombshell! We’ll get to the reasons why you left in the first place but what brought you back into the band?
Jay Cee: Well, they had this show lined up in Green Bay. It’s a cancer benefit yearly thing up there and after they let their former singer go that replaced me, they asked if I would be willing to go up and do that show. I said, “Sure” because it was a show that we were originally scheduled to perform in — let’s see in 2020. Yeah, in 2020, we were supposed to perform and it didn’t happen with the pandemic and then, we were supposed to do it in 2021 but same situation. So it was like for me, it felt like it was the best thing and right thing to do. It was kind of an obligation that we had so I felt it was the right thing to do. And then we got talking about the future of the band, basically it came down that it’s been a while since we had any music out so what would my interest level be in actually writing a new album and not worrying about shows. Just writing the new album and recording it. I thought it was a good idea with not having the pressure of being out there performing live and having dates to worry fulfilling, and just being able to focus solely on that. And I said, “I would be 100% down in doing that.”
Sleaze Roxx: OK, so that’s good news.
Jay Cee: So that’s where we are.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And when you played the Green Bay show, were you thinking at that point, “I’m going to get back in the band” or was it strictly a one-off thing?
Jay Cee: I was really kind of back and forth on it. I felt like that could be a doorway to maybe returning back to the band depending on how I felt after the performance because some of the things that had happened before, some of the things that I had been feeling and thinking before I left the band, that led me to leave the band, I wanted to see what my feelings were like to performing. So, I wasn’t necessarily thinking “I’m back in” and it was more like, “Let’s see what the possibilities are after we’re done and how I’m feeling.”
American Bombshell‘s entire live set at the Studio East 2022 Cancer Benefit in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA on January 21, 2022:
Sleaze Roxx: OK, and that leads to the question — what led you to leave the band? It felt kind of abrupt at least from a fan’s perspective. Maybe it wasn’t from your perspective? But all of a sudden, you’re not in the band anymore and it looks like it was a little bit of surprise to your band members as well. So what happened there exactly?
Jay Cee: Well, there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff for a few years. I had quit the band once before in 2019.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh! I didn’t know that.
Jay Cee: Nobody knew that. Only the band.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: There was a two-week period in 2019 that I left the band because we started having band member changes, line-up changes and not a lot of productivity in writing new music. Steve [Boyles] left the band. We had to replace him [with guitarist Dustin Webster]. And that new guy has to learn all the material so we’re not focused on writing. We’re focused on teaching him, getting him up to speed. And then it happened. Dusty ended up out of the band and we still had to replace another guitar player. That stuff started getting a little disheartening to me. And I kind of felt, ‘OK. This is circling the drain now.’ It’s not what I want to see happening and I wasn’t happy so I basically said, ‘I am out.’ There was basically two weeks of chasing by our drummer [Jason Carr] and Andy Nixon, our guitar player — basically just talking to me and convincing me, ‘Hey, let’s keep with it. It will work itself out. We’ll get there.’
So after about two weeks, I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll do it.’ But those feelings that I had at that time never really went away. They kind of kept magnifying and getting bigger. Stronger feelings of ‘This is not what I want to do.’ Once again, there was another member change. Trying to find a bass player [to replace Dustin Green]. We had different guitar players until we finally got [Slick] Mick. I think it just got to point where we had played a show and I didn’t want to be there. It became not fun and not where I wanted to be. And so we played a show one night. Not my best performance — a little too heavy on the drinking before the show, pre-gaming — and I just walked off stage mid-way through the set and just quit.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow!
Jay Cee: Yeah, it was a shock to them. My wife kind of knew — she knew it was coming but she didn’t think that it was going to happen that way at a show. Needless to say, there were a lot of hurt feelings. I managed to salvage the friendships with the guys in the band and in talking to them over the days that followed me quitting, they all understood how I felt. As much as I apologized to them for exiting the band the way that I did, they apologized to me in that they did not realize the way I was feeling was impacting my personal life, my mental health so much. If they had known that’s how I felt that strong, it would have worked
out differently. That’s what led up to that event of me quitting and kind of making me not want to do any music. Doing any music at all and especially being in a band, I just quit that and people just think, ‘Oh, he quit that to start something else.’ At that point, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do anything.’
Sleaze Roxx: It looked more like it wasn’t only the frustration with American Bombshell but with the whole music industry as a whole because you had indicated in a message that you didn’t want to perform anymore. You were tired of the band scene, period.
Jay Cee: Yes, that was it. It wasn’t issues within Bombshell. There was no personal issues. There was no infighting or anything like that. It was just things within myself that made me feel, ‘This is not what I want to do anymore.’ I’ve always told myself and I’ve told other people when it’s not fun, when you can’t do what you love to do and enjoy and have fun, then there is no sense in doing it anymore.
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. So I guess what has changed? It’s been about a year or so [actually about six months ago as Jay Cee announced via Facebook on July 22, 2021 that he was no longer the singer for American Bombshell] so what has changed that makes it fun for you now, that makes you want to give it a go again?
Jay Cee: [Long pause] Well, after the initial shock of me quitting had wore off and the band had moved on — and like I said, I still remained friends with everybody. I still talked to the guys all the time. Birthday parties and things like that, I would still go and hang out so we were still talking and seeing each other because the friendships meant a lot. I was a little surprised when they announced the new lead singer as fast as they did [six days after Jay Cee announced he was no longer in the band, American Bombshell revealed their new singer Jeff Stearns]. And for no other reason that I felt they didn’t really do the due diligence of trying to find a guy that fit the band, or fit the music even. Not that who they picked was a bad vocalist by any means but I don’t think that he was a good fit for the band. I just kind of felt like — I told the guys, ‘I don’t think he’s the right guy for you guys [laughs].’ I’d seen a couple of the shows that he did with them and [I was like] ‘I just don’t think he’s the right fit. I just think that there’s somebody better out there and what you want to do musically.’ And they said, ‘You know, that kind of sounds like a bitter ex-girlfriend [laughs]….
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: … telling her ex-boyfriend that his new girlfriend sucks [laughs].’ And I explained to them, ‘No. For me, I helped to found that band and build it to what it is.’ I still feel a responsibility to make sure that they succeed even if I’m not part of it. I still want them to succeed. I want them to be the best that they can be even without me. So, [laughs] they understood from that aspect of it and then it happened, that they let him [Jeff Stearns] go and the Green Bay thing came about. I knew that, ‘OK, I am going to need to do some rehearsals because I haven’t sang this whole time.’ I just worked my job and been with my family. I hadn’t really done anything. I said, ‘I have to do some rehearsals.’ So when they asked me to get together for our good friend Yoshi Baxter who was going through cancer, to get together in our rehearsal place and do kind of a private little gathering for him. I went over, sang through the stuff and it felt good. We enjoyed each other’s company. I think the fire had kind of gone out for some of them because how long can you rehearse in a room with no singer? You can rehearse, rehearse and rehearse but if you don’t have anyone doing anything vocally, it kind of becomes blah. So that was a good thing. But after we played the show in Green Bay, it was fun. I enjoyed just being around everybody, laughing, joking, having some beers, you know. It just seemed fun. Everybody was excited. I think probably because it felt like the band was finally solidified. We don’t feel like any member changes are going to happen. Nobody is not working out or anything like that. I think that is part of what has helped me feel better.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of your friend Yoshi, unfortunately, he passed away recently…
Jay Cee: Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: … after a valiant fight with cancer. Can you say a few words about him to the people that don’t know him?
Jay Cee: Yoshi Baxter was one of a kind. I never met another soul that lived and breathed music the way he did. [He was] the most caring, kind hearted person you would want to meet and supportive. I mean, from day one that he had ever saw us perform, he just was, ‘I’m telling everyone I know about this band!’ He would come over to rehearsal. He would buy albums and a bunch of merchandise, and next thing we know, he’s just sending it to people. Taking his own money and just sending it out to people because he believed that strongly in us. His friendship was just — like I said, I’ve never met anyone like him. He touched so many people in our local area. It’s a big loss as a friend but also as a supporter of the scene and the bands that he was into. He’s going to be missed. We actually just set a date for a memorial concert that we are going to put on for him locally. We just solidified a date for that yesterday.
American Bombshell‘s “Money On The Liquor” video (from Tattooed ‘N Bruised album):
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! That should be nice. So let’s get back — I am interested in finding out how you made amends and reconnected these friendships because I would think that a band mentor walking out halfway through a gig would be disastrous for the band — but somehow your friendships are strong enough to make it through that. Can you tell me what happened during that gig? You walk out halfway through. Did they finish the gig? Did they just stop? What happened?
Jay Cee: From my understanding, because when I walked off, I wasn’t in the room. But from my understanding, they had different people from the audience come up and try to sing some songs. I think they said that there were about four or five songs left from the set. They had a couple — guys from other bands and anyone that felt they knew the songs — get up and sing just to finish the night out. Because the way I did things was absolutely 100% not the way to do it.
Sleaze Roxx: Right. Sure [laughs].
Jay Cee: And that was 100% on me. The mending of the friendships was not an immediate thing although I did immediately offer apologies. However, I did not do it as a blanket apology. I approached each member of the band and apologized to them specifically, one at a time, in depth conversations. I apologized to all of the wives because they are part of the supporting network for this band. It was a mixture of they were mad at me. It was a humiliation factor for me because of the way that I did it. That’s the evils of alcohol!
Sleaze Roxx: Right [laughs].
Jay Cee: Because I admit that I had a lot to drink before that night happened. Had I not, it would have definitely went a lot differently. It would not have been as abrupt and it would not have been as much of a shock and a jolt. So after the apologies and the initial shock and anger of all that went away, we were able to, you know, still get together and be civil and friendly, and realize that yeah, the friendships do matter. I think that’s the part of what makes American Bombshell tight is that the friendships are just as strong as the musicianship and chemistry that we have in writing. We like hanging out. We like hanging out with each other. We like being around each other. It was four or five days after I quit, Andy [Nixon] was at a pool party with me [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: You know, he was like, ‘Hey, let’s take a picture and show people everything’s cool.’ So the friendships are important. I am very happy that I was able to mend those friendships and still be able to say that they were friends after it. I think the fire had went out a little bit going through the lead singer search. They did have some good people reaching out them about the vocalist spot but I think ultimately, they hoped that I would one day come back.
Sleaze Roxx: Right. Speaking of that, when I hear how you were still involved with the band, still connected to the band members, after you left, it seems to me that the new singer Jeff [Stearns] would have had a hard time. You would have cast your shadow over his time in the band. Do you feel that at all? What are your thoughts on that?
Jay Cee: Nah. I don’t feel that at all. I think for them, they kept it separate. I would talk to Jason [Carr]. Even during the time that I was out, I would say to Jason, ‘Hey, I’ve got a cool t-shirt idea for you guys.’ Stuff like that. Other than that, that was about it. I didn’t — I had a lot of people go, ‘Oh, you should go watch American Bombshell with the new guy’ and I was like, ‘Nah. I’m not there yet and I know that they’re not there yet to have me show up and make this guy feel this…’
Sleaze Roxx: …pressure [laughs]. Putting aside the band turmoil and all the issues in that regard, the reality is that American Bombshell have released two phenomenal albums. So where are you at with the third album as I understand that you’re writing with the band again?
Jay Cee: Well, thank you for those kind words on the first two albums. We had started recording a new album just the three of us — me, Andy [Nixon] and Jason [Carr]. At the time, we didn’t have anybody on the rhythm section yet. So it was the just three of us and we had started doing a third album but it just wasn’t feeling the same. You just got the three guys so we just kind of put it on the back burner. When we finally got [Slick] Mick [on guitar] and [David] DJ [Jones on bass], it felt like the newer stuff had a different feel and different vibe so we said, ‘Let’s focus on anything new that we do, let’s have them included in that so it’s not just me, Andy and Jason writing all the songs and doing all the parts.’ Now we actually have five guys contributing and five guys can be a part of it, and help create it. So that’s kind of where it came.
Mick is a very competent lead guitarist player as well and a songwriter so him bringing his style in was very cool because it’s from a different approach. Almost different stylistically but still organically feels like Bombshell material. So that’s been really, I would say, refreshing because there was so much time when it was just Andy being the only guy writing every single thing and I think — Andy told me himself — ‘I’m spinning my wheels.’ It’s hard just to keep writing everything being the only songwriter. So I think that it was nice for Andy to be feeling, ‘OK, wow! This guy is bringing in some music.’ So I think it’s been four years since the last album [American Bombshell’s last studio album ‘Tattooed ‘N Bruised’ was actually released on March 29, 2019] and we actually do have two songs completed two years ago [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: OK.
Jay Cee: For some reason or another — I don’t know why — they’ve never been released. And once I was out of the band, I told them, ‘If you guys don’t figure out a way to release these two songs, I’m going to put them out myself.’ Because if it’s the last thing that I do with the band, I want them to be heard.
Sleaze Roxx: Maybe you’re saving them for the next album?
Jay Cee: Right [laughs]. So now, it’s become, ‘OK, we’ve got these two songs. Let’s have Mick and DJ play, let’s have them put bass and guitar on it instead of just being us three on it.’ With that in mind, basically we are looking at doing a six-song EP and if it leads to a full album — 10 or 11 songs — that’s great. But for the most part, we’ve got these songs — I should say — they have these songs. A lot of these songs are songs that they had written and stuff when I was not in the band. There’s a few of them that is stuff that I had started before I quit but there are some that are totally new so those have been the focus. We’re going to start actually laying tracks I think next week.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Awesome! One thing that I wanted to touch on for the songwriting is that I think Steve Boyles was a big part of the songwriting for the first two albums if I’m not mistaken.
Jay Cee: Yeah! I mean, it was a fairly even writing — as far as the writing process. A lot of times, Steve would come in with the main first section, like intro sections of songs, and Andy would be like, ‘Oh, here’s a chorus for that song.’ And vice-versa, Andy would be like, ‘I’ve got this cool riff’ and Steve would be like, ‘What about this?’ Steve’s got a different background and style for music when he comes in. Steve’s element that he brought to the band that I really loved was that he had a very punky influenced stuff, which I felt gave a lot of energy to the stuff that we wrote. I think that is something that we’ve been able to maintain with the new material that we are writing. That same element, which I think some people had been worried that we would probably change the entire style and sound of the band given all of these member changes that have been there but that’s definitely not been the goal. The thing that we have noticed is the songs that people come up to us and tell us how much they love are always the high energy, high rocking [ones]. The songs that most people would say, ‘Oh, it’s a radio hit. Oh, it’s this and that.’ Those are the songs that really, we have played them live but they don’t go over.
Sleaze Roxx: Right.
Jay Cee: People want to have the high energy “No Regrets”, “Tattooz ‘N’ Booze” [from the debut album ‘No Regrets’] — that kind of vibe. That’s a lot what the new material is — a lot of that.
American Bombshell‘s “No Regrets” video (from No Regrets album):
Sleaze Roxx: One thing that I noticed is that even though you’ve quit the band two times, they’ve always tried to get you back in the fold. During the time that you were having other member issues, was there any thought of getting Steve [Boyles] back in the fold?
Jay Cee: There has been. Well, I want to say we’ve tried but there was outside elements, outside influences — people that were coming in and saying, ‘Look, he’s just… Go back, get the original band back together and hit it again.’ With Steve, I think there is — I don’t know man because it’s never been quite clear why Steve left. Steve has his reasons. I’ve talked to Steve. The reasons why I thought he quit for, he tells me those aren’t the reasons. He doesn’t really tell me what the reasons are [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Alright.
Jay Cee: And then same thing for other guys who will talk to him. They’ll him their reasons and he’ll say, ‘No, that’s not why.’ He doesn’t tell them why so, but we also know that it came up that when our friend Yoshi [Baxter] was diagnosed with cancer, some people approached us about doing a benefit type show that could have all the original guys back on stage even if just for that. Through Steve, it was a very hard ‘no.’
Sleaze Roxx: OK. Fair enough.
Jay Cee: He basically just said, ‘Yeah, no. Won’t happen.’
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. I was just wondering about that.
Jay Cee: In a perfect world you know [laughs]….
American Bombshell‘s “My Drug” single (bonus track from Tattooed ‘N Bruised album):
Sleaze Roxx: So what’s the timing for the new EP?
Jay Cee: Well, if everything goes the way that we hope it goes, against this back drop of Covid that is happening right now, I would say hopefully by summer. I would say July, we should probably have the full product ready. I would expect that definitely, we would put a single out within April or May. We’re kind of bringing it back to basics. We want to kind of go back to the first album. A little more raw, a little more straight ahead and not overthinking, not overdo it, not overproduce. I think that’s where everybody is at.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! That sounds good. What about in terms of shows and stuff like that? What are your plans for 2022? I know that it’s hard with Covid. Things change all the time [laughs].
Jay Cee: Yeah, I think for the most part, right now the focus is on getting new music, creating it and getting it out there. Like I said, it’s been four years since the last album.
Sleaze Roxx: Three years, three years.
Jay Cee: [Laughs] They told me it had been four [years]. I just said, ‘I don’t know. I just sing!’
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: [Laughs] So I think that’s the focus. I think there really hasn’t been any discussions of shows, any discussion of touring or anything outside of the date that we just booked for the memorial concert for our friend Yoshi Baxter [Rock for Yoshi at the Hi-Fi in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA with special guests Rok Hollywood and The Silver Birds on March 18, 2022].
Sleaze Roxx: So can we say that it’s official, that you are back with the Bombshell for good?
Jay Cee: [Laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: Errrr [laughs]. Well, I’d say yeah. It’s as official as it can be outside of them… I made a joke to them last night, ‘It’s not official until it’s Facebook official.’
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s right!
Jay Cee: In this world you know, nothing is real until it’s Facebook real.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s true. That’s funny.
Jay Cee: So yeah, as of now, that is the situation as it stands. I’m back in the band. I feel that it’s the best place for me to be in musically.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, I think that you’re a great fit in the band. You’re a huge part of the band.
Jay Cee: Well, thank you sir. I did have some solo stuff that I started working on during my down time. I’m still going to do a small EP which is different than anything that Bombshell has done. It’s really different than anything that I’ve ever done but it’s all stuff that I enjoy singing stylistically. So those are some things that I am still going to try to get out there and put out on my own but right now, it’s getting Bombshell to put out some new material out there and reigniting those fires.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And just on your solo material, how does it differ from the Bombshell material?
Jay Cee: Stylistically, it’s the furthest that you can get away from rock. It’s very different. I would say a little bit of country, little bit more singer / songwriter stuff. Maybe even John Meyer or Matchbox 20. There’s a pop rock dance type song. There’s like four songs and each one of them is different for sure from the other.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that you would like to mention that we haven’t covered?
Jay Cee: No. I think that we’ve covered everything that you can think of.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Alright. That sounds good. Well, thanks so much for doing the interview and maybe I’ll hit Jason [Carr] for some band photos. He’s been pretty good at…
Jay Cee: Yeah, we [laughs]… He’ll be more than happy to help you with that because we did a photo shoot about two weeks before I left the band and they never got to use any of those pictures.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Jay Cee: [Laughs] I know that’s one thing when I left, he was like, ‘Man, you are making me have to redo photos.’ Jason hates to do photo shoots. He was like, ‘Now, you are going to make me do frigging photos dude! We just got new band photos and I’ve got to redo this [laughs]!’
Sleaze Roxx: That’s pretty funny! Alright, I’ll hit Jason up.
American Bombshell‘s “Joyride” video (from Tattooed ‘N Bruised album):