Sometimes it takes a tragedy to create something beautiful. Just as pure emotion can only come from the deepest part of our souls, pure talent sometimes only shines through when the person possessing it has been stripped bare, the very edge of their sanity raw and gasping for air. It is then that person is transformed into who they were truly meant to be. Such is the case with Jeff Greene, a rising star on the local music scene who only found his true talent through the untimely death of his mother. It is his love for her that pushed him to reach far beyond his comfort level and discover something within himself that he never knew was there.
“I was born in Indianapolis, where I started playing the bass when I was 14,” Jeff told us. “I performed with some bands for awhile, but never did much with it, and when I moved to Fort Myers Beach at the age of 18 I started worked at Kilwin’s – I was the fudge maker! After that I got a job at Pierside Grill, and it was long after that I became a street performer.”
Even then, Jeff told us he ‘wasn’t that serious’ about music until the unthinkable happened.
“I was 25 when I lost my mom,” he said. “She always supported my music – she would listen to me play when no one else would. After she died, I changed – I started playing just for her.”
Greene threw himself into his new passion, practicing as much as eight hours a day. In true Fort Myers Beach spirit, other local musicians saw what he was going through and pitched in to help, circling their wagons around someone they recognized to be one of their own.
“Dave Collaton was a big mentor of mine – still is – he taught me a lot of songs and a lot about writing them,” Jeff said. “Also Chris Kemp and Danny Shepard from High Tide – they helped me to learn the guitar. You know Smokin’ Bill? His wife, Tammy, chipped in and made my business cards. This is what has sustained me for the last two years – music.”
That was in 2014. In just two short years, Greene went from a busker with a day job to recording his own music, and is now just weeks away from his first tour.
“It was Pierside that gave me my first shot – they hired me for Sunday nights, and I’m there still,” he said. “Then I hooked up with this phenomenal singer, Autumn, and we play as a duo ‘Toots & the Man’ – I’m the Man, haha – on Tuesday nights at Salty Crab.”
Jeff has already written and released one single – ‘She Said’ – which is available on iTunes. It, like much of his music is haunting and profound, and in it one can hear echoes of the music that influences him – Tom Petty, Zack Brown, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Ed Sheeran.
“I’ve got another single – ‘Every Day’ – coming out at the end of the year,” he said.
In late July, Jeff will embark on his first ever summer tour.
“I’m going to be playing in Indiana on July 28th and 29th – while visiting family, then in North Carolina and then Gainesville, Florida on the way home,” he said. “It will be a working vacation – a nice getaway.”
Long term, however, Jeff says he’s found his dream, and his home, on Fort Myers Beach.
“I plan to keep on recording, keep on practicing, keep on getting better,” he said. “Music is my life.”
Keri Hendry Weeg