JD Eicher, a singer/songwriter from Youngstown, Ohio, is using his voice as a platform for social justice.
The last seven months have seen one of the largest emotional showcases in American history. It began with a lockdown that evolved into COVID-19 fatigue and then burst into the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Many people have spent the better part of the last year showcasing their quarantine activities and calling for changes in our nation’s system on social media.
For Eicher, his most influential voice is music.
On Oct. 15, Eicher released a new single, “History,” where he addresses the issues he saw unfold in the world.
“I think ‘History’ has come out of this year of chaos,” he said. “In particular, the Black Lives Matter movement came to the forefront. It was for so many people just really an emotional moment. I was posting about and doing that kind of stuff. But I just felt like, that's not really my best voice.”
While the world is living through their own history amidst the pandemic, the origins to Eicher’s “History” reign from another major event approaching in his life. He is expecting a child in November.
“I was at the keyboard and the process began,” he said. “How do you tell your kid about the situation you are bringing them into? How do you preface the mess that he’s about to be in?”
While Eicher is concerned about his son, he also thinks that he needed to better understand the ideas he was writing about.
“This idea that you show up here, you have no choice in the matter, you just are who you are, and then you’re subjected to that,” he said. “Some of us get really lucky; some of us are screwed.”
Eicher also addresses his own privilege in “History.”
“What bothers me most about it all is that we’re allowed to ignore it,” he said. “I just can’t get comfortable with that. ‘History’ came to be because if I could figure out a way to say it, that didn’t offend someone in the process, maybe it would inspire people too. I’m not saying that a lot of people are gonna hear that song, but the people that do hear it, maybe they’ll offer a second thought before they judge somebody who’s different.”
Eicher released “History” with the B-Side “Money Back” which appeared on his 2019 EP “Songs from Before.” It contemplates socioeconomic themes.
“‘Money Back’ is a little bit more directly in line with what, you know, my own personal beliefs,” he said. "I originally put that out around the midterms.”
Eicher thought the two songs paired well together for the single’s release.
“‘History’ touches lots of what I see in the world,” he said. “‘Money Back’ is a little bit more polarizing for folks who don’t agree with some of the sentiments.”
Eicher also knows that using his music as a platform to address social justice may make some listeners uncomfortable.
“Even calling the song ‘History’ is probably like a little bit of an edge to that I should be careful with,” he said. “I think songwriters in general feel you have to write about the things that you feel strongly about. Sometimes that comes with a little bit heavier weight, or a little bit of extra consequence.”
On top of writing a song that was emotionally investing for Eicher’s beliefs and the future of his own family, he was also producing it during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We cut ‘History’ over at Court Street Recording studio, which is where we cut our last album,” he said. “It was a little different. I mean, at first, they were shut down, like everybody, and then we ended up doing a masked session. I was cutting the keys part for the song and we had masks on. And then I would go in the other room for vocals, we could be a little more spaced out.”
That was just a one on one session with Eicher and his producer Mike Estok.
Eicher’s next challenge comes in November, when he plans on getting back in the studio to record the beginning of what he plans to be a full-length LP — this time surrounded by a full band.
“We’ll be kind of coordinating that differently,” he said. “We have some players who are older, and so we’re gonna have to space that out carefully. And I don’t think people will be hanging out in the studio, you’re in when you’re cutting. And then when we get your stuff, you can go home, because we just want as few people as possible.”
The new restrictions are not getting in the way of Eicher’s excitement to record. In fact, he thinks he may have a hit or two already written.
“There’s a song called ‘Come Back to Me’ that behind the scenes people have heard it and seem to be excited,” he said. “That always gets me fired up. Then you ask an artist their favorite song, and you always think whatever you just did is the best. But when other people start to feel that way, you start to feel like, okay, you should be excited about this.”
His daughter likes another song he has prepared too.
“She sings it constantly,” he said. “So that’s a good sign if it’s an earworm. I don’t have a title for yet, because it could have a few different titles, but I’m pumped for that one.”
JD Eicher is a passionate singer and family man. He usually sings about love and life, and he believes that everyone has a voice. While he feels he walked the line with his newest single, he is confident that he uses his voice for good.
Eicher wants his music to be an influence on society’s growth. He is actively pursuing that idea. Soon he will have a son who he wants to teach social issues. Someday he will even record songs without a mask on. When that day comes, he will look back on this part of his life and be glad that “History” has taught him a fine lesson.