Paul Jefferson and Lisa Brokop were sweethearts for years before figuring out that they should sing together professionally.
Both are respected songwriters with numerous hits in their pockets; Jefferson’s pleasing country tenor, blended with Brokop’s soaring alto, is a natural fit. They sound as if they grew up singing together.
But they didn’t, and it wasn’t until they got married in 2008 that they started thinking about forming “an act.”
They call it – what else? – The Jeffersons. They’ll be Jeff Ross’ special guests at Sunday’s Savannah Songwriters Series concert in the Cha Bella courtyard.
“This isn’t something that we planned,” says Brokop, who was already a major country star in her native Canada when she met Jefferson, a Californian. “In a way, we probably tried to avoid it, because we were afraid to bring business into the relationship, that sort of thing.”
Both Lisa and Paul had successful careers of their own, thank you very much.
“But it sorta came after us, in a way,” Brokop laughs. “Paul’s always said that. And in a way, it feels like the sum of these two parts is greater than what we were originally. And it’s not even something I can explain.”
Jefferson, who’s also a licensed pilot and a flight instructor, co–wrote, among other things, Aaron Tippin’s No. 1 hit “That’s As Close As I’ll Get to Loving You.”
Producing his then–girlfriend’s 2008 album Beautiful Tragedy was, at that point, as close as Jefferson wanted to get to working with her.
Ah, but things change.
“When we first started this, I wasn’t completely into it, to tell you the truth,” he says. “I’ve never been a fan of duos. Especially married–couple duos!
“Lisa was touring in Canada, and a couple times I went up there and played with her, and eventually I sang a song with her. We were onstage singing a song that we’d kinda rehearsed a little bit, and we got a standing ovation. And I think ‘Well, that’s odd.’ So we do it again, and it happens again.
“I’m not saying that it isn’t a fluke or anything, but it just seems to keep happening that way – when we play and we both feel like we’ve done our best, we get a great response. It’s not exactly what I wanted to do, but with showbiz you gotta do what you gotta do to make a buck. So I’m actually starting to come around.”
Brokop’s hits as a performer include “Give Me a Ring Sometime,” “One of Those Nights” and “I’d Like to See You Try.” She has been named Canada’s Independent Artist of the Year numerous times.
So she had a lot at stake – but The Jeffersons couldn’t be held back.
Brokop admits she might have sacrificed something by putting her solo career on hold. “But at the same time, I feel like I’m gaining something,” she says. “I’m gaining a partner, of course, and I think there’s a chemistry there that I didn’t have as a solo artist.
“I hope this goes on for a long, long, long time. It just makes sense for us – we’re married, we have a little girl now. It really feels like we’re on the right path. But you never know.
“We might go down the road and I might say ‘Hey, I want to do this kind of record.’ Or Paul might want to do an album of Japanese love songs. Who knows? We’re open for everything.”
Although they reside in Nashville, the couple went to Canada – where many of their musician friends live – to record their just–released debut album, Vol. 1.
It’s a thrilling ride through modern (acoustic–based) country, with a full band; all of the songs but one were written by either Jefferson or Brokop, mostly with other writers.
In Nashville, of course, songwriting is a full–time occupation. Writers actually make appointments to work on songs together, to get the job done.
That’s how Paul and Lisa met – although the friend who set up their initial meeting had an ulterior motive.
“We were set up – but it was more of a set up for us to meet,” Jefferson recalls. “I didn’t know that that was going on.
“So we were writing together, and when you write together you sort of sing some harmonies and stuff. And I’ve always loved Lisa’s voice. And she’s a great harmony singer. I don’t know if it’s just us, or if Lisa could sing with anybody, but the harmonies worked really well. And we continue to do that.”
It was during an earlier session that Brokop met Jefferson Ross – they were signed to the same publishing company – and the two began writing together.
“He would get together with me and write the stuff that wasn’t as commercial,” Brokop explains. “It was kind of his little escape from the commercial writing in Nashville. I was working on an album at the time and I didn’t want to do the kind of regular radio stuff.” The pair composed “Act of Defiance,” one of the standout tunes on Vol. 1.
In his own act of defiance Ross, tired of the cookie–cutter method of trying to churn out “hits” for other artists, relocated to Savannah last year. He started the Savannah Songwriters Series, which is why – yep – Brokop and Jefferson are on their way down.
It’ll just be the two of them, with their acoustic guitars and those golden voices. They’ve left the band in Nashville.
Brokop expects the show to be a lot like the “house concerts” they sometimes perform.
“The whole point of it is the intimacy that you can get with this kind of a show,” she says. “To be in someone’s living room, or however they want to set it up, there’s a warmth that comes with that.
“And to be able to sit there and talk about the songs ... it’s a different way than you would, say, if you were performing for a couple thousand people on a stage. Or even 500 people. People can really be a part of the show.”
As for Jefferson, he’s not looking down the road. Well, not too far.
“We’ve both been in this business a while, and I can’t presume to guess what’s gonna happen,” he admits. “But I’m hoping that we can do some more. We called this album Vol. 1 because it’s like making a movie and calling it Rocky 1. Saying there’s gonna be more coming.
“I’m hoping it’s very successful. I hope that we make tons of money, and make other people tons of money. And probably more important, to make people feel something. We want people to weep, and we want people to laugh. In that order.”
Savannah Songwriters’ Series
With Jefferson Ross and Stan Ray
Where: Cha Bella, 102 E. Broad Street
When: At 6 p.m. Sunday, July 10
Artist’s site: www.thejeffersonsmusic.com
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