Courtesy of Curtis Wayne Millard
After years as a guitarist in bands like the Madison Square Gardeners and Semi Precious Weapons, and as a solo artist who has worked with Jack White, Columbus native Aaron Lee Tasjan is coming home.
Tasjan, who grew up in New Albany, Ohio, about 25 minutes northeast of Columbus, is scheduled to return to Columbus for a show with singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston 7 p.m. Monday at Woodlands Tavern.
“The vibe of the show is to have a good time, all the time,” Tasjan said. “I like people to feel like they get their dollar’s worth and I want them to feel like we’re just having a conversation.”
Although he might take a more laid-back approach to his live show, Tasjan has been keeping himself very busy lately. Besides touring, he is recording a new album with the Madison Square Gardeners, which he said will be released this fall, as well as a solo record. He is also producing a record for Irish DJ, author and photographer BP Fallon.
“That’s how I like to make music – doing something that’s in the moment, always making something and always doing what you love,” Tasjan said. “So the music might not sound technically perfect, but it has a lot of heart and soul to it.”
Tasjan said after taking a year and a half off from playing with The Madison Square Gardeners, which he co-founded in 2008, he is excited to get back to work with his friends.
“We’re like a band of fans instead of musicians,” Tasjan said. “Making this record was just the six of us together in a room and we played the songs one or two times and that was it. There’s no fancy Auto-Tuning on the songs. We just did it all straight from the gut.”
While making the record, titled “Six Dudes, Three Chords,” the band members had just two rules: they couldn’t write a song with more than three chords on it and only one song on the record could have a bridge.
“The simplicity of it is fantastic and it’s a challenge to write songs with only three chords on them,” Tasjan said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously and want people to have fun listening to our music.”
As a solo artist, Tasjan is recording “So Young and So High,” the follow-up to his last record, “The Thinking Man’s Filth,” which was released in November. Though he said the music on the new album will sound similar to the last, describing it as “psychedelic and lyric-driven,” he is taking more time to write and record the songs this time around.
“The last record was me putting my guitar through all these weird sounds so it doesn’t sound like just one guitar. I love that – kind of like making something out of nothing,” Tasjan said. “So I’m using that same concept … but I’m fleshing it out a little more.”
Wes Books, manager at the Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, where Tasjan played Friday, said Tasjan’s set got an enthusiastic response from the show’s attendees.
“He played a handful of original songs and he was great,” Books said. “The crowd loved him, and people seemed to really be digging it.”
Though he started playing guitar when he was only 10 years old, Tasjan said he initially didn’t think of music as a career. But after years of practice and trying to copy the musicians he saw playing on MTV, he decided he wanted to be a performer.
“I wanted to have that feeling of being at a concert and being in a room with people where we’re all being excited about this music and saying, ‘Isn’t this such a cool feeling?’ I wanted to feel that from a performer’s perspective,” Tasjan said.
In high school, Tasjan started playing small gigs at places like Brewster’s Coffee House in Gahanna, Ohio, and eventually joined a band that played at small venues around Ohio State like Scarlet and Grey CafÃ© and Little Brother’s, which closed in 2007.
“It took me a long time – almost 10 years – before I really got anywhere with it,” Tasjan said of his music career, which began when he moved to New York City after graduating from New Albany High School.
In New York, Tasjan helped co-found the band Semi Precious Weapons before his big break in 2008, when he was asked to go on tour with the punk band New York Dolls. Since then, he has recorded a song produced by White, played with the art rock band Operation Juliet with John Lennon’s son Sean Lennon and had one of his original songs, “Streets Of Galilee,” covered by Texas country superstar Pat Green.
“I’m very appreciative of what I do have because I’ve worked really hard to get it,” Tasjan said of his success. “It makes me feel good that it wasn’t something orchestrated by some music lawyer. It was something I just did by trying to be the best guitarist and best musician I could possibly be.”
Clay Wright, Tasjan’s friend who also works in the music business, said he thinks part of Tasjan’s success has to do with his knack for adapting to different styles of music, as well as his hard work.
“Aaron’s one of the most versatile musicians you could ever meet. He’s a chameleon,” Wright said. “He can learn anything in two seconds, he practices his ass off, and he’s such a student of music. He’s this underdog superhero guy who just never stops working.”
But even as he keeps piling more and more onto his plate, Tasjan said he’ll be happy as long as he can keep doing what he loves.
“My goal in my career is to be able to keep making a living out of it, have it be fun when I get up every day, and hopefully inspire some people,” Tasjan said. “To feel like I can have a hand in somebody picking up an instrument or writing a song – that makes me feel like the king of the world.”
Tickets to Monday’s show are available for $10 through eTickets. Woodlands Tavern is located at 1200 W. 3rd Ave.