Jay Ansill's Cheese Project


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The Cheesy Beginnings

I remember exactly where I was.  

I was headed north on Rte 1 just north of Brunswick, Maine and it was late at night. What I can’t say is why the song “Seasons in the Sun”  crossed my mind, but in some complicated, twisted series of associations, there it was.

I would have been about 12 when that song was a hit for Terry Jacks, and even then I knew it was a terrible terrible song. Overly sentimental and dramatic lyrics along with an insipid melody. And yet, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I thought it might be funny to record the song in my home studio. If I did it perfectly straight and recorded the instruments well, as if it was a good song, it could really be hilarious.

Then I started to think of other songs that fell into the same category; songs that made you cringe.  Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey”, “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero”, and so on. There was no shortage of cheesy pop songs to choose from. I started thinking that I could do a whole CD of these. It started as a joke. (Hey! “I Started a Joke” by the Bee Gees might be a good one to do.)

A few weeks later I found myself in a 24 hour supermarket at about three in the morning. I don’t think there were any other customers in the store and the staff was restocking the shelves. This late at night, the guys working there keep the store’s sound system was turned up pretty loud. While I was shopping, Johnny Rivers’ “Summer Rain” came on. This was a song I never really thought about. I probably had heard it hundreds of times, but I never really listened to it. Even then I wasn’t really paying attention. But when it got to the chorus, the lyrics hit me: “everybody just kept on playing Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

And I remembered a documentary I had seen about the Sgt Pepper album and somebody saying that, when it was released, you could walk down the street and hear the album blasting out of the windows. And I thought about my own memories of that record, which came out when I was really just discovering music as a kid. And I thought about this song, and how, despite the fact that it was hardly a song I’d consider a favorite, it was something I knew; part of my musical landscape. It was like two layers of nostalgia: the nostalgia evoked by hearing the lyrics reference the Beatles, and the nostalgia evoked by the song itself.

I know this is hardly a profound thought, but I found myself welling up right there in the Acme Market at 3AM. There were tears in my eyes. 

At the time I was working in NY on a theater project, and I discussed these ideas with the cast. For the remainder of the run, the backstage was filled with suggestions for songs. It seems I had tapped into something. Everybody had these guilty pleasures.

When I told Shilough Hopwood of Honeychurch about the idea of doing a project based on cheesy pop songs, his response was “I was born to be on this project!” When I spoke to Anne Hills about it, she immediately claimed “The Elusive Butterfly”. Every musician I spoke to had some secret guilty pleasure that they always wanted to do. After I made a few little demos in my home studio and shared them with friends on the Facebook Cheese Project page, enthusiasm and momentum started building. Soon the productions were getting more ambitious and various friends were joining in as singers and players. The list of participants is growing and is getting quite impressive! 

There were too many songs to limit this to a single CD, I like the idea of making this an ongoing project so I came up with the idea of releasing them exclusively as downloads and soon this website will be the place where you can find the latest songs.

My hope is that it will be more than that. I’d like this to become a place to come visit and share ideas and suggestions and memories of these classic cheesy songs. I’ll be posting pictures from recording sessions and writing about various things, so please come back soon!

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