When J. D. Klossek found out a student at his school in Jersey City had become homeless, he wondered just what he could do.
“The mother and children were in one shelter, while the father was in another,” he said.
A guidance counselor by day, Klossek is also a musician, and as part of a band called Brick City Cowboys, he had been working towards putting together a CD.
“We have about seven of the songs done,” he said. “We thought we would finish the CD next summer. We were hoping for an October or November release.”
But the news about the student’s family misfortune made the band members think they should do something immediately.
In stepped iTunes, and an agreement that would allow the band to release its new material early with all the proceeds going to benefit the family. iTunes agreed to allow on-line sales from the disc or the band’s singles to be used to benefit the family until Easter.
“We want to be able to give the family something to help them relocate,” Klossek said.
Sales have already started on the West Coast, Klossek said, but this might have something to do with the title of one of the band’s songs about California.
“This all we have worth anything and this is all we have to give to this family.” – J. D. Klossek
Klossek wasn’t sure if this was a move to gentrify the neighborhood, but the eviction caused the family to become homeless.
“They found themselves a month or two behind the rent and got the eviction notice,” Klossek said. “They were in a homeless shelter, mother and kids in one shelter, the father in another.”
He said the band decided to use their music to help raise funds and awareness.
The band’s origins
The band was founded in Newark – from which it derives its name. Newark is called The Brick City because it was at one time the capital of brick making on the East Coast, using clay from the Meadowlands to create bricks. Klossek was born in Newark way back when “Country Wasn’t Cool” (to paraphrase a country song from 1981).
Klossek calls the band’s music “Retro Country.” He said he was introduced to country music from his mother, who was raised on a farm in Wilkes Barre, Pa. during the 1930s and 40s. While his friends were listening to The Beatles and Elton John, he was influenced by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Tom T. Hall.
The band’s song “California” is done in a Merle Haggard style, Klossek said.
Although some members of the band currently work in Nashville, JD Klossek and Bob Rogall work in the Jersey City School system.
Rogall writes with Klossek, but is also a mentor to the band members, doing “a bit of everything.” He also manages the band and gives sage advice on how to navigate through the complexities of the music business.
“He’s someone who goes back to Woodstock,” Klossek said. “He looks like Jerry Garcia and he’s seen nearly everybody over the last 40 years. When he hears a good song, he knows it. We’re really lucky to have him. We go to him whenever we have a problem.”
Klossek has lived in Jersey City for about 13 years.
“I started working as a teacher in Newark,” he said. He is currently a guidance counselor in PS 17 in Jersey City, where he met Rogall.
“We would talk during lunch or after school,” he said. “I told him we had some songs. He said he would like to hear them.”
Calling their effort, “Band Against Tragedy,” Klossek said he and the band members have met a number of people who have fallen on hard times. But the family that they hope to raise money for was in a particularly painful predicament, with two of the kids attending first and second grade in his school.
“Our goal is to raise at least $5,000 by Easter in order to help this one family to get an apartment and some furniture,” he said. “Any more than that will go to other families who are going through similar troubles.
Their EP (extended play) disc is priced at $7.99, and each individual song is $0.99, and they’re currently available on iTunes and CDBaby and will soon be available (if they’re not already) on Amazon and Google Music etc.”
“We know country music isn’t an urban thing,” he said. “But this is our heart and soul, this all we have worth anything and this is all we have to give to this family.”
Brick City Cowboys’ website is www.brickcitycowboys.com.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.