Home » Sounds of Syracuse » Hard Promises Good Times – A Chat with Jeff Gordon

Hard Promises Good Times – A Chat with Jeff Gordon

I’ve been to a number Hard Promises shows and they’re always packed with a dedicated audience. And for good reason. If you like classic rock, these guys deliver tune after memorable tune in bic-flicking, high-energy fashion.

10415626_549607218481878_627368832251432992_nThey started out as a Tom Petty tribute band and continue to play special shows dedicated to the music of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. With that said, they still play plenty of shows that also include popular favorites by Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Cars, Boston, Journey – yep – more Tom Petty, and more.

With a deep history in Syracuse music, Hard Promises is comprised of current and former members of Benny Mardones’ Hurricanes, Kane, the Custom Taylor Band, The Shop, Jake Fake and the Liars, and Joey Belladonna’s Chief Big Way.

Needless to say, the boys can play. Their sense fof quality and quest for detail is obvious in a very short time. Whether they play it “just like the record” or take slight liberties in their arrangements—which usually means toughening up a particular song or two —they are always engaging; delivering their music in a way that let lets their audience know that “they” come first.

Jeff Gordon fronts the group on vocals, guitar and frontman antics that are well-seasoned and handled in a way that is cool without trying to be. He is not the frontman that makes you feel uncomfortable. Rather, he get’s you involved before you realize you’re singing along, and toasting mutually with the band because, very simply… you’re having fun. Good classic rock bands tend to have a compelling combination of lead singer and lead guitarist. You know… Page and Plant, Jaggar and Richards, Mercury and May. Hard Promises has Gordon and Farrell.

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Farell’s guitar playing. For me, in a music term: Note-placement. With all his prowess around the neck, his choices are always classy, clean and mean.

10373785_546801935429073_9088885732641341614_nThe rest of the band is also made up of super-chops players backing the whole thing with profound proficiency and their own matter of style. And, judging by their consistently impressive audiences, this is not so much news as it is common knowledge.

I just happened to be having a drink with Kevin several weeks ago, among friends, and he directed me to Jeff when I brought the notion of doing this article.

And here we are.

CS: Howdy Jeff. Thanks for taking a little time to tell us all about Hard Promises.

JG: Thanks, Chuck.

CS: Tell us the nutshell version of your group; and who’s in it.

JG: Hard Promises is a classic rock cover band that plays throughout Central New York. Band members include Kevin Farrell on lead guitar, John Goodwin on Keyboards, Todd Troubetaris on Bass, and Jeff Gordon on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Pete Levante was our drummer since the band’s inception but recently moved out of state so we are now working with Eric Wilson on drums.

CS: How did you get started in music?

JG: All the band member started playing at a very early age and just never stopped. I started singing in elementary school and performed in the children’s chorus for several operas that came through town. In middle school I began playing bass and guitar and my mother had me take piano lessons. Bands in high school followed and I just never stopped.

CS: You guys play a pretty wide setlist within the classic rock heading. What influences your choices?

JG: As a band, we are heavily influenced by the variety of music from the 70’s and 80’s that makes its way onto playlists on classic rock radio. We are also avid Tom Petty fans and actually do a tribute show to Tom Petty’s music.

CS: Hence the band moniker, of course. What was the last concert you went to?

JG: I saw the Steve Miller Band at Chevy Court along with 37,000 of my closest friends. It was a great performance and the songs bring back so many memories.

CS: Hey, I was at that show. Its a great place to see a show. Speaking of shows in the area, how does the CNY music scene look to you?

JG: There are so many talented musicians in Central New York. We could all use more venues to perform in. It is a tough business climate for establishments that host live music, whether it is original bands, cover bands, solo acoustic, etc.. I always believe it is our responsibility, as a band, to work hard and promote our shows to the best of our ability. If we want gigs, we have to produce a crowd and generate income for the establishment.

CS: Amen to that. Please share a highlight from your music days.

251366_293697114072891_1143521232_nJG: As a band, opening for national acts is always a blast because we get to meet people that we have been listening to for so long. This past year we opened up for Bret Michaels at Taste of Syracuse and a couple of years back we opened for Loverboy and Lou Gramm. We certainly understand our role when doing this. We have to get te crowd jacked up and excited to see the headliner. Get them in the right headspace to give the headliner the best opportunity to wow the crowd. We definitely never take these opportunities for granted and are grateful that people trust us with these gigs. Personally, my two highlights musically were when I was lead singer for Joe Bonamassa’s band in the early 90’s and toured with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and Little Feat, and when I opened for John Waite at Ballooonfest since John is my all-time favorite vocalist.

CS: Funny… I was just relating to a friend how I met John Waite at a sound check in California once. He was having a bad day, and I’ll leave it at that. But now that you mention it, I can see your favorite vocalist connection. All these shows…. all these people you get to meet in the biz…You must have a funny war story… You know… the time some chick pulled up on a stolen John Deere tractor, naked, drinkin’ PBRs and accidentally mowed down the stage to bits, without ever spilling her beer…?

JG: When you work in a business that has alcohol sales as its primary source of income, you see some crazy things from time to time, but, the majority of people come out just to have a great time and it’s all good.

CS:  Do you guys ever write your own material?

JG: Several of us played in Kane just before Hard Promises and Kane released a full-length CD of original material. We all write but we don’t perform it with Hard Promises. I was a member of original bands and even performed my own original set of music in the Lost Horizon. Hard Promises serves a different musical purpose in this town. We provide a mix of 70’s and 80’s tunes that help people relive some memories and enjoy a night away from their day-to-day headaches.

CS: What do you have in the way of advice for the aspiring new rockers out there?

JG:  Just always do it for the right reasons. When I was younger, I moved to Los Angeles and thought I would be miserable if I didn’t make it on the national level.  After that didn’t happen, it took some time for me to realize that I loved playing music, whether it was for 30 people or 3,000 people and that the enjoyment of playing music, original or cover music, with band mates is something you can enjoy for a lifetime.

CS: Where can we find you online?

JG: We almost exclusively use Facebook as our means of advertising and promotion. Just look us up there!  We have a website but everybody seems to find us through Facebook.

CS: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Jeff.

JG: Thank you, Chuck


Chuck Schiele is an award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member of SaltCityChill.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.