Today, Fox, 22, is one of our area’s most sought after young musicians, performing solo on acoustic guitar three or four times a week all over the city – at venues in Manhattan like The Pig N Whistle (58 W. 48th St., Manhattan), for example, or at area bars in Queens, like The Avenue Bar and Grill (7122 Myrtle Ave. in Glendale) and O’Neill’s (64-21 53rd Dr. in Maspeth), where he’s recently established monthly residencies.
Fox’s journey began at one of the places he calls home these days, O’Neill’s, on the fabled Maspeth plateau.
“I was a senior in high school,” recalls Fox of the first time he took the stage to sing. “I was a busboy there, and it was Karaoke Night. I’d been asking so many questions, I was just so curious about it all... finally one night, they asked me to play a song if I wanted to.”
“I remember it was Jan. 7, because it was my dad’s birthday, and I remember it was ‘Home’ by Daughtry,” he said. “And people were enjoying it, they were clapping. ‘Play another one, play another one,’ they kept saying.”
Ironically for Fox, just the mere act of getting up on stage was a tremendous achievement in and of itself, as he wasn’t exactly known for putting himself out there previously.
“Man, I had the biggest stage fright my entire life,” Fox said. “Any one of my fifth grade classmates will tell you… we had a school Christmas pageant once, and everybody had to do something, so I just stood way in the back. I was a tree.”
Fox’s repertoire is as diverse and as varied as are his own musical interests; from rock to metal to pop and rap and R&B and back. One night it might be his version of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” that first catches your ears; another night it might be his inimitable rendition of “Stan,” by Eminem.
“I don’t want to limit myself, I want to be able to do a rock song, a Guns ‘n’ Roses song, then a Matchbox 20 song… and at the same time, maybe take a song that isn’t acoustic and make it acoustic, like a Linkin Park or an Eminem,” he said. “And there will always be a place on his set-list for the one that started it all, Daughtry’s “Home.” Of that, you can be certain.”
To see Fox perform; it’s not a stretch to say that any of the songwriters he favors so highly would probably be pleased with, if not proud of, Fox’s coverage of their work.
And yet, what has made Fox so successful is how seamlessly he’s able to make a cover song seem like his own, performing each night as if he were playing it for the first time. Credit that to his huge affection for the songs themselves, combined with Fox’s sheer joy at performing and a genuine appreciation for the audience he’s connecting with.
Fox admits, like any young musician, his biggest challenge is simply getting heard. But in just a short time, he’s already had a couple of brushes with celebrity. “America’s Got Talent” came calling, as did “The Voice.” Unfortunately, Fox wasn’t able to get far enough along in the competition with either one to make it to air.
“It’s tough being told ‘No,’ but at the same time, you want to prove them wrong,” he said. “They say you’re not good enough, so go get good enough.”
These days, while also performing several nights a week, Fox is putting a lot of his hard work into studio time with producer Robbie “The G” Guariglia, a collaboration he treasures. He’s about to release a new song, the warmly affectionate “Echo,” his fifth such composition.
“And with five now, that’s the plan... to release an album,” Fox said. “Whether that’s a CD/EP, or something we release on iTunes, that’s what we’re trying to work out right now.”
While greater recognition, no doubt, looms just ahead for Fox, he definitely finds himself enjoying the journey.
“For me it’s really about the people coming to see me,” he said. “When people are actually singing with me, whether it’s my song, or a cover song… that really says it all for me.”
You can certainly experience that for yourself up close and personal at O’Neill’s this Fri., Feb. 28, or at The Avenue on March 21. To hear some of Fox’s latest music, be sure to visit (www.soundcloud.com/TJ_Fox).