Having worked as the personal assistant for Marilyn Manson, singer JTX has seen his share of rock-star antics. To some degree, that inspired his tune "(I'm Gonna) Party Like a Rockstar" from his self-released 2007 debut, With Love From Detroit. But JTX, whose father was Jay Thomas, a popular New York City DJ and a guest star on the sitcom Cheers, isn't a one-trick pony. He's written songs for fellow Motor City rocker Uncle Kracker and opened for everyone from Linkin Park to Bowling for Soup, whose offbeat sense of humor his lyrics often recall. He recently spoke to us from his Detroit home, where he said he was working on writing tunes for a new Uncle Kracker album.
Was "Party" inspired by working as a personal assistant for Marilyn Manson? I bet he can party like a rock star.
He knows how to do it better than anyone. Every night was like this: He'd stay up all night long at a Ritz-Carlton hotel room with about 40 strippers. He'd be blasting rap music and watching the Disney channel. He'd suddenly demand I run to 7-Eleven and get blueberry sno-cones, glazed doughnuts and Dippin' Dots, no matter what it took. Even if it meant spending 100 dollars on a cab. I'd come rushing back and he would knock every single thing out of my hand and stomp on it, and then another band member would rip my pants down and pour hot candle wax on my balls. He would have me sing my songs for the girls and direct me like he was directing the symphony. It was like that every night of the week for a year and a half. I loved every minute of it, even though I was covered in bruises.
Your MySpace site says you were "born an orphan," but I thought your father was Jay Thomas, a famous DJ in New York City who had a role on Cheers. What's the real story?
The real story is that I only met him four years ago, when I turned 21. I never knew who he was. My biological mother had been looking for me and sought me out. I have a great family in Detroit, so I never had any longing. I was living in Hollywood and there was a gigantic billboard - with his picture for some TV show he was promoting - that was outside my window. He's really fun, and I understand myself more. It couldn't have been crazier, but it's great. Cheers and Murphy Brown [which he also starred on] were a little before my time, but I've seen those shows. It's just very strange.
If it had a bit more twang to it, "How Did I Get Here" could be a hit on country radio. Tell me about that song.
My band and I were invited to play Afghanistan. I met so many soldiers and heard so many stories - that was the one that came out best. I'm not a politician, and the soldiers are braver than I'll ever be. It's just a story about someone who wants to know how they got there. Afghanistan really changed my life. I get all this attention for it, but I just write songs and those people are away from their families and in harm's way. They thought Mick Jagger was landing when we'd show up in these black helicopters. They just wanted to rock.
And "Sunshines Black" really is a country song.
It's funny you say that. I think its outlook is a little too hard for the country world. I have a country single out. The singer from Alabama just covered a song I wrote. Somebody asked me about "How Did I Get Here" but wanted to change to the lyrics to "hurrah, hurrah America" or something like that. I would love to have a country hit, and I have a song on hold for Rascal Flatts. I just want to write songs; I don't care who sings them.
You have that line about getting fired from a Burger King for sucking helium out of a soft-serve machine. True story?
It is. It happened to a buddy of mine. Like most of those stories, it got mixed up. He was actually sucking the nitrous out of cans of whipped cream. The lyrics got muddled, but I think that's what happens when you hang out with dudes who get fired from Burger King.
Do you plan to party like a rock star after the Hard Rock show?
Oh, definitely. They're giving us all the food and drinks we can handle.