SYRACUSE — At first, Jeff Clark looked at music as a medium of love, and all he wrote were love songs. "I'd sing my songs for the girls," says Clark, who wrote his first song at age 14. "It was a good way to get dates."
Plus, he says, "love songs, love ballads — they were the easiest. It seemed like a natural thing to do."
A turning point came for Clark when a niece drowned in a tragic accident. "Her family asked me to write a song to pay tribute to her. "Lindsey's Song" is about bringing comfort, he says.
Then a friend lost her husband to illness, and she, too, asked Clark to write a song. That one is called "After the Flowers."
Those experiences changed him. "I saw how healing music could be. I saw how it could lift the spirit." And that, he says, is how he migrated into writing songs that he hopes have deeper meaning about life.
Love is still a part of it, but now he goes beyond the simple love song.
Clark has compiled 13 of those songs on a CD titled "What You See." Putting it all together was a dream-come-true experience, he says. "Every serious songwriter gets to the point where he wants to share his music with the masses. I was lucky to have friends who'd heard my music and thought I had enough talent to go into the studio and help out. I was able to work with some top-notch talent." (The CD was co-produced by Barry Gibbons, and it features the talents of a number of local musicians.)
What was most exciting, he says, was that the songs came out even better than he expected. "I'd been listening to them in my head in just these ways. To have them actually come out like that — or even better — was a fun trip. I was just giggling inside the whole time."
The CD was self-published, and he is still working on some distribution contacts, but it is available on his Web site, mrjeffclark.com. The amazing thing to him is "how many CDs I've sold in Japan. I never dreamed of that. They seem to be into soft rock and mellower music. It's almost to where I can imagine a Japanese tour. That's the beauty of the Web."
His music is inspirational, he says, but offers a bit of country, some soft rock, some pop. "It mirrors my taste in music, which is broad." If you listen to the CD, you might catch hints of such groups as the Beatles, Bread and Chicago. "Growing up, I spent a lot of time listening to their music."
In fact, his voice and style have been compared to that of Bread's David Gates. "I'm not sure about that, but I'll take it," he says with a laugh.
Clark grew up in Brigham City "in a home with a piano. I'd mess around on it. Then I learned I could play songs without reading music. I'd listen to the record player and go play the songs. It was some sort of gift. But that's what made me want to start writing songs."
Now married and living in Syracuse with his wife, Trudi, and their two adopted sons, he looks at life from a father's perspective. "You look at your sons and hope they will grow up and be like you. You hope you can be good enough to be looked up to. I think that's how our Heavenly Father feels about us, too. He sees our potential; he sees us in a different light." That, too, is a theme of his music.
At this point, his music is still a sidelight. Clark works as a loan officer but does a lot of firesides and programs for church and community groups. He will be performing at a concert with Cherie Call and Kirby Heyborne on Feb. 23 at Box Elder High School.
Music, says Clark, is made to be shared. He has found it a good way to express himself, he says. "I'm not the greatest at verbal communication. But the magical thing is that if you blend music with powerful lyrics, it touches people. It lets you connect with people in ways you can't do in conversation.
"A good song lets you communicate soul to soul. That's what I want to do."
If you go . . .
What: Jeff Clark, Cherie Call, Kirby Heyborne
When: Friday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Box Elder High School, 380 So. 600 West, Brigham City
How much: $7 - $10 advance; $8 - $12 at the door