Bird Is a Song
John Zainea's life changed when he drove his automobile across the Kent County border into Ionia, Michigan. The month was April; the time was the afternoon. The song that came over his radio was Sufjan Stevens's 'Flint (For The Unemployed and Underpaid).' John listened and was riveted. This made sense: simple melody, declarative sentences, major scales on horns as accompaniment. He listened to the remainder of the album en route to his home in Chelsea, Michigan. By the time he had arrived at his destination, John Zainea and the Mania had already happened. It was too late. It was really only a matter of time, at that point. John had been handcuffed - musically speaking - for five years. A failed relationship, a religious fallout, and a diet lacking in sugars had hamstrung a musician once filled with potential. He had played multiple instruments; he had sold tapes of himself singing Billy Joel songs to girls in middle school for $10 a pop; he was a highly-touted jazz trumpet recruit coming out of high school; he was classically trained; he had played piano bar gigs as a fourteen-year-old; he had a song of his notorized by a Pultizer-Prize-winning author. To no avail. He hadn't written a song in over one-thousand days. He was paralyzed with indecision. Stevens's album that April day took the handcuffs off of John's wrists and said, 'Write! Sing! Arrange!' John obeyed. In his one-bedroom apartment in the upstairs of an elderly woman's home, he crafted dozens of original songs in his newly-discovered style. His arrangements and lyrics overflowed with excitement about being an ordinary person in everyday life. He wrote of ice cream trucks, county fairs, car accidents, nieces, women clad in make-up, hiking trips, bears, and the great protagonists of American Literature. A summer romance gave John the excuse to travel to the west side of the state, where - over the course of a week - he laid down the foundations for his first album, 'Summer of One-Thousand Seeds.' The songs were simple and yet surprisingly dense. They were direct statements wrapped in a high school marching band. Shortly thereafter, his romance fizzled. John was not deterred. In the winter of 2007, John began work on a second project, a concept album about birds. Building upon his first effort, John spread his wings, allowing his lyrical abstractions, his alternating time signatures and meters, his many layers of instrumentation to take a life of their own. Two romances and a handful of months later, this second album was all but complete. By this time, the band in it's fullest manifestation - 'John Zainea and the Mania' - had already played it's first public performances, much to the celebration of community gym teachers, fifteen-year-olds, and senior citizens alike. Early responses to the 2010 releases of 'Summer of One-Thousand Seeds' and 'The Bird Is A Song' have been decidedly positive, and with a third project on the horizon (the Lewis and Clark expedition), John Zainea and the Mania sits, likewise, staring at the frontier stretching out before them. Their fearless leader, John Zainea, is clad in racoon-skin hat, musket erect, certain to conquer oncoming threats. The band - an alternating rotation of thirty-some individuals ranging from ages sixteen to fifty-four - sits nestled in the covered wagon, eager for the long journey ahead. Collectively, they sing in song, 'Onward! To Alaska! And Beyond!'