After two decades and 20 albums of creating “depressing” music, Jeremy Gloff, Tampa’s self-described “Queen of Pop,” decided it was time to release “a fun, summer, happy album.”
He added, “I’ve never done that before.”
So June 21 – the first day of summer – he released “Lightrail.” He didn’t tell anyone the album was going to drop and only a few people even knew it was in the works. He was on the way to see Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie perform in Atlanta when he let the world know that his 21st album was available.
“I wanted to do a Beyonce surprise thing,” Gloff said. “So I pulled over in a rest stop in Georgia and released it.”
His previous album, “Those Who Survived,” “was kind of depressing,” he said. It was inspired by the death of his friend, Will, who he was close with in the late 1990s while living in Atlanta.
“I fell in love with this guy in 1997, this vegan guy, and I could never find him again after I moved,” he said.
They would go to concerts and hang out at a local diner where Will would often play “Freebird” on the jukebox. They lost touch, but Gloff never stopped wondering about him. He even wrote about him when he was a regular columnist for The New Gay and Creative Loafing.
Then one of his readers of his articles informed him that Will died of an overdose while living in California. He attended the memorial for Will in Atlanta, met his family and learned that he had been gay.
“He was actually gay and I thought he was just another straight guy that I fell for,” he said.
On top of that, Gloff went through a number of other changes in the two years preceding 2016’s “Those Who Survived.”
He lost his longtime job as a server at a Busch Gardens restaurant, where he had worked for 15 years. He got a new job at Cappy’s Pizza in Seminole Heights and a new car. He formed a new band, and then months later the band folded.
“Everything changed,” he said. “I thought I was done and I was never going to write a song again.”
So “Those Who Survived” touched on all these themes.
“It was about those from the ‘90s who were still living and creating,” he said. “We’re those who survived.”
But for “Lightrail,” Gloff wanted to attempt something different.
“I’ve never made a fun album. Looking through my music, it’s like, Jesus Christ,” he said. “I wanted to make an album that was actually like how I am.”
“Lightrail” was inspired by a late-night road trip to the world’s largest McDonald’s in Orlando a little over a year ago. He and his friend Opie hit the road to catch up and take a drive.
“It’s something to do at 2 in the morning and the drive is nice,” he said.
They talked about how a light rail transportation option between Tampa and Orlando was necessary.
“Then we thought it would be a cool name of an album,” Gloff said.
Then he wrote one song after another.
It was also just weeks after the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. So he truly wanted to celebrate life.
His friend Jeff nearly died in the shooting. He was one of the last one’s saved from the building, Gloff said.
“I saw him post on Facebook that night that he wasn’t going to make it out alive,” he said. “I waited all day long the next day to see if he was alive or not.”
Jeff still has several bullets in him, and Gloff decided to hold a fundraiser for his medical bills. He chose a day last summer to dedicate all of his tips to Jeff. Many regular Cappy’s customers showed up for it and Gloff raised more than $4,000.
His friend’s voice is one of the first heard on the new album.
“I wanted that interlude to start the album,” Gloff said. “I had this voicemail of him saying, ‘I’m alive.’ It’s the first thing you hear.”
Another voice you hear at the start is Brenda Bennett, of Vanity 6 and one of his childhood heroes, declaring, “All board!”
The two are friends now and Gloff is set to sing on her next album.
“I just knew that Brenda needed to be the conductor of ‘The Lightrail,’” Gloff said.
Check out Gloff’s new album release by clicking here.