By Kevin Kelley
First things first. The Jim Gill performing Thursday at Fairview Park Branch Library is not the same Jim Gill who performed in July at Westlake Porter Public Library. The former is a country/folk singer who lives in Medina County; the latter is a Chicago-based children’s entertainer known for “The Sneezing Song.”
The country/folk Jim Gill said sometimes a mother with young children in tow will come to his shows expecting to hear “The Sneezing Song” and other tunes geared toward youngsters. They leave after a couple of songs, he said.
The two have spoken on the phone a few times after correspondence for one was mistakenly sent to the other, Gill said.
The singer-songwriter said his major music influences are folk singers John Gorka and Richard Schindell, whom he acknowledges most people have never heard of. Other, more well-known, influences include James Taylor, Tracy Chapman and Harry Chapin. He’s been told he sounds a lot like Jim Croce, best known for “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
“It’s pretty mellow,” he said of his music.
The songs he performs, both original tunes and covers, will be interspersed with stories from his life growing up in Parma Heights as the only boy in an Irish-Catholic family of eight children. Some stories are about the summer jobs he held, including mowing lawns for Westlake-based Chip’s Greenworld Landscaping, he said.
Mostly, Gill said, the stories and songs involve reminiscing about his youth when he didn’t realize how ignorant he was.
A few songs are about politics, he said, written from the “view from the cheap seats.”
In addition to the guitar, Gills plays the harmonica in his performances. He also utilizes a device called a looper, which records his live vocals to create harmonies as he’s singing. He often offers a demonstration of the device, he said.
A library offers a good venue for his combination of storytelling and singing, Gill said. Audiences are more attentive than at bars, where a singer is often regarded as background music, he said.
Gill often performs at wineries. “You get a more sophisticated drunk at a winery,” he joked. In addition, crowds are less rowdy that at bars.
“Frankly, I’m getting too old for the rowdiness,” the 54-year-old told West Life.
In addition to his music career, Gills works as an illustrator. For 22 years, he drew for American Greetings, both full time and on a freelance basis.
Today, he also works with Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, an organization that uses the arts to complement education. He conducts workshops for elementary and middle school students in which children draw to tell stories. Students will often add more details to their drawings than writing assignments, Gill explained. The workshops encourage students to write vividly about their illustrations.