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-by Jay Cridlin
-originally appeared in TBT (April 9. 2011)

(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2011 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Jeremy Gloff.)

Jeremy Gloff is never at a loss for words.

He is happy to tell you all about his feud with his father, how Lady Gaga is an overrated ’80s retread, and exactly what he thinks of the clique-y Tampa music scene. He’ll freely share his love of Nancy Drew, how he abhors political correctness, how he once lived homeless and how he has never been drunk. He once wrote a column for a gay website headlined “Why Am I Not Attracted To Black Men?” At last count it had 233 comments.

But there is one question that leaves him momentarily stumped. Are you creatively fulfilled?

With 17 albums and some 250 songs under his belt — not to mention all the guest spots, videos, opinion columns and open-mic nights he’s created — the Temple Terrace pop singer-songwriter is a geyser of creative output. His music is as eclectic as his life, veering from quirky ’80s tributes to moody alternative ballads to club-ready electro-pop songs.

But Gloff has to think about it.

“Now that I’ve done 17 albums, it’s like, what am I getting out of this?” he says. “What do I have to offer? Do I even have anything to offer at this point? Why would somebody buy one of my records?”

Well, for starters, they’re all unique. Gloff’s musical style veers wildly from album to album. The Orange Songs sounds like R.E.M. or Cat Stevens. 1987 sounds like Depeche Mode or Erasure. 21st Century Love Songs sounds like the Killers or Modest Mouse.

Due in May, his 17th album This is yet another departure, blending disco synths with spoken word with Auto-Tune, indie-music choirs with rappers with drag queens. Members of groups ranging from Yo Majesty to the Dukes of Hillsborough make guest appearances.

This is an unabashed club-pop album, but with an ironic wink — “each song is kind of a cliche,” he says. To that point, in late March, he held a “listening party” at Atomic Audio Recording in Tampa.

“Who actually has a listening party in Tampa?” he laughs. “I’m like, let’s do this! Let’s pretend I’m this famous star!”

In reality, Gloff grew up in a small Polish community in western New York state. His dad, he calls a “washed-up blues guitarist … he sounds kind of like Neil Young or Stevie Ray Vaughan” — they haven’t spoken in years. His mother played a little guitar, too, and introduced him to artists like Fleetwood Mac, Blondie and Madonna, all among his greatest influences.

He has lived all around the country — New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Portland — and was surprised to find himself moving to Tampa in 1998. But he ended up loving it, and has been in the same apartment, working the same job at Busch Gardens, ever since.

He has run open mics across town, from Sacred Grounds Coffee House to the Social and Orpheum in Ybor City. And he has written advice and opinion columns for Creative Loafing and Reax.

“Tampa is not known for this, but it’s like the melting pot that no other place is, in a genuine way,” he said. “People coexist in a way I’ve never seen anywhere else. It’s really cool. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t get more national acclaim for that.”

On dark days, he thinks about moving; other times he remembers how good Tampa has been to him. On one hand, he’s never been shy about calling out artists and journalists for fostering what he views as an often insular music scene. On the other, he says, “it’s really easy to be gay in Tampa — I’ve never, ever had anything homophobic said to me in 12 years living here.”

Being so open has made him lots of friends in Tampa Bay — and more than a few enemies.

“A lot of people think I’m really narcissistic,” he said. “If people want to think I have a big ego, they’re gonna think that. But on the other hand, if you’re gonna be a performer, it’s necessary, in a way. I always struggle with that balance of having an ego, and still getting yourself out there. The older I get, the more happy I’d be to be a faceless guy behind a computer, writing columns.”

Given his creative history, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

— Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo/video: Bryan Thomas, tbt*