Arts & Leisure

Listen up to Vergennes musician’s new song

VERGENNES MUSICIAN KEVIN Kareckas will release his newest EP “Oh Jen” on Dec. 27. The title track explains the story of a found wedding band and an awkward family dinner. PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN KARECKAS

When you pop in your earbuds and crank the volume to your favorite tracks, how well do you actually know the lyrics? Sometimes we might really listen and pay attention to the story behind the tune, but more often than not we probably just register the words as rhythmic sounds that help us get our groove on. 

There’s a new track coming out on Dec. 27 from Vergennes musician Kevin Kareckas that you’ll definitely want to listen to — and pay attention. This story is good. 

THE RING IN the hand is the album art for Vergennes musician Kevin Kareckas’s new EP “Oh Jen” out on Dec. 27.

“Oh Jen!” is inspired by the true story of the artist unknowingly getting married with a “used” wedding band. No joke. The ring was awkwardly discovered to match his aunt’s ring perfectly at a casual family dinner just weeks after the wedding. Also seated at the table was a ringless uncle, who, decades earlier, lost the ring in the same field where it was found.

“I must have been about 8 years old and was playing at my grandparents’ house in New Hampshire,” Kareckas explained in an interview last week. “That’s when I found a wedding band in the grass… I gave it to my grandmother and it stayed on the soap dish in the kitchen for a while… Somehow it got back to me and I gave it to my mom to hold on to; then when it came time for me to get married my mom gave me the ring back and we got married with it.”

Kareckas and his wife Anna were married Dec. 27, 2021, at the Bixby Library in Vergennes. This EP release marks their one-year anniversary.

“Oh Jen!” is written from the perspective of the Kareckas’s Uncle Ed. The bridge changes perspectives and Kareckas explains to Anna that he has decided to give his wedding ring back to his uncle.

The track features a shimmering alto sax solo by Dave Miller, a multi-instrumentalist and retired concert band teacher based in Southern Maine. Miller was Kareckas’s middle school band conductor and taught him trumpet and euphonium. 

“I picked up the trumpet in fourth grade,” said Kareckas, who also picked up guitar, literally, one day when he was delivering his paper route in his Maine hometown. “I found a guitar for $2 on my route home from school… That’s my main instrument now: mostly string things with frets.”

KEVIN PLAYS AT the Red Clover open mic in Brandon.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Kareckas

Through high school Kareckas played in several bands and duos. He attended Wheelock College (now BU) in Boston and began a project capturing sounds of the city. Kareckas graduated as a certified math teacher. He was also a student leader throughout college, which led to his gig at Castleton University, where he worked in housing while also pursing grad work. 

In 2015, Kareckas moved to Poland to teach English through a Fulbright Grant. Three days into his 10-month stay, he bought a ukulele. It naturally followed that he wrote and recorded more than 50 original songs using ukulele and vocals. 

“The ukulele was my way of communicating in my native language,” he said. “The music I wrote there was my way of sharing my feeling of being homesick for a place that would never be home. That was recorded totally on Garage Band. That project was pretty cool.”

When he came home in 2017, Kareckas recorded his first album, “Caledonia Country,” while working a year at Lyndon State College. And then in 2018 he released a rap album while working in housing and student life at Middlebury College. 

KEVIN KARECKAS AND his wife, Anna, just welcomed baby Greta to their family.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Kareckas

“Music has always been a hobby of mine,” said Kareckas, who worked in higher education until just two years ago when he made a career shift and began teaching elementary and middle school students at the Shelburne Community School. “It’s been something that I’ve been able to pursue moonlighting.”

Kareckas counts 15 years as a wedding DJ and more than 20 years as a singer/songwriter and producer. 

“As someone who is a teacher and cares about passing on multigenerational connections, it was such a cool opportunity to work with my music teacher Mr. Miller… When I went back to Maine to work with him for this song,” Kareckas remembered, “I found him in his drive just the way I remember him — ready to rock!” 

Kareckas went through a few different takes before he was satisfied.

“As soon as I got Mr. Miller’s solo, I changed the whole percussion line,” he said. “His solo turned into an undercurrent melody — he’s still the maestro.”

The rest of the EP plays out with a number of cover songs that Kareckas has recorded over the years in home studios across the Green Mountain State. But the bling on this record, comes from that ring — “Oh Jen” is something special, for sure.

Happy anniversary, Kevin and Anna!

Editor’s note: “Oh Jen!” will be available on all major streaming services on Dec. 27. For more information visit kevinkareckas.com

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