By Jacob Katel
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On a steamy Saturday night at Wynwood bar Bullfrog Eatz, a band prepared to perform. The members of Secret Identity stood patiently, respective instruments in tow. An announcer, reading from an archaic-looking book, introduced the main act: "Look up in the sky. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a frog." It was Fitzroy, the self-described amphibian from outer space sent to Earth to save mankind through his uplifting music. Cloaking his person in sunglasses, headphones, and a cap, the galactic frontman opened his set demurely. His silky island accent lent an especially smooth cadence to his rhymes while the band played funky sounds that elicited enthusiastic howls from the audience. As the first song approached its climax, Fitzroy (real name Jason Jeffers) doffed his jacket, shoes, and hat to unleash his hip-grazing dreds and enigmatic stage presence. In a little more than a year, Jeffers has garnered a dedicated following, held residencies at local venues, and recorded an album.
Hailing from Barbados, Jeffers left his native island in 1998 to attend Florida International University and pursue music. His talent for writing led him to journalism and would later present itself in songs such as "The Way I Move." The singing amphibian exudes confidence with lines like "Do your do, and I gonna do my do/And if they coincide, then we can ride on through/But if not, just watch as I do my thing/Bet you've never seen a frog that can dance and sing." Although Jeffers began performing as Fitzroy in October 2005, the songs on his debut album, Paradise Low, are a collection of unfinished ditties he wrote over the span of a few years.
"I guess the songs on this album ... were just bits and pieces of songs that I was working on by myself. It's only last year that I got to a point where I was like, 'Man, if I'm not doing music full out, then I don't really want to be here,'" Jeffers muses. The result is eleven tracks of smooth funk and hip-hop with sonic soundscapes ranging from ethereal to urban, or as Jeffers describes on a MySpace video clip, "beach-folk." Although not a trained musician, Jeffers wrote and recorded the album on a keyboard in his room, with the aid of guitarist Buffalo Brown. Paradise, written during a low point in Jeffers's life, explores universal themes such as love, loss, and growth.
"It's a breakup album, but not just a breakup with a person, but with a place as well. I love Barbados ... there's a quality of life there that I miss tremendously, but at the same time I knew that to pursue my vision, I couldn't do [music] there. So my music on the album was inspired by that. You know when you're in a relationship that isn't taking you anywhere, you have to go and do your own thing. So you love this person, but you know you have to move on, you have to be somewhere else."
Although Paradise was released in early October 2006, Jeffers is already focusing on the future. For the next few months he will be hopping back and forth between Miami and Barbados, where he plans to shoot a video and begin recording the next album. The transplanted froggy must truly be from outer space, for his seemingly limitless energy has spurred him to launch his own record label.
"I just started up a little label called Third Horizon, and basically it's just a means for me to put out music on a consistent basis," Jeffers says. "The hope is to put out releases from like-minded artists who I'm working with, like some of the other musicians in the band that have their own projects. It's just a little start-up thing."
The fervent singer's drive is clearly visible in his performances, for energetic showmanship is protocol at Fitzroy shows. Jeffers even bought a wireless microphone before one performance so he wouldn't be bound to a stationary position. Barefoot and brazen, the frontman has graced stages, bar tops, and sidewalks at venues such as Stop Miami, Purdy Lounge, and Jazid.
As for where Jeffers expects to see Fitzroy in the future: "Everywhere. I don't plan to slow down until I get everywhere."