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Beyond Labels

Rocker James Intveld is far from a household name. But the former Garden Grove resident is following his own career path and musical tastes to self-produce his latest album.


James Intveld can think of plenty of things worse than having just released what's only the second album of his 20-year-plus career on the Southern California roots-rock scene, or the fact that his first album hasn't sold as many copies in five years as the new Madonna album will sell today. In Passaic, N.J. To redheads.

Insomnia, for instance.

"It makes it a lot easier to sleep at night when you are doing what you want to do," Intveld, 40, says from the Burbank home he bought last year, his first experience as a homeowner.

"A lot of people say things like 'I can't believe you're not any further than you are' and 'How come you didn't do this or don't do that?' But I can't make any moves unless they feel organic and real. I've got to do what I believe in, and in doing that I don't feel I've had to make any compromises musically in all this time. It's been a great payoff, so I just say to everybody else that it's always great to stick to your guns."

One concrete example is "Somewhere Down the Road," Intveld's self-produced new album. Among the 12 songs are several that have the period authenticity and spirit that have characterized his purist approach to roots rock from the beginning and which made his early-'80s band, the Rockin' Shadows, a standout on an alternative-rock scene that once upon a time happily embraced everything from hard-core punk to peppy new wave to roaring rockabilly.

Some of his new songs, however, have a decidedly more contemporary feel that wouldn't sound out of place on country or Americana radio stations.

"The problem is that whenever you start to grow with anything you do," he says, "you're branching out, and a lot of people will go, 'Oh, God, he's selling out.' You always run into that conflict with a few people.

"But I think that our audiences are pretty mature now, because they are saying things like, 'Wow, I love the songs, even though it doesn't sound like your old sound.' A lot of these people have grown up with me too, and they kind of look at things not so rigidly. That's worked out nicely. I'm pretty pleased with the reaction I'm getting moving into different areas."

The most notable difference from his 1995 debut album, "James Intveld," may well be the new album's two closing songs, the country gospel number "A Sinner's Life" and a heartbreaking ballad, "Remember Me." The latter was written for, but not used in, Kevin Costner's 1999 film "Message in a Bottle."

"The movie was about a guy who loses his wife and can't go on living because he's just thinking about her," says Intveld, who opens for Merle Haggard tonight at the Crazy Horse Steak House, then returns to the Irvine club Wednesday as the headliner. "That's pretty much it--his whole life changes because she's gone. He just goes to the beach and stands there and thinks about her. That was the visual that we got. But the songwriting reflects my own life--I'd think about somebody I've been in love with and, in a certain way, you wonder if they ever think about you."

It also sounds as if it could be a heartfelt elegy for his brother, Rick Intveld, who was killed in a Dec. 31, 1985, plane crash along with Rick Nelson and bassist Patrick Woodward, James' former Rockin' Shadows cohorts who were hired away by Nelson.

That was one of the life-changing events that gave what he believes a more downcast tone to his debut album. On the new one, he says, "Even though there is some bad stuff that happens and bad relationships, I'm looking at it in a reflective way, not like it's the worst thing that's happened and I'm never going to get out of it. It's more like, 'Yeah, this is terrible, but it's a part of life, I can move on.' "

While Intveld moved on in the 1980s from Garden Grove, where he spent most of his teens, to Los Angeles, he recently persuaded his parents to leave Orange County and move to Burbank. That way, he can spend more time with them while he's not on the road, and they can keep an eye on his house and his dog when he is.

Moving on also is what spurred Intveld to finish the new record without the benefit of a recording contract.

"We made it out of necessity," he says. "For the people who come to see us all the time, we needed to make another statement.

"If you keep waiting for record companies and getting the right, perfect deal, it can take a couple of years. The nice thing about this is we are selling it through the Web site [] and at shows while we're [label shopping], and the people who really want it can get it now instead of making a record and then waiting six months or a year for it to be released.

"I'd still like to put it out on a bigger scale, but I can't complain about the way it's been going. I get to make music the way I want to make it and produce it the way I want it to sound. I don't make any of those compromises, and people are still buying the record."

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