I sat on Jon Zeeman’s back porch overlooking the woods and a slice of Lagoon Pond. Jon looks to be in his late 50s, and has the easygoing demeanor of a musician, which he has been for his entire life. He was wearing a porkpie hat over shoulder-length hair, and had a moustache and a soul patch.
We were joined by Jon’s daughter Zoe and Jeremy Driesen, a musician and photographer, and we were there to talk about Jon’s new song, “When It’s Over,” and the video Zoe and Driesen had teamed up on to produce.
The whole project was a family affair, including Jon, Zoe, Jon’s mother, his wife Suzie, and Driesen, who might as well be part of the Zeeman family, they spend so much time together.
I was trying to get my arms around this project, and I started by asking Jon where it all began. “Wuhan,” he said, “It all began in Wuhan.” To be more precise, Jon explained how last January when we all started hearing things about the flu, he heard a scientist talking on NPR, and it sunk in to him that things were going to be changing — drastically — and he realized that there was not going to be any more live music for a long time.
As a guy who earns his living by playing at bars, clubs, and weddings, this had a profound effect. Anyone who’s heard Jon play knows he’s the real deal, he even played with the Allman Brothers one time. So Jon figured since he wouldn’t be playing out for a while, he’d invest in new equipment for his home studio so he could do more home recording.
Shortly after Jon’s realization, he was having dinner with his mother, who lives in Palm Beach. His mom, Joan Zeeman (her professional name is Joan Javitz), is a professional songwriter. “Joan just turned 92,” Jon said, “and she’s full of beans. When she first got out of college she worked at the Brill Building in New York, and wrote a ton of songs, but ‘Santa Baby’ was by far her most successful.”
“Santa Baby” has provided a steady stream of residual income for Joan over the years, largely because singers like Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Cyndi Lauper almost see it as a rite of passage to record the tune on their Christmas albums.
Over dinner, Jon and his mom were talking about how devastating the lockdown was proving to be, especially for musicians, and Joan, because that’s how she thinks, said, “You know, there’s a song in there.” She even had a name for the song, “When It’s Over,” and she imagined it to be an optimistic song about what things will be like when we come out the other side.
The idea hit home with Jon, and as soon as he got back to the Vineyard he went out to his studio, and the song almost wrote itself. “I think it popped out in about 20 minutes,” Jon said. He worked with his mom a bit on some of the lyrics, and before long he was ready to make a recording.
Jon had recently been listening to some duets by Emmylou Harris and Mark Knopfler, and he thought it would be nice to do a song in two-part harmony with his wife Suzie Carmick — she and Jon used to have a country-Western band on the Island called Blue Strangers. Suzie was enlisted to sing backup harmonies on “When It’s Over,” and Jon’s daughter Zoe, an accomplished musician in her own right — she plays bass with the Marotta Brothers here on the Island — played bass. Jon would sing, and play guitar and keyboards on the song, and Driesen, a professional musician who has played with the likes of Chuck Berry and Richie Havens, would play drums.
The song came out great; it seemed to hit just the right combination of melancholy and optimism, and Jon said to Zoe he thought it would make a nice video. Zoe, who had been to art school and knew enough about iMovie “just from being a kid and producing home movies,” said she knew just where to go for the photography. Driesen had recently published a book called “Vineyard Noir, Scenes from an Island,” that captured the essence of what nightlife used to be like pre-COVID-19.
“Zoe did a great job of creating an arc to the story,” Driesen said, “going from loneliness and isolation to the Island coming back to life.”
The video opens on a moonlit shot of the Oak Bluffs skyscape shot over Sunset Lake … it looks cold, lonely … cut to deserted storefronts, parked tour buses … and a haunting shot of a woman staring out her front door.
“When It’s Over” plays underneath:
I keep looking for a sign
I keep waiting for the time
Can we all be together when it’s over
And I think of all my friends
Wondering how this all will end
Will we all be together again
Over the course of the video the mood changes … shots of musicians playing in clubs, people getting back together at the Ritz … kids graduating, people gathering at the beach, more upbeat, positive, reassuring images, as if to say, “Yes, we’re going to get through all this and eventually get back to normal.”
“I love the energy behind the song,” Laurel Redington, radio host of Radio MVY, said, “and the fact that it was created with such strong family ties. And as for Zoe’s video, Jeremy’s style and eye really make the community connections … it’s a much-needed feeling of having company.”
“When we first did this, we thought maybe the lockdown would be over by now,” Zoe said, “and hopefully it will be over soon, and in the meantime I’m happy we’ve given people something with a good uplifting tone.”
Cut to the chorus:
I wish that I could fly
You know I get so high
I would never touch the ground
I’m gonna find a way
And I’ll be back someday with you
Jon will appear on an upcoming segment of Laurel Redington’s Vineyard Current program, and Jon and Zoe will appear on Redinton’s Night Casts show on Radio MVY on the last Sunday in September. To view the video, visit bit.ly/WhenItsOver.