“When I was a kid I approached my father and asked him to teach me a song on the guitar. He taught me G, C and D and told me he would show me a Bob Dylan song, but only after I came up with my own chord progression. I suppose my first guitar lesson was also my first experience in writing music.”
Jacob Vanko was born and raised in the Anthracite Coal Region of the Northeast. The blue-collar, hard working town he calls home sits nestled in a valley amid Pennsylvania’s slice of the Appalachian Mountains. Being brought up in an environment where both sides of his family were artistic and musical, the young, impressionable boy was constantly surrounded by an eclectic, creative energy. Jacob would frequently sneak out of bed and peak in on his old man’s blues jams in the basement of his childhood home. His father, a songwriter in his own right, introduced iconic songwriters like John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan to his burgeoning, songwriter son. Vanko’s musical lineage also includes figures like his grandfather on his mother’s side, who was a local jazz drummer and his aunt on his father’s side, who was a nationally prominent classical pianist.
“ I used to go to those piano lessons kicking and screaming. My 8 year old brain just didn’t have a clue that I was being taught by one of the best piano teachers in the country. Now I wish I could sit with her for 5 minutes and talk about music and life. That’s what my song ‘The Garden’ is about.”
As a teen growing up in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, the raw and rebellious artist gravitated towards the furious, dark and heavy sounds of groups like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Tool. The melodic and unique sounds of grunge in all its glory with the gritty guitar tones, aggressive vocals and well crafted songs were major contributing factors to the evolution and development of Vanko’s writing and live performance energy.
“Chris Cornell (soundgarden) made me want to sing and Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) made me want to write.”
Jacob found himself coming into his own as a songwriter in his 20’s. Migrating from Pennsylvania to land in Southeast Virginia, his life experiences to this point painted a curious picture of the world. Social observations, the ugliness of inner struggle, searching and questioning brought an intense quality to his writing. The early seeds of traditional blues, folk, country and bluegrass have collided with the bold sounds of grunge and rock influences forging a poetic, americana songwriter with a furious live stage presence.