Meet Jeff Bell, a native of Ohio who specializes in the arts. You might have heard his solo music as Jeff Bell, his band's music by The Northern Junkyard Orchestra, or his older stuff with his twin brother. You may have seen his artwork, which includes paintings and sculptures that he sells through Relax, It's Just Coffee. Or, you may have seen his custom made mandolins, guitars and djembes.
When asked to describe his artistic qualities in one word, he chose “exploratory.”
“I really love to hear the newest stuff that's out or the stuff that's just unusual in a lot of ways. Because as far as [listening to] music goes, I never go backwards. I like a lot of the old stuff, like classic rock and all that, but I don't really listen to it anymore,” said Bell.
Bell grew up learning from his grandma, who was classically trained in a variety of instruments, but Bell is attracted to the versatility found in different instruments and sounds from around the world.
“I like a lot of different music from around the world. The stranger the better,” explained Bell.
When it comes to playing his music live, Bell has plenty of experience. Before playing in Ohio, he roamed the country for over twenty years with his twin brother. The brothers played in a band together and made a myriad of albums together. Now, he is working on his fourteenth solo album and predominantly plays guitar, banjo or mandolin. He also plays in a local band named “Northern Junkyard Orchestra” with two other musicians.
Bell keeps himself busy. In addition to yet another music album, he works on sculptures and his own handcrafted mandolins and guitars made of recycled wood.
His passion for making his own instruments is part curiosity, and part pragmatic. He started making instruments around 10 years ago by using wood from old pianos. Bell wanted to play an instrument he trusted and knew was made with integrity.
“If you don't pay over fifteen hundred to two-thousand dollars, that guitar is not solid wood. Now you're going to get a solid top, but the back and the sides of that are going to be laminated,” said Bell.
So how does the busy artist stay inspired?
“I'm lucky man. I feel like I can be inspired by just about anything. I think it helps to love all kinds of art," said Bell. However, he has never had the intention of making it big. He's more interested in originality.
“I never had a goal to be rich and I'm not. I never had a goal to be famous and I'm not. I always just thought if I could get through this by being able to play music for most of my life and make enough money to live a decent life …” Bell said, shrugging. “Would it be nicer to have a lot of money? Well, duh,” he laughed. “But if you never have to punch a factory time card … I just could never do that,” he concluded.