When his band The Rave-Ups was at its peak popularity, you might say Jimmer Podrasky was living like something of a star — appearing with the band in Pretty in Pink and on an episode of 90210, and finding himself romantically linked with some Hollywood types. But he says it was never such a cakewalk, and when he became a single dad to his son, Chance, he dissolved the L.A.-via-Pittsburgh band. Only last year did he release a new solo record, his first since the band's breakup. He talked to CP about taking 20 years away and about mounting a comeback, ahead of a Pittsburgh show this weekend.
Growing up in Natrona Heights, were you into music at a young age?
No! Absolutely not. I started to buy music as a high schooler, but I really didn't have the nerve to [write and play] until the college years, and especially that senior year of college, when The Rave-Ups first started. I was a late bloomer, I guess.
Relatively. On the whole, that's not that late in life to start something ...
Right, it's not. But then you see these kids who are, like, 8 playing.
Once The Rave-Ups moved to Los Angeles, you had some success and were living something of a Hollywood lifestyle, right? What made you decide to walk away?
Well, a lot of things occurred that I didn't see coming. I don't think any of us in The Rave-Ups, particularly the Rave-Ups who made those records, ever lived a Hollywood lifestyle. We kind of lived hand-to-mouth. Although we were signed to a label, we weren't making money, and we didn't have any hit records. We made a living doing it, and we were happy, and then I had a son. And that seemed to change things pretty dramatically. I knew once his mom and I split up, it was going to be difficult to be a weekend father. I couldn't do that. I don't think the world needed another rock 'n' roll band all that much, but my son needed a father.
What did you end up doing once you got out of music?
I became a script-reader for William Morris. I did that for many years, until William Morris was taken over by another agency, and everyone at William Morris was basically fired. Unceremoniously, I might add.
Were you still quietly writing music all that time?
I was always writing songs; I think the only person who knew that was my son. He and I would play a lot in the living room, but that was the extent of my playing. I wrote, and I would sit around the house and play, and sometimes he would join me, but I didn't do it publicly for a long, long time. And I didn't share those songs publicly for a long, long time. I wrote because I needed to write, but I wasn't really thinking there was a means to an end there. Some of those songs ended up on this record.
Is your son a musician in his own right?
He is! He's a kid; he's like any kid, his interests seem to fluctuate dramatically. He's a naturally gifted guitar player. He plays a lot better than me. He hasn't really reached a point where he is serious about it; if that occurs, I think he'll be great, because he's a pretty talented kid. I made a point of not pushing him — "How come you're not practicing your guitar?" I didn't want it to be a chore. I wanted him to be in love with music, I wanted it to be because he had a passion for it. And he goes through those periods.
Your solo album and its title track are called "The Would-Be Plans." That sounds like something you took out of your own life, and it sounds like a lot of what has governed your trajectory has been circumstance.
I don't think any of us are prepared for certain things that happen in life. I'm no different from anybody else. I've had some wonderful times in my life, and I've had some pretty horrible times.
Are you trying to make a full-time go of it again?
I am living hand-to-mouth right now, and I'm lucky I have help getting back [to Pittsburgh] to do shows. The same thing happened [this past summer]; I'm lucky that people stepped up and said, 'Whatever you make at the show, you can keep, and I'll pay for your plane ticket.' Stuff like that. And these are people I didn't even know. That's what's kind of shocking about it. These were people who were just serious fans, who wanted it to work. To them, it was a plane flight. To me, it was a lot more.
Are you excited to come back to chilly Pittsburgh?
I think the last time I was in freezing-cold weather was for my mom's funeral, which was in 1989. I don't know my body is going to react! I think my blood has thinned out a lot in the past 20 years. I might have to stay inside a lot.