Vermont singer/songwriter “speaks” lyrically

At the end of his set at Higher Ground on Feb. 19, Jer Coons played a song as a tribute to a recently deceased musician and one of his strongest influences.In honor of Michael Jackson, he covered “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 with a unique twist. A drum beat was added to give the song a more techno, contemporary feel than its original ‘60s sound.It might be unheard of in Burlington, where most local musicians are influenced by bands such as The Grateful Dead and Phish. However, Coons is not ashamed of his preference to play more mainstream music.”It defies geography,” Coons said. “Playing pop music was rebellious here.”While growing up in Middlebury, Coons was exposed to the early Beatles by his parents at a young age. He played in a pop-punk band during high school and played the trumpet in the school band.Unsure of which direction to go after high school, Coons decided to major in music management at Manhattanville College in New York.When he wasn’t satisfied after one year, he moved back to Vermont. It was then that he decided to pursue a full-time career as a solo musician.”It’s such a gamble,” Coons said. “But at the same time, it’s such a combination of being naïve and overconfident.”Now 21, Coons lives in Burlington and just released his debut album, “Speak,” last September. One single from the album, “Legs,” plays in Hollister stores in the U.S.In between his songs at his concerts, Coons often makes jokes in order to keep the crowd entertained. The subjects range from mundane events in his past week to an acoustic performance of dance-pop artist Ke$ha’s hit single “Tik Tok.”Coons’ vocal style has been compared to singer/songwriter Jason Mraz by music industry website Kings of A&R.Coons maintained that he simply aims to entertain everyone, no matter their age.”The soccer moms who bring their 13-year-old daughters to see me get as much out of my music as their kids do,” he said.Now with his musical career blossoming, Coons has begun to tour nationwide. In spite of this however, Vermont will always be home to him.”I love Vermont,” he said. “The vibe here is so progressive-minded. I couldn’t imagine being home anywhere else.”As for whether he will stick with the life of a musician, he’s not sure, but he does know one thing: “The second you see me unhappy, you won’t see me with a guitar,” Coons said.