From his middle-of-nowhere youth — he grew up outside of Tamaqua, Pa. — to the fast-paced, major-market music business hustle of New York and Philadelphia, Jacob Kulick has had a lot of life experience to draw from. While many of those moments have been high points, like record deals and major tours with Sleeping with Sirens, The Rocket Summer and Andy Black, there has been darkness, too. And that’s where his new album, “Yelling in a Quiet Room,” was born.
“I started writing songs basically right after we got off tour with Andy Black, which was May of 2019, and I just had a lot of things going on in my personal life, and I just kept writing songs,” says Kulick, 28, who performs under his last name. “And after I had about 15 or 20 songs, I thought I can narrow these down and make a record about this. It almost became a concept record.”
And what is that concept?
“It’s just a lot of — not bad emotions, but darker emotions, a lot of uncertainty, some sadness. Definitely a story of loss and gain and trying to find out who I am as a person,” he says.
Kulick released the album, his full-length debut, last week on ENCI Records, a California-based label started by long-time Goo Goo Dolls manager Pat Magnarella.
Growing up in the town of West Penn, Kulick began writing songs at age 13. He laughs about it now, but he says, “I just hated existing, to put it very blatantly. I just started writing because I wasn’t a fan of being in school.”
Still a fan of mainstream pop, he was glued to the radio and loving what he heard from artists like NSYNC and Ricky Martin. But he also was hearing the music his dad listened to while lifting weights — “very ’80s rock, The Eagles and Styx” and his mom’s Billy Joel. Tom Petty, he says, “was the first person I realized you could tell a story through a song. I recorded his greatest hits on a cassette tape.” After doing some journaling, he realized, “Maybe I can make storyteller songs.”
In high school, he cofounded the band Story of Another then went to the Art Institute of Philadelphia in Philadelphia to study audio engineering, which led to an engineering job at CBS Radio in New York City. Listening to the radio nonstop at the CBS job, “I kind of understood the format and how to try to write radio-format songs. I love that format, and I love listening to radio.”
He parlayed some connections into an eventual major-label deal — with a little bit of trickery.
“When I was at CBS Radio, I met someone who knew Joe Riccitelli,” a top exec at RCA Records who had launched the RCA imprint label Gold’n Retriever Records. “So I lied to him and said, ‘I was supposed to have a meeting with you today,’ and he said, ‘I’m good in a half-hour, bring music.’ I drove from Hackensack, double parked outside of the building, paid the parking ticket.”
The meeting went well, and after a year of back and forth, Riccitelli signed Kulick to Gold’n Retriever, which released his first EP, “Hydroplane,” in 2018.
The partnership came to a mutual end when his deal was up, but Kulick is still close with Riccitelli, who he says “gave me a great launch point and start to my career.”
“This record is the first record that I feel really, really fulfilled with, so I want to achieve that feeling again,” says Kulick, who now lives near Harrisburg. “I want to self-produce another record for sure. Seeing how this is working with Pat’s label instead of RCA, I’m excited to do that again with another record. And I want to do another big tour. We do headline tours all the time, and those are really fun, but I want to do one where you’re out for six weeks and touring the whole United States.”
Watching Australian band The Faim and American singer Andy Black while he supported them on tour opened his eyes to what he can do with his own sets. Seeing The Faim “really made me want to interact with the crowd more,” and Black’s show “made me want to get a projector.”
Those tours, he said, are “pretty much what grew our entire audience.”
“We got some good streaming” — Kulick recently broke the 3 million streams mark on Spotify — “but live is where we got our audience, the first two tours then Andy Black.”
Saying he’s “hungry for the next tour,” he’s also started work on a new album and is working on producing and mixing other people’s music, including his keyboardist April Rose Gabrielli.