Zwerg takes chances

A multi-talented artist from Moncton, Eldon Thiele, performs under the band name Zwerg but is actually Jason Betts, a high school teacher.

Thiele has been independently churning out a mix of piano-driven electronic and rock music since the mid to late 90’s. This coming Sunday, Thiele will be performing at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge, celebrating the release of his latest effort Package Up My Soul. The show is also serving as a fundraising effort for the Nature Trust of New Brunswick to fund a variety of local environmental projects.

Although Package Up My Soul was released via digital music outlets last year, Sunday’s show marks the first time that physical product will be available. The songs on Package Up My Soul were recorded in a rather lengthy span of time, between 2007 and 2010 and came together at a very busy in the artist’s life. While making a record can be an all-consuming process, Betts was in the midst of getting his education degree from the University of New Brunswick while also doing an internship as a high school teacher at Caledonia High School in Hillsborough, adding a considerable workload to the already busy musician.

“Six songs doesn’t sound like much, but in addition to everything else I had on the go, it made for a challenging year,” Thiele says.

With a little help from friends like In-Flight Safety’s John Mullane, Robin Anne Ettles, cellist Tim Isaac and drummer Danny Bourgeois, Thiele eventually had his vision brought to life. The songs on Package Up My Soul marked a conscious move on Thiele’s part towards creating what he deems to be a “more accessible style of music”.

“I feel it is much more organic and live sounding than some of my prior efforts. I think that it fits in better here on the East Coast. That isn’t to say that fitting in is what music should be about but I have noticed that my newer work has been more readily embraced by the industry here on the East Coast than my last record, Into The 4th Dimension, was. That record did have a couple of pop songs but overall, the sound was quite schizophrenic in terms of genres. It was a conscious choice of mine at the time and though I don’t believe it was the wrong choice, I have chosen to be more deliberate and homogenize the instruments and arrangements a bit more with this newest record.”

For a musician who released his first EP in 1997, the industry has undergone drastic changes over those 14 years. With physical CD sales in a state of constant decline over the past decade, social media and networking are key ingredients to longevity and success in today’s music business.

“It is really dumbfounding how much the industry has changed with the digital revolution,” Thiele says. “It is a simultaneously exciting and scary time to be an independent artist. Exciting because the power is now in the hands of the artist but scary because it seems as though there is so much competition for so few gigs.”

Luckily for Thiele, music is not his sole calling. The musician has also had the opportunity of having landed some acting gigs over the past decade as well. His most recent credits include a lead part in Maybe Tomorrow, a film shot by Travis Grant that is slated for release later this year.

Thiele is the first to admit that television and movie parts are a rarity at best in this part of the world and as such, is preparing to make New York his home later in the year.

“I am hoping to get back into acting and modeling and with any luck, become a piano-lounge crooner! I will take my repertoire of cover songs from the 80’s and 90’s with me, throw on my tuxedo and play a nice big black grand piano at some fancy function,” Thiele says with a hint of irony.

Though he might call New York his home on a temporary basis, Thiele anticipates continuing to be back and forth between there and New Brunswick on a fairly regular basis.

“My mother is from New York and a lot of my maternal family is there still so it has always been a second home of sorts. New Brunswick will always be my primary home though. I am probably the most patriotic New Brunswicker in existence – I have the province tattooed on my right forearm.”

Article published in May 27, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript