Volume Five Interview

Jeff Engborg
Musician & Wiltonian-at-Heart

written by Jon Caruso


Pictured Above: Jeff Engborg at Catskill Jubilee in August 2021 | Photo Credit: Zander Ryzinski

Diving deep into the history and mythology surrounding Goose, there’s a recurring theme of community: a collective energy that resonates on a deeper level - which, like the tide, ebbs and flows with the passage of time. One of the primary goals of The el Goose Times has been to focus on important people surrounding the band, as in our opinion, they’re just as important to understanding the overall story – like pieces to a puzzle. Without a doubt, Wilton, Connecticut is a constant force within the genesis and evolution of Goose.

In past volumes, we’ve spoken with a few important figures from Wilton, found within various early stages of Goose history (for example: Jon “Coach” Lombardi, Matt Campbell & Will Thresher), in an effort to gain new insight and perspective about a band we all love. For our one-year anniversary, we are continuing this trend with an interview with the man, the myth and legend: Jeff Engborg - a long-time friend of the band and an extremely talented musician. Born in 1987, Jeff Engborg Jr. (an actual real person, not just a song title) had a passion for music at a young age and moved to Wilton when he was 12 years old.

Tell us about yourself: growing up, did you always have a passion for music?

I grew up with my uncle. We lived in the same house and he had a dusty old upright in his basement room. When I was about 6, I would sneak down into the basement and play the black keys of the piano. One time, he caught me and jokingly asked if, “I was ever going to play anything other than the black keys?” After that moment, he ended up showing me my first scale on the piano. Now, the guys I play with ask me if, “I’m ever going to play in anything but C, G, DM?” I just let them know that these are the funkiest keys to play!

My first friends were musicians and I’m still friends with some of them, to this day. When I moved to Wilton, I just told people I was a keyboard player – suddenly, I had 3 or 4 instant friends who were guitar players and/or drummers. Music is like a language. I really can’t explain why there were so many good musicians in Wilton, but I got lucky moving there when I did. I have spoken to Ben about this - he had the same thing to say, as someone who didn’t grow up there, but later came to know lots of Wilton folks.

Did you study music in college or was it more organic, self-taught? 

I never had any lessons, but I had the opportunity to play with a lot of kids that did. I picked up a lot from them. One of the first people that I met was an amazing guitar player prodigy named Brenden Coomaraswamy. Brenden, who would later introduce me to Trevor, introduced me to a lot of new musical styles and artists like Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock and many others that continue to influence me to this day.

Pictured Above: A collage photos from a Bootyborg show with Rick Mitarotonda sitting in at Stella Blues in
New Haven, CT | Photo Credit: Unknown

I’ve heard that you are a local legend in the Wilton community. Since you also grew up in Wilton, did you know anyone from Goose early on?

Yes, I was close with Trevor. Growing up, we would play a lot of music together. I have known him since I was about 16 or so – I’m 35 now, so a long time. We were in two bands: one was called The Wisps, that played the Fairfield cocktail party scene for older crowds (we had to make money somehow) and the other was called King Leaf, which was a conceptual progressive funk band with Brenden Coomaraswamy.

Growing up, I was always aware of Rick’s talents. I’m happy that I got to play as many shows and have as many great jams with him as I did. He would sit in a lot with my band Bootyborg, which was a local electro project that I put together that consisted of drummer Jon Leibowitz, myself, and bassist Colin Young. It was a fun little venture where we would play early 90s pop stuff like the Backstreet Boys, but get extremely funky with the groove. I would sing all the songs with a talk box and synth.

Coach and I played freshman JV hocky together - he was always a great teammate and friend. Jeff Arevalo was always someone I respected in the scene and love how much he brings to the band. I look a lot like if Jeff and Rick had a baby.

We also shared a bandmate at one point: the legendary pioneer Peter Castaldi, who was in both Goose and my band at the time! I will always be a Wilton musician at heart. I’m very grateful for the dozens of talented musicians I have met though this network, which have left an indelible mark on my playing, as well as how I approach and see music.

Pictured Above: Great Blue Promotional Photo (2017)| Photo Credit: Peter Anspach

Some fans might not know this, but you’ve toured with Great Blue (Peter Anspach’s original band) for a winter in Colorado and you were featured pretty heavily on the self-titled album, Great Blue, released in 2017. How did you meet Peter? What was it like touring with Great Blue?

One day in 2017, I was shopping for a birthday present for a friend at REI, which is a camping store. I was approached by an extremely handsome, glasses-wearing associate on the floor and felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Peter, who asked me about my band Bootyborg - we ended up having a conversation about keyboards and synths! He helped me pick out the gift, rung me up and we exchanged phone numbers. A few weeks later, he called me to come jam with Great Blue, who are some of the most talented musicians and some of the greatest people I have the pleasure of meeting!

We all gelled really well together. When they were getting ready for their winter tour that year, they invited me to tag along. I was excited as I had never been to Colorado! I had the time of my life, traveling around with the guys and playing shows. We played a lot of awesome shows in the mountains, Crested Butte, moving onto Colorado Springs.

I am so happy I went into REI on that day and had the opportunity to connect with Peter, because he introduced me to Matt McNulty, who did Talk Peck Sound System. Through this band, I’ve had the opportunity to play with some of my childhood heroes like Tim Palmeri & Mike Greenfield from Lotus, Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig of the Disco Biscuits and many more that I greatly respect and look up to as musicians and people.

One of the songs off of Great Blue, Jeff Engborg, recently made its debut with Goose and has continued to stay in rotation. Many fans are calling it one of the breakout debut jams of the year! Tell us about the creative genesis and history behind the jam. Did you intend for the jam to be named after you?

I want to set the record straight here: the song had a different name at one point that was changed to my name during the mastering of the track by the band. When we were on tour in Colorado, we had a ton of downtime between shows - so me being a weird person, I would get them to watch Forensic Files. I named the song originally after an episode as a somewhat off-color joke. When I got the finished album, they had changed the name of the track to my name as a joke on me, which I thought was pretty funny. Now I have 300 new Facebook friends!

The song itself was thought of and brought to the band in four parts. The intro of “Jeff Engborg” was based heavily off of the horn arrangement in the song “The Bird Wave” from of my all-time hero (and funk organ master), Jimmy McGriff, off of his 1970 album Electric Funk. I composed the entire song: I knew all of the major segments of the song and gave everyone a loose description of the overall structure. I feel like each member added some of their special sauce on the song: Peter came up with the nice accenting guitar parts for the intros; I really like Ethan’s rhythm guitar parts and Nick’s tight fills on the track as well. On the studio track, I played all of the keyboard sections. Having the organ and clavinet in the room while we worked out the kinks really helped set the mood. I wanted the song to be heavy-hitting, but moreso grooving with the clavinet, focused on the 1s after the intro. We probably played this song more than any other song after it was made, and we got really tight at playing it live. As fun as it is to listen to, it’s an absolute blast to play! I am so happy that Goose has adopted the song on their last tour and hope to hear it played this summer as well!

What’s the story behind the Hammond C3 organ? In our early conversations you mentioned that you sold it to Peter and that organ is now used frequently in Goose sets.

Around 2017, I found Peter’s C3 organ on Craigslist late one night (who said this never yields good things). All the ad read was: “Estate sale - large Hammond organ.” I knew it was either an M3 or B3/C3 from the picture, as the percussion was pictured. When I showed up at 8AM to see about the organ, the people didn’t know what I was talking about. Eventually, I learned that there was a barn about half a mile down the road that they thought it might be in. Walking into the barn, it smelled like a skunk had been living in there; it was very dusty. I saw something in the darkness, covered in tarps – it was the organ, which had been sitting in this barn for around 30 years! Uncovering the organ made me think of the dusty piano in my uncle’s basement. I knew it was the real deal! It was a prophetic moment. The organ turned out to be from 1955 and it is a very special organ. The organ was reported to have been played by Dave Brubeck who lived in Wilton, so the organ has mojo! Even though it was sitting for a bit, it was in immaculate condition - especially the wiring on the inside. It can be heard on Great Blue studio album and now everywhere Goose goes - as I sold it to Peter last year!

Pictured Above: Jeff playing with Goose at Goosemas 2018 at Cantiki in Norwalk, CT | Photo Credit: Russo

Goose fans might not know that you also wrote the guitar lick to “So Ready.” Tell me about how you came up with it, how it got to Rick and evolved into what it is today.

I saw the evolution really on the spot! It was amazing to see Rick’s ability to think about and build on an idea. Around 2015 or so, Rick and I were in a dark basement, as us musicians sometimes are in, and I was playing an awesome old Juno 106 from 1986. I turned the world-famous Chorus II on, got a saw tooth patch, looked at him directly in the eyes and hit the three-chord walk-down guitar lick. He stopped me and said, “What was that? That that sounds amazing!”

Later on, we met up again and he started putting words and the rest of the chords together. I knew it was going to be a banger, because it sounded great. After, he asked me if he could play the song, I told him he could, only if he dedicated the song each time to me - of course I was joking, but he did do it a few times. He really is a sweet person!

What’s next for you, Jeff? Where can we check out more music from you and is there anything you’re working on now that we can look forward to?

You can check out my Facebook and Instagram: @jeffengborg

What Goose fans can look forward to is a “Jeff Engborg” funk trilogy of songs - an “Engborg suite,” as we are now calling it. Themes from “Jeff Engborg 1” and 2 re-emerge in “Jeff Engborg 3”, and each are connected by the same five notes in the main melody - interconnected as one big saga. Peter is aware of the structure and sound of the songs and we are hoping to release studio versions of these at some point with Great Blue.

Thank you for taking time for an interview with The el Goose Times! We sincerely appreciate it and know the fans will love this.

I am very excited to see what this summer brings for the band, and I’m truly honored that they are playing my song. Every time I see them play - I’m blown away!

It’s no surprise to me that their music resonates with people. I have known all of the guys separately as great musicians and friends. Each member brings a separate and dynamic element to the band. It’s not just great songwriting and musicianship alone: they all play from their hearts every show and because of this, they are able to tap into a force that is both authentic and compelling. A power that is in every one of us. 

Power to the people and power to Goose!

Great Blue Tour Stories

One day, we had some downtime, so I asked Peter if he wanted to check out the hot springs, which were about 30 minutes away in the town of Hot Springs, Colorado.

My friend Luke Molas, who is an insane backcountry skier from Poland and an ice climber, was in the area and shows up in his vintage 90s BMW. We climb in and start riding down some insane snowy mountain roads at high speeds. He was pulling the E brake around turns, passing big trucks and driving like he was a Formula 1 snow racer!

We kept telling him to slow down, but he just kept saying how this was nothing, that he drives like this all the time (in his thick accent) and if this was bad, we should see how is brother-in-law drives! I looked at Peter and we both thought we were going to die for sure, but somehow, we made it.

Pictured Above: Jeff and Peter chilling at the hot springs in CO | Photo Credit: Luke Molas

Pictured Below: Luke pointing out to the CO mountain roads | Photo Credit: Jeff Engborg

Pictured Above: Great Blue tour poster| Photo Credit: Peter Anspach

We had a wonderful time chilling all day in the hot springs. Peter and I were very happy to play the gig at the Lazy Dog that night! I contact him about once a year to celebrate how we didn’t die that day.

In addition, we also ran into issues with the van that now belongs to the wonderfully talented band Eggy. I recall one treacherous day when the windshield wiper fluid stopped coming out of the van. Peter was driving and Ethan was hanging out the window, pouring water on the windshield and it was just freezing. I loved Colorado - I would like to go back in the summer.

We used to crash on people’s couches on the floor after gigs. Sometimes the venues would be packed, while other times there would be about three people there. It was not glamorous at all, but so fun! I’m very happy that I got to go on that tour and feel grateful that Peter asked me to come along. Somehow at the end of the tour, we had like 3 horn players join and it really felt like I was in a traveling circus! I think we did like 16 gigs in 13 days or something like that - it was awesome!

Pictured Above: Great Blue stage setup in CO | Photo Credit: Jeff Engborg

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