Local Singer-Songwriters Jimmy Brogan, Ty Mares Make Duo Debut

May 16, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Jimmy Brogan and Ty Mares at The Gateway.

The newly renovated Gateway was a crowded, noisy watering hole last Saturday evening. At 8 p.m., the Ship Bottom bar was loud and packed, seemingly to capacity. Thunder and rain pelted the roof and windows. The new, shiny cluster of televisions perched above the bar were like fluorescent lights, illuminating the faces of bargoers who stared up at them like transfixed houseflies. The din of the bar and clamor of the weather, however, softened as Jimmy Brogan and Ty Mares took to the stage, acoustic guitars in hand.

Brogan, 37, resembled a seasoned, edgy rocker with his long, curly locks and matching beard. His peer, Mares, 22, could have been John Mayer’s double, a comparison he said he is accustomed to. They opened with “Into the Mystic,” Brogan’s soft, folk-y voice a favorable substitute for Van Morrison’s.

The change in the crowd’s energy was a subtle one. Patrons continued talking amongst one another, but in hushed tones. Some sipped their bevvies thoughtfully, staring off into space (into the mystic?). Others mouthed the words and swayed on their high, metal stools. The song ended and, shaken from their partial trances, the bar goers trickled claps into the air, swiveling in their chairs to get a better look at their resident hypnotists.

The night continued in the following pattern: rock classic from Brogan, pop cover from Mares. Petty, then Mraz; Croce, then Maroon 5. Despite the constant genre and decade changes from song to song, the set list was anything but jolting. The duo twisted each cover into a gentle, acoustic rendition. Their differences in age and musical style allowed for an easy, delightful repertoire of old and new hits. If Brogan was singing, Mares was playing skilled, decorative riffs on his guitar. And vice versa. The performance was a steady back and forth as the duo shared their craft with the crowd of 50-somethings.

When asked how the two met, Brogan joked, “Mail order.” They both laughed, and it was easy to see how their chemistry translated off stage.

For the record, the two did not actually meet by way of mail order.

“I came to his open mic in Tuckerton he runs, probably the best open mic in South Jersey. I’d been told over and over and over again, ‘You gotta go to Jimmy’s open mic.’ And we met and started playing, and I started sitting in with his band,” said Mares, who now plays lead guitar for Brogan’s project, The Jimmy Brogan Band.

Brogan is a Tuckerton native and no stranger to the local music scene. The musician began performing 15 years ago and can cite the origins of his passion all the way back to his childhood.

“My dad used to play solo acoustic and sing. I would come out to his gigs and drink Shirley Temples. I used to watch him and think, ‘That’s a cool job.’” Brogan hosts an open mic at the Tuckerton Beach Grille every Thursday at 7 p.m. for new and local talent. The bands that have influenced his craft? Brogan named The Beatles and Nirvana among his favorites.

Mares’ story is a little different. Originally from Colorado, he attended Berklee College of Music for two years in Boston before moving to Barnegat – a good midpoint, he said, between New York City and Philadelphia. He quickly found solid footing in the local music scene. So solid, in fact, that he’s been able to write and produce an EP of new original music, which will be released to the public May 19. The singer-songwriter cited John Mayer, James Taylor and Stevie Ray Vaughan among his musical influences. Maybe now he can add Jimmy Brogan to that list.

“I can say that as a guitar player, playing with Jimmy’s band has made me, overall, better,” Mares said. “Every musician is a planet, and when you go on someone else’s planet, you have to adapt to what they’re doing.”

Brogan’s and Mares’ mutual respect for one another extends outward to other local acts. Both expressed gratitude for the support and talent surrounding the South Jersey music scene, giving weight to the old “your success is our success” mentality.

“We wouldn’t make it without each other,” Mares said on behalf of the tight-knit singer-songwriter community.

Saturday night at The Gateway was the pair’s first performance alone as a duo. They came without a setlist, intending to read and gauge the likes and dislikes of the crowd. “It’s better to call it as you see it,” Brogan said.

Between their unconventional transitions, cover mashups and delightful, bluesy riffs, their “call it as you see it” method seemed to sit well with the middle-aged crowd. A patron even approached the two enthusiastically between sets to commend their talents: “Your transitions were great. I heard Grateful Dead. I heard Lou Reed. ‘I was like ‘That’s Franklin’s Tower!’”

A crowd favorite was Mares’ rendition of “Free Fallin’,” which more closely matched John Mayer’s famous acoustic cover than Tom Petty’s original. Mares’ voice is soft, melodic and soulful, carrying lightly into every corner of the bar, cocking ears and raising a few delighted eyebrows here and there. Another pleaser was Brogan’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” in which he ever-so-subtly lowered his voice and captured that famous, booming Johnny Cash vibrato.

The performance at The Gateway was a pleasant prelude to the summer and, more importantly, a preview of what’s to come. Starting in June, Brogan and Mares will be performing at the Terrace Tavern every Thursday at 9:30 p.m. Mares’ new EP will be available May 19 on iTunes and Spotify. More events featuring the two artists can be found online at jimmybrogan.net, tymares.com and their respective Facebook pages.

— Sarah Hodgson


Set List Snippet:

“Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison

“Free Fallin’,” Tom Petty

“Stand By Me,” Ben E King

“Wild World,” Cat Stevens

“Breakdown,” Tom Petty

“I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz

“King of the Road,” Roger Miller

“Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” Jim Croce

“Sugar,” Maroon 5

“Wonderwall,” Oasis

“Your Body is a Wonderland,” John Mayer

“Faith,” George Michael

“Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver




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