The Vegan Guy in the Band: Social Stance Saturday (by Jim O'Ferrell from The J.O.B.)
Jim O'Ferrell is the founder of Richmond, VA based rock band, The J.O.B. Touching audiences with his passionate lyrics and performance abilities, the fuel behind this passion is a vegan diet! Read Jim's Social Stance Saturday blog below to hear about his fascinating journey of being vegan on the road!
I was a cheeseburger eating, guitar strumming singer as long as I can remember. My 16th birthday dinner was a ribeye steak with a pitcher of draft beer in a musty saloon after a Friday night of singing Johnny Cash songs. Traveling from gig to gig over the decades since, I never thought much about the random meals I choked down along the way. A motel bagel breakfast in the morning, a fuel stop sandwich for lunch, a greasy bar food dinner after the second set.
About six years ago I decided to improve my overall health and I eliminated animal products from my diet completely, meat, dairy, all of it. I have lived as a plant-based human ever since. I’ve never been healthier, and I am quite certain that I have added quality years to the back end of my life. But, as a working musician who spends a lot of time in venues with plastic baskets full of deep-fried mystery-nuggets, it can often be tough to find something vegan to eat.
On the road, one learns to navigate the ‘menu minefield’ and develops a ‘go to’ food list for various eateries, fast food places, casual dining, etc. For instance, at 2:00 in the morning with Waffle House being all that’s open near the motel, order hash browns grilled up with jalapeños and onions. Delicious vegan comfort food that fills the belly.
Occasionally, one of our carnivore bandmates wants an animal to chew on for dinner, so we pull the rig into an Applebee’s parking lot or something similar. I already know that there’s not much on the menu for me. So, at the table, I ask the server if the chef can make me a big plate full of seasoned steamed vegetables, vegan style, no butter or cheese. They always do, and it’s always an amazing mountain of delicious, fresh, flavorful veggies filling a dinner plate. A quick side note; please stop telling vegans that “you can always just get a salad.” Really. Stop it.
Fast food ‘go-to’ places are: Taco Bell for bean burritos without cheese and a few other inexpensive, vegan treats; Burger King for a Whopper Jr. with no meat patty and small fries. Put the fries where the meat was supposed to be, instant fry-sandwich. Tasty! Subway is always a safe bet, Chipotle, Noodles & Company, and more others than you think.
I recommend HappyCow.net, an app that locates vegan restaurants in the vicinity of wherever one may be. We have experienced some of the most memorable moments of our tours at the eclectic dining destinations that we discovered with the app. The next time you’re playing in Memphis, let HappyCow find your dinner. Huey’s Downtown serves a vegan burger by which I judge all vegan burgers. Hail Huey’s! Gigging in Charlotte? Eat every meal at Bean Vegan Cuisine and you’ll think of moving to Charlotte. Most places have a vegan oasis hidden behind the mall somewhere. I start with HappyCow and then, depending on how far out in the boonies we may be, sometimes I get creative.
I did succumb to one unexpected side effect of my plant-based diet that I consider profound in that it has affected me intellectually and helped me grow as a person in society. I developed an empathy for animals that I hadn’t experienced before. I had a dog as a kid and I loved my aquarium fish, but this was different. It was bigger. I suppose that since I no longer needed animals as a food source, I began to notice their actual existence. I didn’t really need to ignore it anymore or find some clever quip to rationalize my meat eating: “If I’m not supposed to eat animals then why do they taste so good?” followed by a big laugh. I accepted that I had more to learn about all of it. I allowed myself to watch some reputable documentaries about plant-based nutrition. I started with Forks Over Knives. Then I watched films about industrial meat farms and animal agriculture. A season of Planet Earth was also in the mix there somewhere. I began to accept that these animals that we raise for food feel anxiety and joy, comfort and pain, affection and a sense of family. I allowed myself to contemplate the health and industrial effects on all of us from the massive animal slaughter that happens every day to keep pepperoni on our pizzas. The suffering of these animals now looks like suffering to me. Since I no longer eat animals, I no longer need animals to die for my dinner, and I’ll never eat another one. I didn’t expect that at all.
So, with our cargo trailer securely hitched to our overloaded SUV, we leave the gig at Bar Louie in Richmond (veggie flatbread with no cheese or the Impossible burger= excellent) and embark on the dark highway to our next motel check-in. The guys pass water bottles and Red Bull from the cooler and dig through the snack bag to find CLIF Bars, Oreos, bananas, tropical trail mix and peanut butter filled pretzels. No pork rinds or Slim Jims to be found. Have guitars, will travel.
Their single, "Lisa's Song" off of their upcoming album, Highway of Shadows, is out on September 10! The J.O.B. is (from left to right) Jim O'Ferrell, Jim O’Ferrell, Jared Merrill, Jason Crawford, and Eric Bandy.