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Local musicians get back to rock roots

November 17, 2012
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Veteran local musicians Scott Syrjala and Jimmy Nevala had taken some time off from playing in bands.

"One day I called him and said 'hey, let's do something a little different'," Syrjala said. "So we put an ad on Craigslist of all places and Ben responded to it. Ironically, Ben just moved back here from Chicago and when we were emailing back and forth, I didn't realize it was him - we've known each other for years. So we got together and it's been great ever since."

Ben is Ben Austin and the three Ishpeming natives are now a band called Jackpine.

Article Photos

Born and raised in Ishpeming, Austin had spent six years in the Windy City playing in bands and performing as a solo artist. He, his wife, Sarah, and baby son, Benjamin Paul, are now living in Marquette.

Nevala, too, is an Ishpeming native and current Marquette resident. He's attending Northern Michigan University, majoring in elementary education.

Which is right along Syrjala's line as he is a teacher at Ishpeming High School and an assistant football coach for the Hematites. He and his wife, Jackie, have three children: Jenna, 13; Ty, 7; and Sophie, 8 months.

Fact Box

Upcoming gigs:

Dec. 22: The Blue Lounge, Marquette

Dec. 31: The Casade Inn, Palmer

On the Web:

Take 5:

Here are five musicians/musical groups whose music you might hear at a Jackpine show:


The Gear Daddies


The Beatles

Johnny Cash

While the three are in different stages of life, they share a love for music that started at an early age ... and includes another connection.

"My father was a musician," Syrjala said. "My dad actually played 'back in the day' with Ben's dad. I wasn't talented enough to play the guitar, so I picked up the drums. I was in fifth-grade band, but only for one year. I didn't pick up the drums again until I was about 28 years old. I always wanted to do it - and now I finally have the chance to."

Austin said, "I grew up around music in my family and never had to look too far for a drum set to bang on or guitar to strum. I was always encouraged to stay with music and developed a strong connection when listening and playing to old blues records and classic artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton.

"Hearing that music and then learning to play along is what I think ultimately led to me wanting to become a musician, Now, having reached the point to perform these songs and add my style along with Jimmy and Scott's vision keeps the desire to play always at the surface."

Nevala said, "I've always been interested in listening to music, and started playing in band class in the fifth grade. Picked up the guitar when I was in high school, and only started playing the bass when I joined a band simply because I owned one."

Syrjala's musical influences include The BoDeans and Martin Zellar of The Gear Daddies. Austin lists Stevie Ray Vaughn, ZZ Top and Clapton, while Nevala's first band that made him say "I want to be a musician" was The Beatles.

Put those influences together and you'll understand Syrjala's description of what one might hear at any given Jackpine gig.

"We shoot for a tasteful mix of covers and original material," he said. "Jackpine's set list is a blend of roots rock influenced by artists such The BoDeans, Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, CCR, Merle Haggard, Whiskeytown, The Replacements, The Gear Daddies, The Beatles and Johnny Cash. Original material spans across the country blues genre."

IHS's continued success in postseason football is happily limiting the band's availability in November, but come December, gigs will resume. And the band's lineup might expand.

"We actually are maybe looking for the 'fourth' person to add something unique to Jackpine," Syrjala said. "Maybe a female or male who can add vocals and who plays say, the violin or another instrument that may be 'just off the beaten path'."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is



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