After an accident takes his arms, Jeff Saenz returns to the studio

Jeff Saenz nearly died in his backyard on the night of June 1, 2021. The musician, producer and owner of Modern Electric Sound Recorders, the Dallas studio where Leon Bridges, Paul Cauthen, Nikki Lane and many other local and national musicians have recorded – was at his home in Little Forest Hills when he went out to investigate the reason for the power outage. In the dark, Saenz stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted. Saved by his fiancée and a neighbour, he spent 10 weeks in hospital, first losing his left arm below the elbow and eventually having to have his right arm amputated as well. Immediately, the Dallas and Fort Worth musicians came together to organize fundraisers for Saenz and his fiancée, his son and the couple’s granddaughter. (You can donate here.) Just over a year later, Saenz is back in the studio and performing. Recently, we spoke to him about his comeback.

“When I came out of my medically induced coma, my fiancée was like, ‘Hey baby, you had an accident. They had to amputate your left hand. My first thought was The guitar is gone. The guitar has been the conduit of my life. The majority of people in my life I know through the guitar.

“That thought of how this would affect my music stayed with me and haunted me for a few weeks. Even as a producer, how am I going to communicate my ideas to an artist I’m collaborating with on a song? I’m so used to being able to pick up a guitar and show them the chords I’m thinking of. Or sit behind a piano and compose a vocal melody or sit behind the drums and roughly play an idea to a drummer. If I can’t do that, what lane should I take in the studio?

“There came a day when I was FaceTiming in intensive care with Max Poscente, who I was collaborating with on music. He said, ‘Hey, man, I have a new song idea that I can show you if you have a second.’ I was a little apprehensive because being introduced to a new song meant I had to commit, and I would find out if I had a worthwhile spot in the studio.

“When he started playing it for me, the ideas started flowing and it was so amazing to be part of the music. There was a major realization that I could still be a part of this; I can still do part of the songs. If I have a way to translate those ideas and bring those songs to fruition, then I’ll be fine.

“This song is on Max’s next project – under the name About You – which will be released soon, which is largely a collaboration between him and me. If you were to tell me before then maybe I’d do my best working as a producer after losing both my hands, I’d laugh, but it’s definitely something I’m really proud of.

Rico Deleon

“I technically made my return to the stage three months after the accident at Jeff Fest 2, a fundraiser organized by musicians for me in Granada. I had only been out of the hospital for three weeks at that time. I didn’t even know if I would have the energy to see the show, let alone perform. But I just decided at the last minute to run and get on stage for the encore of the show. Many of people who had played that night were up there on stage, and we performed “Willin’”, from Little Feat.

“It was exactly a year after my accident that I was able to really get back to playing. I used to be part of the biggest Texas Gentlemen collective before it was reduced to a defined group. J got the guys together and made a list of 15 fun songs people could enjoy at Double Wide. Nothing sad. I just wanted to salvage the day. There’s no reason June 1st should be a dark day on the calendar for me. I’m alive and with my family. We’ve done songs by the Beach Boys, the Dead, Neil Diamond, Springsteen.

“We couldn’t find a time with everyone’s schedule to rehearse before the day of the show, so we rehearsed at soundcheck that day. And then we just jumped up there and played. It was wonderful. I expect a lot more from this.

“The studio is still operational and we are busy enough to pay the bills. I have things from the past that I haven’t finished yet. I have a project that we started a few years ago, and we had recorded pretty much the whole album minus the vocals, so it’s kind of a coincidence that I have that to work on.

“I don’t know exactly what the future holds at this point, but I just try to take the opportunity whenever I can to collaborate with my good friends on the music.”

This story originally appeared in the September issue of Magazine D with the title “Still Willin'”. Write to [email protected].

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