Monday, February 6, 2017

Interview Flashback - The 9513 Conversation With Jason Eady

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did close to a 100 interviews with different artists- and since both of those great sites have come down, I will reprint some of those interviews here to give them a home in perpetuity. This interview was originally published in January 2010 on The 9513.

Down in the low-country along the banks of the slow-moving Mississippi River, water seeps through deltas and backwoods bayous- forever changing the landscape with everything it touches. But it carries more than water on that journey down that river. It carries a history, stories, cultures and probably more than anything, a musical jambalaya. For those that that are familiar with the traditional Cajun dish, they know it’s a little bit of everything thrown together with rice and spices. 

For Jason Eady, this musical jambalaya had a profound and lasting effect on his soul. With influences ranging from country to soul, from Cajun to rock, and from gospel to blues, it shaped a sound that is fairly unique. And like those great storytellers along that river, Eady has carried the torch of writing and singing songs with a tale. His late 2009 release When The Money’s All Gone was lauded critically. 

Now a Texas resident, that unique and historic music scene is just one more ingredient in the long list of musical influences that make up the recipe that is Jason Eady.  The 9513 had an opportunity to sit down with the singer/songwriter and talk about his recent album as well as what lies ahead both as a solo artist and as a key member of a side project band. 

Ken Morton, Jr.- Jason, thanks for spending some time with The 9513. You grew up in Mississippi, what were some of your early musical influences there?

Jason Eady- I grew up on country music. That’s really what I grew up listening to. It was the stuff that was out in the early 80’s and late 70’s. Stuff like Haggard, Waylon & Willie. My parents always had a lot of Kris Kristofferson playing. So that was definitely my first love. Later on, I found bluegrass. And I remember this one time this local TV show had this songwriting round. Mac McAnally was on it as was Kevin Welch. That was the first time I had seen songwriters write their songs. These were songs I knew from the radio, but I had never thought about the fact that somebody else had written them. I don’t know. The thing I really liked about growing up immersed in Mississippi music is that it seems to be a crossroads between a lot of different kinds of music. Everything seems to pass through there. It might be jazz coming up from New Orleans or blues from the delta. Or bluegrass, southern rock, country, soul, or R&B. It all kinds of crosses there in that area. So growing up, I really was exposed to a lot of different styles of music. 

KMJ- On your latest album, When The Money’s All Gone, it seems to reflect that. It’s a recipe of country, blues, soul, Cajun, gospel, R&B and rock and roll. From your perspective, where does it fit across that musical landscape?

JE- This time we made an effort to get back to that groove-based southern -gospel blues-influenced material. On my last couple of albums, I’ve played around with a lot of different styles. It was the producer, Kevin Welch, that wanted to take us back to our roots with what we used to do. This one was more based in that swampy feel. There were exceptions, though. There are a couple songs towards the end of the album that are more of the songwriter/folk/lyrical based songs. I don’t think I’ll ever make one kind of record because I don’t listen to music that way. Even when I’m listening to my iPod, it might go from hip hop to bluegrass back to something fast. I get bored any other way. So the last thing I would do is make a record that was the same all the way through. But I think a blues-based southern-gospel influence is really the overall theme of this record. 

KMJ- Comparing it against your first two records, how would you see it fitting in musically or genre-wise?

JE- The first one was definitely more polished country. We recorded it in Nashville and it was much more of a commercial radio-oriented record. The last one was completely the opposite. We went completely bare-boned and did stuff live and in one take. So that one was really scattered. We had everything on that record. One song would be a bluegrass song, the next song would be a blues song, the next song be a country song. There was no real thread to it all- it was just all a collection of good music. The second one was very eclectic and more folk-side of things. 

KMJ- While not a Texan, you’ve been really adopted by the Texas music scene. How on earth did you manage to pull that one off?

JE- (Laughter) I had quit playing music for awhile and moved to Texas for a job. I was getting close to 30 years old. I figured my time had passed and I wasn’t going to do it any longer. But when I got here, I found out it was incredibly receptive to new music. It was the first place I’d ever moved to that was that open to new kinds of music and different styles. People actually expected you to play your own songs whereas in other places they’ll tolerate you playing your own songs but they really want to hear the covers. It was so refreshing to see that I thought I’d give it one more shot playing open mics on stage everywhere I could. When I’d travel on business, I’d take my guitar and go to the clubs at night. It just kind o f took off. One thing led to another and it started going. I finally quit my job and here I am. Really I think about it only taking off here (in Texas.) I did this once before in Mississippi in going to Nashville but things never really got rolling. I had some interesting things happen, but nothing ever really developed. So really my whole musical career has been based out of Texas. 

KMJ- I wanted to talk about some of the songs on the last album- specifically in what frame of mind you must be in for the characters in your songs to get in so much trouble. 

JE- (Laughter) You mean like “Promises in Pieces”?

KMJ- Or “God-Fearing Blues.” Where does the inspiration come from on those diabolical characters in those story-songs?

JE- On “Promises In Pieces,” I worked on that one for a long time. And I don’t normally do that. I can usually finish 70-80% of a song in one session. I may sit down for three or four hours, but at the end of it I’m usually pretty close to being done with a song. I may tweak it or edit it down or adjust a verse or two over the next couple of days. But usually it’s a pretty quick process for me. I usually assume that if I don’t get the bulk of it in that one setting, it’s not going to happen. “Promises In Pieces” was the only thing I’ve ever written that was a slow sculpture from the beginning. It took me about 2 months, constantly shaving away at it. It’s definitely the most literary song I’ve ever written. That one is a concept that was really story-based. The frame of mind was really just challenging myself to see if I could pull it off. With “God-Fearing Blues,” that just started with a feel more than anything. I had a feel for this song. I wanted to write something involving the area I grew up in and I loved those gospel churches growing up and I love that sound. I love those “Hallelujah” shouting type of songs. But at the same time, I don’t live that lifestyle as much as I probably should. I also didn’t want to want a plain gospel song. I figured that would be pretty hypocritical of me. I wanted to get that feel and pay homage to that sound but do it without necessarily writing a gospel song. 

KMJ- One of my favorite songs on the album is “Cry Pretty.” It’s such a great juxtaposition- such a great combination of words and lyrics. Is there a real story in there?

JE- There’s a story that somebody told me. And the story behind that song is that I had that title for a really long time. My wife actually said it about somebody that they “cried pretty.” And I thought, that’s a title. So I kept it and when I was starting to write songs, I was trying to put something together with that title. But it never seemed to quite work. And I liked the title so much that I didn’t want to ruin it by actually writing a song I wasn’t crazy about. But then about a week before we went into the studio- I think this was the last song we wrote before recording the album- I was talking to Kevin Welch about titles. This song title came up and he said it reminded him of this story about this girl I used to date and I saw at the end of this party. Kevin said, “She was talking to me and crying. And I was starting to fall for it and started to realize that as much as she was crying, there weren’t any tears coming down.” As soon as he said that, it clicked. I went home the next day and wrote it in about two hours. As soon as I had the story, it was just a matter of putting it down and making it work. It is a true story. Just not my story. 

KMJ- When you look at your career, what kind of notoriety or level of success are you wanting to achieve? You tried the mainstream Nashville radio-scene once. Now you’re doing a smaller label thing with more musical freedom but probably not as many publicity resources. Is it a wish to be more widely recognized on a national level or is that even a wish at this point?

JE- It definitely is. I’m not necessarily interested in the mainstream Top 40 country radio thing. It’s not whether I like it or don’t like it. It’s just that the way country music radio has gone lately, it doesn’t fit with what I do. I don’t know. That whole scene has just changed so much. It’s not about the same thing that it was when I was growing up. I don’t really think of that avenue very much at all. I love the idea of something else. There are a lot of people that are very successful in this business doing it differently. An example is Lyle Lovett. Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, those guys. They are all people who kind of plowed away at it for twenty years or thirty years and kind of carved their own niche out of it and made their own brand. They’ve done their own thing this whole time despite what kind of fad was going on at the time and made their own career and their own sound. They do well by putting out the music that they want to put out. That’s really the path I want to follow. 

KMJ- How did your backing band get the name The Wayward Apostles? I’m sure there’s another good story in there somewhere. 

JE- (Laughter) That’s just like the thing with “God-Fearing Blues.” I had the band and we were doing a lot of gospel-flavored songs. We were doing a lot of gospel-flavored harmonies and a lot of the guys in the band- that’s all they really grew up learning how to play. We had the band name The Apostles for just a little while. But at the same time, we didn’t want to give the impression that we were a true gospel band. So we had to come up with something different that explained that this is what we do and that we’re definitely influenced by it but that we are trying to do something different. And that we are a little bit different. I just didn’t want to blur that line too much. 

KMJ- Two more questions left. This one came from one of The 9513’s founders, Brady. I know you’re sort of a pseudo-secret member of a band called Johnny and the Footlights that do some classic country covers. We wanted to know how that came about and if you have any plans to release any material under that band name. 

JE- Wow, that’s great. That came about with after playing some shows with Jamie Wilson who used to play with The Gougers and now is a member of The Trishas- I don’t know if you’ve heard of them but they’re just amazing. They’re really phenomenal. When she was between gigs- between the two bands- we were doing shows together. We still do this all the time. We do a show and share the band. Basically, whoever is the singer is the only thing that changes between sets. We were getting these gigs and having to do three or four hours. I would do 90 minutes of my stuff, she would do 90 minutes of her stuff, and then we would still have time to kill. And we both love old time country music. That’s a common theme that everyone in the band has. But those shows are so far and few between that we decided that we wanted to do something that was more “for real.” We found this place in Fort Worth that gave us this weekly gig. The band, the whole thing in fact, is such a self-indulgent thing for us. It’s really just us playing around. We all get together, there’s really no expectations, we just get to have a lot of fun. But we have talked about doing something else. A lot of stuff I’ve been writing lately really falls in that line of music. It’s really traditionalist country music. But I don’t think I would put something out like that under my name. I think it would probably confuse things. It’s a lot different from what I’ve done in the past. Jamie and I have talked about sitting down and writing twelve old-school country songs that are traditional in sound that we could put out under the Johnny and the Footlights name so it wouldn’t muddy the waters of our own careers at all. 

KMJ- You can count some of our readers and I first in line on that one, I think. 

JE- Yeah, I’m actually really excited about the possibility of doing that. I was actually talking to Jamie earlier today and we’re headed to Colorado to Steamboat Springs here in a few weeks. We’re going to take that time and try to write a lot of those types of songs and see what happens. 

KMJ- I’ve got one last question for you. What is country music to Jason Eady?

JE- Country music is a musical form that’s based on simplicity and lyrics. The lyrical content is rooted in everyday conversations. It’s based on things everybody goes through and it’s based on universal topics. And that’s both good topics as well as bad topics. And it seems that the way country music has gone lately, no one really wants to talk about the bad stuff. There’s break-up songs, but not really cheating songs. You know? It seems that people are ignoring the emotion of the bad stuff. That’s really the beauty of country music to me. It really talks about the everyday aspects of life. It tells stories. And if lyrics don’t come first, they certainly go hand-in-hand. It’s definitely not driven by melody like some other forms of music are. Pure and real would be the real key words to take from country music for me. 

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