WITH YOUR HOST
CLICK THE LOGO ABOVE
INTERVIEWS JASON WHITTON
JASON WHITTON TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
NOT GIVING UP,
HIS NEW CD "THRIFTSTORE COWBOY"
JAMMING OUT WITH DERMOT MULRONEY
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
JASON WHITTON has that sense of mystery that a troubadour like ROY ORBISON used to emanate. The songs are dark and deeply personal yet no one knows who the singer is. WHITTON's debut CD "THRIFTSTORE COWBOY" (VAVV RECORDS) is a collection of songs that celebrate all of the good, the bad and the ugly that life has going for it. THRIFTSTORE COWBOY is a brilliant introduction to an excellent singer-songwriter. From it's haunting opening track ALIBI to the optimistic I STILL BELIEVE IN LOVE, the lovely DANDELION GIRL and the plaintive FINGERNAIL MOON ( featuring cello by DERMOT MULRONEY) THRIFTSTORE COWBOY is recording brimming with angst, hope and sincerity. Let's just say that you'll be playing it over and over again on a dark night with a glass of Merlot. Let's not forget his stunning cover of the BILL WITHERS classic USE ME. After just one captivated listen, you're going to think that it was always a haunting country ballad. Yes, his music has garnered him quite a bit of attention already. MUSIC-SITES.NET calls THRIFTSTORE COWBOY "...
one of the best new albums of 2006.” SMOTHER MAGAZINE calls the music of JASON WHITON "...Perfectly suited for AAA mainstream radio." and BLOGGINGPOET.COM calls JASON "...a storyteller the likes of which we haven't heard in several years."
ROCKWIRED spoke with this seemingly mysterious troubadour over the phone, only to find that he's a real nice guy. However, when I played the tape back in order to transcribe the interview with this fine man, I discovered that the tape was blank. Apparently, I plugged something into the wrong place and all that was recorded was silence.
The theme of the interview that you are never going to read focused on my lack of understanding of what Americana was. It' is a word used liberally throughout his press release when describing his sound, so I thought it only natural to start from there. Here is how the second interview went.
To start off with forgive me for messing this whole thing up and I apologize if the things I ask you begin to sound redundant at this point in time.
You know we had that one question about Americana and I noticed you put the definition up there. (on the website rockwired.com) I've read other pieces about Americana and the general concensus seems to be "We don't know what Americana is!" It's a lot like saying what is Rock n' Roll and I think that was the big thing there. I called it something, you called it something and somebody else will call it something else. It's all completely general and broad.
How did it begin for you? Music I mean.
As far as playing an instrument or why I got inspired?
Well, I've always been one of those kids that was running around, loud and singing and stuff like that. I would say that probably around high school I heard a GARTH BROOKS song called THE DANCE and was really moved by the writing of it and of course his version of it is just genius. Being from the South, that was just what was abundant. It was either country music and a lot of hip-hop as well. There was still some R&B around. When I was younger I was always into sports and my first career choice was Baseball. I think a lot of boys are like that. By the time I got into high school I came to the realization that "I'm not so good at this!" So I got into the arts. I think that GARTH BROOKS song got me to thinking about music on a serious level and then my family moved all of us from Houston to California back in 1990. When I moved out here, I got this beat up classical guitar. They always say don't get rid of your first guitar if you can, so I've held on to it all these years. When I got it I strung it upside down cause I'm left handed and it was a right handed guitar and started playing it. It basically took off from there.
I'm a self taught musician. I've never had any lessons. Actually, I've had two official lessons. I went to his guy and paid him a ridiculous amount of money to go in there for a half an hour or an hour and he spends most of the time tuning my guitar and starts play a little, then he goes "Okay, that's about all the time we've got. See you next week." I go back the second week, and he starts tuning the guitar again and the string flies off the guitar and I'm like "I'm paying thirty some odd dollars for lessons like this?" and I never went back. My knowledge of any playing is from chord books. There are a lot of good sites on the web right now like www.echords.com. You can pull up any song, if they have it in there database, and it'll show you the chords. It's great for people that are trying to teach themselves without having to go to some teacher.
Is your debut CD THRIFTSTORE COWBOY everything you hoped it would be?
I used to play out as THRIFTSTORE COWBOY and I had a band. I went out solo at first and then I got a drummer and a bassist and all that. It's really hard to hold down a band. We kept losing our bassist. There are tons of great guitarists in LA . The trick is, if they are great players, they are either in a really good band already or if they're not, there is a reason why they're not. They don't have the dedication or the committment and no one is going to be more dedicated than you are to your own art. It's taken all of these years to find people who are interested in my music, who really think I've got something and want to help build it. I used to go out as THRIFTSTORE COWBOY and when I finally got a chance I ran into JON MATTOX and SEBASTIAN SHEEHAN ( Producers for THRIFTSORE COWBOY) and they were starting their label VAVV RECORDS. They were like, "Man. lets just get in there and cut some tracks." and I said great. When I was thinking about what I was going to call the record, THRIFSTORE COWBOY seemed like such an obvious choice. I wanted to make that a chapter of my songwriting career. That's what I want to be known as as a songwriter. I'm really starting to make some head way and I'm working with people and collaborating more. I never got that chance in the past. It's really like a serious partnership, because you've really got to connect with the person that you're writing with. You have to feel comfortable and it takes a long time. Some people get lucky like LENNON and MCCARTNEY. I'm not saying that it's ever going to get to that level but you feel it when you're writing with people and you're not afraid to throw out these ideas 'cause some of them may not sound as good as others. I'm getting to work with people who are really talented and really devoted to making this work. It's been a breath of fresh air. My goal this year is to just get out there and play it and get out of Califorinia and get out of Los Angeles and go to other places where people will appreciate this style of music that some do call Americana or what ever definition you want ot put to it. It's got country roots and I can't deny those roots because I came from the South and I do love country music but I also love R&B. My sound also has some folk influences like JAMES TAYLOR and INDIGO GIRLS.
By the way, I'm gonna title this article AMERICANA ME. There's no getting away from it it, is there?
You asked me what it was and to me, it has roots in country but it also doesn't let the doors close to other influences. I wouldn't call it bluegrass or anything like that but there is definitely the violin or fiddle and cello and Lap steel. I love those sounds and any time your music incorporates those sounds you're going to be thrown into that category and I don't mind getting thrown into that category.
Now, the production team behind the CD (JON MATTOX and SEBASTIAN SHEEHAN) what are their backgrounds? They sound like they've done this before.
SEBASTIAN has been playing music for years and years and years. JON MATTOX was the drummer for a nationally touring group called THE YOUNG DUBLINERS for a long, long time and they both kind of just said " You know what, we've done that and now we want to make music." Now, they both have there outfits going. They've made their own little studios . With technology today, you can build your own home studio and you don't have to bother with these 100,000 dollar studios. If you have the space, and you don't need a lot, you can put out some decent sounding CD's. We have this goal of just putting out good music and to hopefully make some money.
From this CD, are there any songs that stick out for you in particular?
I have some songs that are a little more closer to me. MADAGASCAR is a song based on a true story and is based on an old friend of mine. The song RUBY is a partial true story based on an old high school friend of mine and it's so awesome becuase we've done some inter-net work and I've gotten in contact with her. I had lost contact with her for years and years. We actually hadn't seen each other since the early nineties and I just got a phone call from her. She was just telling me thank you for writing the song. There was a point in time years and years ago when I told her that I would write her a song and those are actually the lyrics of the song. it's kind of like this full circle thing. I feel that this record hopefully has a little bit of charm to it and I hope that people can feel that. When you asked me if it is everything that I wanted the CD to be, as far as being able to put the emotion into it, I think so. I think it's a great first record and all I can hope for is that the next record will sound better and be even more successful.
It sounds like you've got some great people behind you. Actor DERMOT MULRONEY appears on the CD.
Yeah, he came in and laid down some cello for us.
For the song FINGERNAIL MOON.
Right. I love that track too. That song is loosely based on a person and we wanted that sound in there. We wanted to keep it really acoustic and really simple. I think we may have some fiddle in there but it's really really quiet. It may just be guitar and cello but we wanted to keep it really simple and acoustic sounding and let the lyrics come through.
Where are you living now?
I live in Los Angeles. There are so many little areas of Los Angeles. I guess you would consider where I live Highland Park, west of Pasadena.
What kind of scene are you surrounded by is it open to the kind of music that you do?
I don't think that this is the town for country music. That could be just my experience. Personally, I've had a lot of people say, "You know, you're a singer-songwriter you would probably do very well in Nashville." I think I could probably go to Nashville tommorrow and play the same songs and maybe I'll have a great response to it and maybe I won't. I don't feel the attraction to the style that I'm doing but at the same time, people are open to it. The response that I normally get to the record is "it's not something I would normally listen to" or "I don't really like country music but-" People kind of vibe with it. I wouldn't call it straight-up country. It has those roots and it's got enough twang in it to pull those listeners in who normally wouldn't listen to that kind of style.
You know how LA is when someone's hot on something and people are all of a sudden attracted to it. I think on the outskirts of Los Angeles, there are a lot of people that do like the music but in Los Angeles there are not a lot of venues that cater to that kind of style. There is still hope that this big rock surge is going to happen. It's not like all these rock groups aren't coming out, it's just that people think that the whole thing is rehashed and that it's been done in the sixties and it's been done in the seventies. I think that's why I like to stick with this style because one, the people who actually like it are loyal and you're allowed to be an older kind of a person. In rock, you've got to be young . I think country lets you live a little bit longer.
I never thought of that. My thinking has always been that America in general tends to embrace youth and throw away anything or anyone thats old but country music doesn't seem to do that.
It's something that is always on the artists' mind. Anybody who has made it has always felt that ticking clock, like they're always rushing to get where they feel they need to be in their career. That spurs on a lot of people . People say to me "...you're still young!" and "...Don't worry about it!" but I do think that with the genre of music that I'm in, I have a little more time to get my feet in there and make some more records and that if it doesn't happen with this record, than with the next record and the record after that and I'll have this body of work that people can take notice of and say "Oh, he's got this and this and he's not this newcomer-guy."
The hope is that technology will get better and the songs will get better. There are no overnight successes. People like VINCE GILL spent decades in Nashville trying to make it and then all of a sudden he was an "overnight success". It only took him twenty years.
I think it's just the AMERICAN IDOL kids who have the overnight success now.
Absolutely! More power to them. If you've got that and you want to be mass-marketed, than that's great, if you want to play that kind of a game. The last girl who won that thing is double-platinum now, and she's a country artist. I see the pull to that. The show is great for entertainment and there are some good singers on there.
I only like watching it when they're going through the bad singers.
The one's that are totally oblivious.
The ones that just want to get on T.V.
It's sad and it's funny but ain't that America?
You've been chasing this dream since 1998. Was there ever a time where you though that it wasn't worth it?
There have been times like that when I've looked at the bank account. I've done odd jobs and anything I could do just to get by without getting sucked into a 9 to 5. You do that and you start losing a part of yourself and living for the weekends and I didn't want to do that. I'd rather have the bills and less money and still be able to do my art and go after something and see that bigger picture. Those are the people that make it. I'm not one of those guys saying "I don't have a plan B!" I have my one foot in reality but that doesn't stop me from dreaming and striving to be successful. At the end of the day, you can doubt yourself all you want but if you really do doubt yourself, then you should get out of it. You shouldn't try and make it because you're never going to make it with that kind of attitude. There is a part of me that says I'm in the right country and in the right stage of my life and I've got enough people to support me. I just wanna be prepared for those opportunities that are going to come.
What do you want a person to walk away with after hearing your music or seeing you live?
I want people to be affected. I don't want them to come out and feel like they just saw someone up there throwing out words and not really putting their emotion into it because I feel like I do when I'm on stage. When the begining stage jitters wear off, I feel like I'm comfortable up there and I become another part of myself that only gets to be released when I'm on stage. I want people to be affected and have a great time amd enjoy themselves.