Jason Eady has lived a very full and interesting life thus far; and it shows in his music, as well as, this interview. Eady has traveled the globe in search of new adventures and new songs. He’s been through the hell of Nashville and lived to tell about it. His latest album, Wild Eyed Serenade, is a reflection of all that he’s seen and done. Jason is very candid in this edition of 20 Questions. He’s definitely an artist to watch out for as we move through the rest of ’07 and into ’08. Visit his forum and for now, check out his interview.
1. What’s new and exciting with Jason Eady & The Wayward Apostles?
The new album, Wild Eyed Serenade is coming out August 14 and we can’t wait to get it out there. We’re also planning on touring nonstop this fall to support the new release so we’re going to stay pretty busy the rest of the year.
2. Let’s talk about the band. How’d you come together? And where’d the name come from?
We came together after I finished recording my first album about two years ago. I can’t possibly say enough about this band. Everyone in the band was the first person to audition for each position and everything just fell into place very easily. We are all on the same page musically and professionally.
The name is a slight allusion to our common background in southern gospel music…although we are far from a religious band. We also like to think of it as us being apostles for roots music but wayward in the sense that we like to take tradition and put our own spin on it.
3. Name association:
-Walt Wilkins – A friend, a class act, and a poet.
-Rusty Wier -A great entertainer and solely responsible for one of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had.
-Josh Grider – A great guy with a great voice.
-Brandon Rhyder – Brandon has worked his ass off and deserves all of his success.
-Ray Wylie Hubbard -Rootsy as a motherf*****!
-Drew Kennedy -A fellow transplant with a bluegrass influence. I hope we get to write together someday.
-Adam Carroll -One of the best songwriters I’ll ever hear. Someday I’ll tell my grandchildren about the time I did a song swap with Adam Carroll.
-Steve Rice from No Justice -A friend and one hell of a voice. Steve has helped and supported me from the very beginning and I’ll never forget that.
-Hayes Carll – The real thing. What this music should be.
-Max Stalling – Smooth
4. Much like Randy Rogers, you spent some time in the trenches doing Nashville-style country as a sideman/harmony singer before you struck out on your own. What was that experience like? I would assume it taught you a lot of lessons about what NOT to do.
I spent a lot of time in Nashville when I was younger trying to be a star. At the time I was willing to do anything anyone told me as long as I thought it would get me signed to a record deal and on the radio. I’m not very proud of that, but it’s true. It definitely taught me that it’s all about integrity. To be an artist is to express yourself and not to express someone else’s marketing ideas. That being said, I still think there is some great stuff going on in Nashville. Kevin Welch, John Prine, Guy Clark, Todd Snider, Buddy Miller, all of those guys live there.
They just figured out how to keep their integrity and work the system. I envy that.
5. Your style is extremely varied, yet unique. It encompasses country, gospel, blues, rock, bluegrass and folk. To what do you attribute that mixture.
That is all about places I’ve lived and people I’ve known. All of them have influenced me in some way. I love all kinds of music but my heart lies with anything roots based. If you can sit on the back porch and play it with acoustic instruments and still reach the same intensity then that is what I love.
6. Related to that, your new record, Wild Eyed Serenade, showcases all those styles very well. There are hints of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Matt Powell, Bruce Robison, Jerry Jeff Walker and even Dwight Yoakam and Chris Isaak. Who are your biggest influences? And what were you listening to while writing these songs?
I have more influences than I can count and probably more than I even know. For every one that I name I’ll leave out ten. But I will say that if I ever get stuck I’ll always fall back on Bob Dylan. He’s the foundation. I never want to copy his style but something about listening to him is extremely mind-opening. I definitely listened to a lot of Dylan while writing this album.
7. You were a translator in the Air Force. How many languages do you speak? Where all were you stationed? And, what influence do you think your Air Force experiences have on your music?
I speak two languages. I use the term speak very loosely (laughs). It’s been seven years since I got out so I don’t get many chances to brush up anymore. I was stationed in California, England, and Virginia but got to take trips all over the world. I think I picked up my guitar three times during the six years I was in the Air Force but looking back that was probably one of the most productive periods of my life as far as music is concerned because it gave me so many experiences and perspectives to draw on now.
8. When you moved to Texas a few years back from Mississippi you played for quite a time solo acoustic. Now, you’re mostly playing with the band. What are your favorite things about each type of gig?
I love them both. I probably enjoy playing with the band more right now because I think we are really doing something unique together. That’s a very rare thing that I don’t take for granted and I feel it every time we play. But I still love the solo shows because of the freedom that they allow me with the songs. I can try different things on my own and sometimes I need that. We also try to do at least one or two full band acoustic shows a month. To me that can be the best of both worlds. We get to do some different things with the songs, get back to basics, and play together all at the same time. Those shows can be very re-energizing for me.
9. There are a number of new acts on the Texas/Americana scene making some tremendous music. Aside from yourself, who of the new crop grabs your ear and makes you think they have something special?
Aside from myself? That’s funny. Do people really give that answer? (laughs)
I hate to answer because I don’t want to leave anyone out. But I’ll be honest: The Gougers – they really have something that people need to pay attention to. Band of Heathens – those guys combine great songwriting with a lot of soul . Jed & Kelly are pure music. Then there is Sam Baker. Sam is the best songwriter I have ever heard and he has an incredibly unique delivery. He is going to be a legend one day.
10. What is the craziest thing that’s happened to you at a gig? What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at a gig?
Ask me that over a few drinks sometime and I’ll tell stories (laughs). The craziest thing that I’ve seen at a gig was the time that someone got shot outside of the venue we were playing. That will sober you up fast.
11. Favorite touring memory of the following towns and clubs:
-Oklahoma City -John Greenberg showing us the best dim sum outside of Chinatown.
-Stillwater -Sitting in an IHOP at 2AM and watching as the restaurant manager completely ignored the flood of water coming from a leaking dishwasher because he was desperately hitting on a stripper. She was hot but that floor was really wet!
-Dallas -Getting to spend a night hanging out with Dave Avery in January of this year.
-San Antonio -The day I got on a plane at the San Antonio airport and left basic training back in 1994. Not a touring memory but something I won’t ever forget.
-Stephenville -This year’s LJT festival. Larry Joe invited me on stage to be part of the final song. That crowd was huge!
-Port Aransas -That’s a tough one. We always have a good time in port A. I guess my favorite would be the time that Rusty Wier and Larry Joe Taylor came in during one of our sets and Rusty got up and sang a few songs with the band. After the show the night just kept going! (See the comment about Rusty Wier above)
-Austin -Getting shut down by the night manager of the Austin Motel because we had a song circle going at 3 in the morning. He was mad!
-Cheatham Street – I don’t mean to name drop here but earlier this year I played at Kent Finlay’s birthday party. I looked up at one point and realized that I was sitting at a table drinking beers with Hayes Carll, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Adam Carroll, and Shane Walker. I felt like a badass.
-Woody’s -Every time we play there we get to see all of our hometown friends that don’t get to come and see us anywhere else. It’s always fun to see who will show up.
-Gruene Hall – The first time we played the main stage at Gruene, during the Fred Eaglesmith Festival this year, we got a standing ovation and a call for an encore. One of the coolest musical moments of my life.
-Executive Surf Club -We just played a show there a few weeks ago with Band of Heathens. I was sunburned from earlier in the day, the beer was cold, and the Heathens kicked ass. It was the perfect beach town experience.
12. You make your home base in Ft. Worth. So many of your contemporaries are based in the Austin/San Marcos/New Braunfels area. Why Ft. Worth? And, what are the advantages/disadvantages of being from the Ft. Worth scene on the regional and state scale?
I moved to Fort Worth for a job five years ago and that’s where I started playing music again. I would go to open mics around town and realized that there really is an audience for original music. That surprised me.
In other places that I’ve lived no one wants to hear original musicâ€¦ you can throw one or two in but you’d better do mostly covers if you want anyone to listen. So I’ll always think of Fort Worth as giving me a great place to start. It’s also where I met the band so it will always be a special place to me.
At the same time I feel like I’ve missed out on some things over the last few years by not being more in the middle of everything down in the Austin area. I actually just moved to Austin this month but I will always be glad for my time in Fort Worth.
13. What has been the reaction to your sound at venues? It’s definitely an energized throwback style. You’ve managed to take the best of the past and combine it with your modern sensibility. Are crowds receptive?
That depends. It seems to completely depend on the venue and the night. We’ve been getting a lot better at finding the right venues to play. I never realized what a big deal that is but it’s very important. It has nothing to do with some places being good and some being bad. It’s just that people go to certain venues for certain types of music. If we are not playing one that caters to the kind of music that we are playing then it’s really hard to win people over. There’s just a different expectation. But when it connects there’s nothing better.
We’ve played some shows during the last year where there was such a connection that we couldn’t stop playing. We actually played for five hours at a show recently because the crowd was so great – and they stuck around the whole time. That’s why we do this.
I will say that for some reason we seem to get more receptive crowds when we play outside of Texas. That’s been a little disappointing for me because I love the music scene here and it’s honestly where I thought we would have the most success. I’ve tried to figure out why this is the case but I’m at a loss. Hopefully that will change.
14. You recorded the new album in McGregor, TX. The small town outside of Waco near President George W. Bush’s ranch seems an unlikely place to make music. How’d you end up there? What was the album recording experience like?
We chose the Troubadour Studio in McGregor because we really wanted a vintage sound. I was looking for a place with a nice open room, vintage gear, and a good vibe. I knew from some other recordings that came out of that studio that it was going to be a good fit. The experience was great. We built in more time than we needed to record so that we could take our time and keep the pressure of deadlines off our backs. We ended up with about twenty songs recorded for the record and didn’t worry about what was going to be on the album until after the recording was done.
We wanted to get the kind of sounds that were on the older Stones, Springsteen, and Dylan records where you can feel the energy and rawness in the room.
We all played in the same room and tracked live. If someone made a mistake then we all stopped and started over again. There was no separation for anyone to go back and fix parts later. We definitely did some overdubs but just for instruments that we didn’t have enough hands to play all at the same time. Of course there are some things that we could have cleaned up had we all tracked separately but to me I think the energy and authenticity that we captured is worth that trade off.
15. You’ve said that seeing Steve Earle for the first time made you realize what music could and should be. Has anyone else made you feel that sensation since then? And, who or what band/trends give you the complete opposite feeling?
That definitely started it for me, although I had been listening to Kevin Welch, who has influenced me just as much, for years before that.
But Steve Earle was the first person that I ever saw do it live. I’m talking about that pure songwriter sort of performance where the quality of the song is the first priority and that person is there to deliver those songs in their truest form.
Those two started a trail of listening that has led me to people like James McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen, John Prine, and Guy Clark, all of whom have had a similar impact on me.
I definitely have opinions on specific artists/bands that have given me the opposite feeling but I would never name any of them publicly. I will say that I’m not impressed by anyone who doesn’t seem sincere in what they are doing. I think all of this should be about putting music first.
Anyone who seems more interested in status, merch booths, buses, or the party, those are the people I have a hard time considering a valid artist.
16. Much like your music and lyrics, your voice has a very distinctive quality. You tend to hear artists talk about struggling to find their own voice after they’ve been used to singing along with other music for a long period. Did it take you some time to find your own voice or did it hit you naturally?
Thanks for that compliment. That’s a very cool thing to hear. Honestly I still think I’m searching for it too. I definitely feel in control of what I’m doing as far as the styles that I choose to play and sing and the music that I immerse myself in but I’m still constantly looking for new things to do. It’s that fine line between comfortable and frustrated.
17. When you’re not playing music, what are your favorite hobbies?
If by playing music you also mean working on the business side of the music then there’s really not much time left over (laughs). It’s a full time job, more than I ever thought it would be. When I really do have down time I try to spend it with my family. We’ve learned to grab the time when it’s available.
18. Rapid fire:
-Winter or Summer? Summer.
-Thunderstorms or Sunshine ? Thunderstorms.
-Coke or Pepsi ? Coke.
-Best city you’ve lived in? “Monterey, CA
-Favorite Bible verse? “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back.” Luke 6:35
19. Favorite George Strait song.
“Let’s Fall To Pieces Together”
20. Compare the music you and your contemporaries are making with that of mainstream country music.
There’s no such thing as mainstream country music. There is mainstream music and there is country music but those two worlds separated a long time ago. When someone says “that’s too country”…which is a phrase I have heard thrown around a lot in the last few years, then there is a disconnect in the system somewhere. I don’t begrudge anyone liking what’s on mainstream radio today, that’s the beauty of choice. But, please don’t get it confused with country music.
That’s my soap box for this segment. (laughs)
I think there are some great things going on musically now that seem to all be sitting right under the surface. I hope that people will dig a little bit to find them.