Jason Eady Seeks AM Country Heaven
Born down in the low-country near the Mississippi River, country singer Jason Eady grew up on the soulful musical combination of gospel, soul, and blues. He headed to Nashville where a signed and failed record contract left him somewhat disillusioned with the direction country music was going. A move to Texas, with its unique and historic music scene, was just one more ingredient in the long list of musical influences that have made the man.
That move to Texas reopened and rekindled a passion for old school country. And like a candle that’s been lit, that love of the sound, styles and stories of 1970’s country music burned brightly as the inspiration for his newest release. AM Country Heaven will be released this fall and was completely funded by fan donations. The entire project was paid for by fans hearing the title track and believing enough in the genre to put up their hard earned dollars to hear more.
Engine 145 had an opportunity to speak with the singer/songwriter about the new project, which was entirely fan-funded and includes a duet with Patty Loveless.
KEN MORTON, JR.: You’ve got a brand new album called AM Country Heaven that will be released shortly. What can fans expect on this one?
Jason Eady: This started off as a side project. I got really into doing really traditional country music. I wasn’t originally going to do it for myself. Jamie Wilson and I started doing this thing in Fort Worth a couple years ago where we would get together a couple Sundays a month and do nothing but old country song.
KM: Is this your Johnny and the Footlights [a classic country cover band Eady formed with The Trishas’ Jamie Wilson] project?
JE: That’s what it was—the Johnny and the Footlights thing. We were doing that and I was really getting into that music. I really hadn’t done that music in awhile and it reminded me of how much that music influenced me and how much I really loved it. I hadn’t done it in a long time. I was talking to Kevin Welch, who produced my last album, about that idea and in the meantime, everything I was writing was starting to have that real country flavor to it. I talked to him and we discussed doing a real low budget side project where I’d write some of these songs and we’d get a bunch of friends of ours that just love that kind of music. And we’d do it real cheap. We’d do this little side project record that would be this old classic thing. But the more we started talking about it with each other and the more we discussed it with other musicians, engineers and people that would be involved in it, the response we got was really amazing. So many players wanted to do it. The studio wanted to be involved in it. It kind of took on a life of its own. Suddenly, we realized we could do this for real. We’d have to up the budget a bit and go in with some hard-hitting players. That’s pretty much what we got. When we went into the studio, we got about the best traditional country band you can get right now. It’s just really the best. The guys in the band have played with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. It’s just really as authentic as you can get when you’re doing that old country style of an album.
It started off as a little fun thing we were going to do on the side. The more it got going, it just grew and got bigger and bigger. Now, here we are with this big record. I’m extremely happy with it. It’s the first thing I’ve ever done that was very intentionally making a statement. It’s not just the latest batch of songs that I’ve written. It was much more intentional than that. This was much more a conscious decision to do this country thing. I had to make a statement about it. It seems like in the country world, there seems to be a big hesitation to just do straight-up old-school country. I’m not one of these anti-Nashville guys. I’m really not. But when it comes to doing old-school country, there seems to be this big fear of doing that. It’s not cool enough or it won’t appeal to the right demographic. I really wanted to make a record that proves that you can still make a traditional country record and that people still really want to hear that stuff. That’s really the point I wanted to make.
KM: You’ve released an acoustic video of you playing the title track where you sing of “AM Country Heaven and FM Country Hell.” Does that theme carry through some of the other songs on the album? Does that theme go outside of the production?
JE: That is the first song on the album and that song sets the tone for what the album is supposed to be about. But that’s the end of preaching about it. The rest of it is just digging in and doing it. It’s just old country songs. But there’s some lines in that song that I think I had to back up later on in the record. There’s a line that talks about people being afraid of writing songs about cheating and drinking and lying. And that’s really true. If you listen to country music today, there’s the movement to make everything really happy and pleasing. Even the stuff that’s not happy is just break-up songs. Old-school country songs used to be lying and cheating and trying not to get caught- and drinking too much. Now it’s about how much we like to party. There are a lot of songs about being country and how country you are, but back in the day they did that by just singing a country song. You didn’t have to say you were country, you just sang it. There’s no more message after that. There’s nothing deliberate with the lyrics after that song. It was just one of the first ones I wrote so it caused me to put my money where my mouth was on all the songs that followed. I had to back it up and do the things on the later songs that I mentioned on that song.
KM: Does this style of music allow as much storytelling as you had on When the Money’s All Gone?
JE: A little bit. The thing I learned, and I learned a lot on this record, is it’s hard to write and make something simple and still say something. It’s really difficult to do. You have to be more selective in words and do it in plain-spoken conversational English. The challenge is doing that and saying something meaningful. The other thing I learned was through listening to a whole bunch of old records and how they wrote was that they captured a moment in time. They were thinking about right now. And in doing that, they reveal what led up to that and that’s where the story comes in. Their storytelling is like, “This is what I did two days ago and this is how I’m feeling now.” It’s not “Let me tell you a story and I’ll start here and stay with me until all the way to the end.” It’s more, “I’m feeling this way right now and this is the reason.” There are still stories in them, but they’re laid out that way instead of telling a story from start to finish.
KM: There’s Nashville country and there’s this Texas Red Dirt country. It sounds as if this doesn’t really fall into either category.
JE: It really doesn’t. It’s not that Texas Red Dirt thing. And again, I’m really really trying to be vocal about not trying to disparage what anybody else is doing. It’s not about that. I’m not saying what I’m doing is better than anybody else by any means. At all. You can do pop-country, you can do Red Dirt country, but let’s remember that all of what we’re doing came from this. We don’t want to get so far away from it that we’ll be embarrassed or whatever. We don’t want it to get too far from what its roots are. It doesn’t really fit in either one of those categories. It’s definitely a retro album. We did it on tape. The players were all older players. We did everything we could to make it as authentic as we could- as if it was made in the 70’s country timeframe. At least that was the goal in our heads.
KM: You mentioned Kevin Welch. Is he on board as a producer again?
JE: Definitely. He did a great job on this thing. He’s producing and he and I wrote two of the songs on the record. We had never done that together. We had written two songs as we were building the album and both of those made it. This whole thing is something that was a collaborative effort. This isn’t just my project. This is something that was absolutely his and my project. This whole thing came about because he and I were sitting around in a living room thinking how cool it would be to pull this off.
KM: So it’s just one big labor of love for that era of music.
JE: Exactly right.
FM: You funded this album in a very unique way. The fans are very much an investor in this whole project. Explain that a little bit.
JE: That’s the thing that makes it the coolest to me. It’s the response that got. I had no idea that when I started this. I had no funding. Any potential funding targets that I had had no interest in funding this type of project. Those people were convinced it wasn’t going to sell. I just disagree. I’m out there every day with people who constantly say that they’d love to hear more traditional country music. It proved itself that all of the money that came to fund this album was contributions from the fans. They made it happen. It’s been overwhelmingly great for me. To see that happen, it just proves that there are a lot of people that want to see this type of record get made. It was the only way I was able to do it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without it. If I hadn’t done it, this record wouldn’t have gotten made.
KM: We’re seeing that in a lot of other acts. There are acts that have been around a long time like John Berry who just funded his latest inspirational country album the same way. It gives people a much deeper level of ownership over the project, artist and music.
JE: Right. It’s something that I hope continues. It gives the artist complete freedom. We can take that money and do exactly what we want to do. The artist has complete freedom of vision. Nobody’s concerned with earning their money back. There’s no business being thought about and processed. You trust that the same fans that funded it will support it. And that they trust you. It allows for a lot of freedom. It creates this bond with your listeners that we all did this together. It’s a cool thing. I’m really glad that it worked out this way. I love my old records, all of them. But there’s something organic about all of the outside pieces like how it got funded and the way it just grew out of a small idea. It grew because people were interested in it within the industry and outside it. It just worked. It was completely organic. Everything about it was organic and natural. Nothing was forced. It was just a great experience.
KM: Do you have a formal release date for the album yet?
JE: No, but hopefully very soon. This month, I’m meeting with the management team to finalize it. Hopefully, this fall. I can’t imagine it being any later than late September or early October.
KM: I hear there’s a magical duet?
JE: Yes. There’s a Patty Loveless song on there. I wrote the song with three other guys; it’s the only duet I’ve ever written. We wrote it specifically as a song where a man and a woman are singing to one-another. When we were writing it, we were talking about the perfect partner to sing it with. It’s country, but it has a little bit of mountain feel to it. We all immediately said Patty Loveless.
Well, we all thought of Patty Loveless, but we never thought in a million years that she would do it. I went back to Kevin and I played him that one and said that it would be great if someone like Patty Loveless would do it. He said, “Pick anybody. Pick the person you’d like to do it with most and we’ll see what happens.” I didn’t even want to think about it. I told him, “Patty Loveless.” Kevin worked his magic behind the scenes and made some calls. She wanted to hear the song and she got back to us and we did our part, sent it over, and she did her part. So I have a duet with Patty Loveless on this record. It is ideal in a couple of ways. One, because she was the first choice. But two, it matches with the theme of the record. It really lines up well with the rest of the record.
KM: Especially since the song you’ve recorded has a bit of a mountain sound to it–tying in to her last couple of albums.
JE: Yes. Definitely.
KM: Okay, one last question for you. You’re sitting in one of Austin’s swankiest restaurants at a table for four. You’ve got a spot for three other people and they can be past or present. Who are they and why?
JE: (Laughter) Let’s see. Good question. On the creative musical side, I’d say Hank Williams. I think he fathered this whole thing and to understand where this all came from would be monumental to me. He’d be one. It’s not a very country answer, but my second would be the Dalai Lama. I love everything he says. He makes a lot of sense if I’m being completely honest. And then I’d probably say somebody like Einstein. I’m kind of a big science freak on the side. I read a lot of those kinds of books about the nature of the universe and that kind of thing. I think between those three people, it covers everything I’m interested in. Philosophy, science and music. That would about cover it.
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- Barry Mazor: OK, Jim Z. That changes everything. I surrender.
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- Jim Z: Dirty River Boys are from El Paso, Texas.