RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST JASON GRAHAM
Hiya mate, What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
Do you want the truth or do you want the candy-coated pop-star answer? (laughs) I’d rather tell you the truth. It’s the simple fact that I’m not much good at anything else. I have skills outside of music, and I’ve had various jobs, but they’re always inevitably came a point where I just couldn’t take the fakeness of it anymore. “Ya know Jason, we see a lot of potential in you as a manager of company XYZ. If you give us 30 years of your life, your youth in its entirety, and tie yourself to us SAunequivocally, right about the time you’re ready to die, we will let you retire and present you with this fine watch that can be had for $50 from your favorite department store” No thanks. I’ll gamble on my own merit, thank you very much.
Introduce us to you and your musical history.
Hi, I’m Jason Graham. I’m an alternative rock musician in New Orleans, LA and I’ve just released my solo album Soul for Sale wherein I wrote and performed everything you hear on the record. I’m really glad to have the chance to speak to you guys from RGM Magazine. Thank you so much for having me here.
Name me your 3 favorite Albums.
Wow, that’s really a tough one to pin down. The Desert Island Question right?… Only three? How can you survive on a desert island with only three albums? I guess you’d have to start writing your own tunes on a coconut or something? (laughs) If I had to narrow it down that far, I would say Nirvana’s Nevermind for sure, The Beatles’ White Album, and then probably Elliott Smith’s Either/Or.
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
That one really goes WAY back. I come from a rather musical family. Not professionally, per say, but music was always in the house. I actually have no memory of “discovering music”. It was always just there, but my Dad is a guitar player and while my mom also loved music, he is the person who really introduced me to music. I remember when I was around five years old, he used to let me play with his ’79 Les Paul KM, which turned out to be a rather coveted collector. (laughs) He had an old Acoustic 150 amplifier he would plug it into and let me hit the strings and just have fun banging around. At first, it hurt my ears, so he gave me some earplugs and told me “Here, put these in, I don’t want you to hurt your ears, but I’m not turning it down: you have to feel what that sound feels like!” But, back to the question, a single song? I think it would be Twist and Shout by The Beatles. My aunt knew my Dad was such a fan of music since they were kids so when the whole Beatles Anthology thing came out she recorded it off cable (at the time we lived out in the country and only had an antenna that picked up a couple stations). Anyway, about the same time, when I was around five or so, she gave me this VHS tape and that was the first time I saw The Beatles. I used to run around the house like a little maniac every day with that tape playing and wore it out completely. (laughs) But, I clearly remember watching the film segment of The Beatles playing Twist and Shout and watching John Lennon especially. As a young child watching that, I remember thinking that he was the most interesting and coolest person I had ever seen. I wanted to learn how to play guitar and sing because I wanted be like THAT when I grew up! So yeah, Twist and Shout by the Beatles without question.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
That’s a fact. (laughs) Well, I used to think I was drowning, but since we are here doing this, I’m not sure. I’m starting to think the lifeguard may have my attention. He hasn’t jumped into the pool yet by any means; he’s still wanting to flirt with those girls in the bikinis, but I think maybe he’s starting to look my way.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
Are we talking mosh pits or Ed Sheeran? Seriously, not trying to make a joke out of this one, but it really depends on the venue as far as what should be done. Of course, women should feel safe in any environment at any gig ya know? But, I think it comes down to identifying what may be happening in the context of when and where. Who is the predator? Girls are probably at a lesser risk of getting punched in the face at a Sheeran gig in comparison to a Death Metal band’s show but I would be willing to wager that they are at a far greater risk of being dined, wined, and roofied at a Sheeran gig. (No offense to you Ed, its just that the girls love ya and the guys know it) (Laughs) My point is, it’s all dependent upon the setting. Figure out the threat and go from there. It’s not necessarily a simple solution beyond the fact that protective measures should of course be taken.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I hadn’t had many strategies on that previously, as far as the socials are concerned. I banged my head against the wall for a little too long subscribing to the old school method of playing out in dive bars hoping to be noticed and getting absolutely nowhere. Not that playing out isn’t important, it certainly is, but the new market for music is too fast paced to even allow for that it seems. The buzz is on the internet, shared between followers and subscribers and algorithmically boosted content. I saw an analytic the other day that 88% of people who had heard my music listened to it on YouTube through a mobile phone. Makes sense, it just defies the idea of how to progress in music that a lot of us grew up with – and I’m not even an old guy. (Laughs) But, as far as implementing social media, the most important thing I’ve found in terms of increasing engagement is to increase my own involvement. Answer people when they take the time to write to you. If you reciprocate that generosity it will return to you tenfold.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
And you guess which is which? OK, I see. Well, I’m a Sagittarius. I’ve climbed Mount Everest; proudly planting the flag of my homeland, and well, I’m very blessed in a certain way anatomically.
What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?
I’m against it. Besides the fact that that little monocle wearing creep should have no say in whether or not I pass go, I think Park Place is rather overrated. (Laughs) All jokes aside, I truly am against any form of monopoly, especially in the music business. A monopoly defies any and all potential artistic development; both culturally and artistically. Like Frank Zappa once said, I’m paraphrasing, but basically he said that a singular control of the music industry by those deemed “in the know” only leads to the degradation of art. Art thrived the most when it was anyone’s game. The business guys weren’t artists so they didn’t “know” what would work. That led to all kinds of art getting a chance, and therefore the exposure of all kinds of new art rather than a monopolistic environment where only predetermined “good” art gets a shot.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
Not officially and certainly not on the computer… Where is my tin foil hat? (Laughs) I mean, the US Government killed John F. Kennedy certainly, but that’s kind of becoming less of a theory and more of an understanding, isn’t it?
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Far too much toilet paper and beer. Although I mean it did all get used so… (Laughs)
What was the worst experience on stage?
Oh God, there have been some experiences. (Laughs) Nothing Spinal Tap, but nearly. I remember a couple times, before I had wireless packs, getting into a song and moving around stage without thinking, I ending up stepping on my own guitar cable, which unplugged it, and continuing to play for a couple seconds looking around bewildered as to what had happened to the sound! (Laughs) If there is a professional guitar player out there that tells you he hasn’t had that happen he is lying!
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
Hmm… I think they might be surprised to know that I was also an actor years ago. I never did anything major but the interesting/surprising part is that I once not only worked but lived in a little town called Tombstone, AZ and worked as “Wyatt Earp” for a living. We put on gunfight shows where we shot blanks at each other several times a day and dressed in period correct clothes. I don’t know if you’ve been to Arizona in the summer but surviving that heat in those old time clothes is surprising in itself. (Laughs)
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
The fact that you asked me that question. (Laughs) No, seriously. There are so many talented musicians and bands out there; so many that are far more talented than me, in my opinion. If you’re asking me how I stand out from them, I think it’s really that I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where people are starting to listen to my music…The people who care and take enough time to listen, not the artist’s talent, is the differentiating factor in whether an artist is known or unknown. There are people who have connected to my music and have taken the time to express that feeling and I am immensely grateful for that. It’s an incredible responsibility actually. I don’t want to let them down.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
I’ve just released an album called Soul For Sale, with a new single called “Trust”.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
When I step back and look at it, I think “Trust” is really a song about betrayal. It’s about the feelings that the loss of trust instills. Especially when the loss comes from betrayal on the part of someone you’re very close to. There is this inherent ping ponging, see-saw effect of emotions and anger and sadness and rage etc. You don’t know what you believe and aren’t really sure what it is you’re feeling as a whole. So you usually just over analyze the situation and bounce back and forth in an attempt to figure it all out.
What was the recording process like?
I actually recorded and engineered everything on the track myself. One of the things that comes with going the DIY route is that it invariably ends up taking much longer, but it was also a very rewarding experience. I’ve always wanted to tackle the mixing and engineering side of production in a solo aspect and I really enjoyed it. I like working with others but there is an extra challenge added to doing it yourself beyond just the logistics of it. There are no excuses, no one can be blamed for anything on that track except you. When you’re tasked with making all the decisions of your own accord you also assume all the responsibility for the outcome. It’s fascinating and terrifying at the same time. “Laughs”
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I think it would be the later stages of writing the tracks where the arrangement and technical decisions are made. Most of the songs off the record were written knowing in advance that I would be recording and engineering everything myself. Knowing that I found myself making certain decisions based on technical conveniences or feared shortcomings in my engineering abilities when it came to arranging various parts etc. However, I ended up pushing through a lot of that, once I realized I was doing it, and ended up learning an incredible amount by forcing myself to try new things.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Yes and no. It’s like painting your own car. There are always flaws. Always. However, the most critical person is usually the painter himself. You get better the more you work, however, there will always be some flaw you notice looking back on that work once it’s completed; especially as your skills increase. So naturally, I notice things after the fact that I’m like “Oh damn it, I wish I could change that” but if I actually could I probably wouldn’t. It’s a step on the way and its better to look forward, learn from that, and you’ll perform even better next time.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world
I just want to say thank you. I can’t even begin to express how much it has meant to me getting to connect with new fans and hearing about how a track or certain lyrics have impacted them. It’s an indescribable feeling, and I want them all to know how truly important they are and that they are heard.