Jason Spooner dishes it up
By: Elise Hugus, August 6, 2011
- Jason Spooner rocks Naukabout by day and the Woods Hole Film Festival closing party at Landfall in Woods Hole by night.
Jason Spooner is a true New England musician. Cut from the cloth of rural Connecticut, he spent a stint as a traveling musician in Europe before returning to Portland to hone his craft. Now with three albums under its belt, the Jason Spooner Trio is a frequent name on the national touring circuit.
But no matter where they’ve been, Spooner and his band are happy to return home and recharge in the Atlantic breeze.
Hear for yourself...
The Jason Spooner Trio opens up for Jonathan Edwards, Kate Taylor, and James Montgomery with Bruce Marshall at the Reel Blues Fest, a blues and rock concert sponsored by WMVY and the Woods Hole Film Festival.
Saturday, May 12 at 7 PMSea Crest Beach Hotel 350 Quaker Road North Falmouth
Tickets are $35 and are available online or in person at Eight Cousins Bookstore, 189 Main Street, Falmouth. Doors open at 6:30 PM.
InsideOUT caught up with Spooner from his Portland home to chat how he got his start, the importance of radio and the Internet to independent musicians, and why he loves Cape Cod.
I/O: What first got you interested in music?
Spooner: I’d attribute it to my dad’s 8-track collection. He had what looked like a Credenza in the corner, but it was a big ugly stereo. I still can’t believe my mom let him bring that out. He had this really cool combination of classics form the 70’s, all the heavyweights. The other half of his collection was this phenomenal Motown rhythm stuff. Exposure to that stuff, I think that just planted that whole songwriter seed in my head. I was really blown away by Motown—Bill Withers, Stevie Wonders, Gladys Night—there was some really phenomenal songwriting. Hearing The Beatles, Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel at a young age really got me in tune with lyrics and storytelling through music.
I/O: You’ve also worked for the other side of the music industry. How did working for a label help you as a performing musician?
Spooner: It was a really formative thing. I was probably 22. Once I got out of school, I kind of wandered for a few years, writing a little bit. I thought it would be int to get my feet wet in the music industry so I went to work for Deluge Entertainment, a tiny blues label in Maine. It was a good education for me because a little label that did media, promotion, radio, everything for their artists. They had a small but cool roster of artists—Pinetop Perkins, Lucinda Williams, people that went on to be big acts.
I went in thinking I’d do mostly production work. It ended up being more nitty gritty, making press kits and booking. It was a lot of phone work and drudgery, but then that came full circle.. When I did become a professional a few years later, it came as second nature to me. The industry is really DIY, you have to do it and make it work.
I/O: You made a name for yourself in Europe before you came back to the US. How did your travels influence your music?
Spooner: Spain was filled with flamenco guitar, with an Andalucian warm celebratory vibe. It totally changed the way I viewed guitar. I was like everyone else, I just strummed. But the way the Spanish play the guitar, it’s equally a melodic and percussive instrument. It has a very rhymthic guttural flavor. That affected me, it was a whole different approach.
I/O: So how did you end up forming the trio?
Spooner: I had moved to Portland. I was performing solo. I had put an ad in the local paper for help moving some speakers and a drummer came by. We got along and played a few tracks. I called a few weeks later and we played a few gigs. That kind of gravitated into playing as a duo, but of course a drummer wants a bass player around. Once we had a upright bass player there was no going back. Our current bass player is just a monster on bass. He’s a really dynamic player, people like to watch him.
I/O: What makes you pick up the pen and start writing?
Spooner: The best songwriters are the ones learning and experiencing life. If you’re sitting around in a routine, you lose that. A lot of our songs were written on the road. “Big Fork” is loosely inspired by a town in Montana, near one of the most gorgeous lakes I’ve ever seen. “Fossil” is about a drive through Badlands of California near Truckee. If you visit the West and you’re not inspired in some way, you’re missing something.
I/O: How did you end up getting a hit song from a cover? [Trent D’arby’s “Wishing Well”]
Spooner: It’s a bizarre thing to put a popular cover on the record. Our song “Slippery People” was on our first record, and not a lot of people remembered that. But radio people knew it and thought it was a cool, original take. That ended up becoming a single, too.
“Wishing Well” is the tune we play when the chips are down at a gig. The hips start shakin’ and people immediately get going. Literally, there was a day in the studio where we could lay down one more song and we chose that one. It was really casual, not labored over like some of our originals.
I/O: Why is radio play still important to independent artists?
Spooner: Anything and everything helps. Forming relationships with MVY, WCLV in Portland, some the small tastemaker stations out there-- not only what they’re doing is very important, but because they work with Triple A, they’re able to play what they want to play and develop guys like me. Hooking up with stations that can do what they want to do is huge. That’s how emerging artists can get their first exposure. And they have a huge Internet audience. One of our best connections from came from WMVY—a woman from Massachusetts who lived in Santa Barbara was promoting a festival and contacted me to come play from listening on the Internet.
On the other side of the coin, XM [satellite radio] and Pandora take it a step further. It’s massive to have that kind of exposure for a guy like me. I don’t have a label, I’m completely independent. If anything happens it’s because I’m sitting down banging out emails. Forming that relationship allowed CD orders to pour in from all over the country.
I/O: What’s your relationship to the Cape?
Spooner: I love Cape Cod. I’m hoping to get back to the [Wellfleet] Beachcomber sometime soon. I have family in Eastham and have been going there since I was a little guy. I love that part of the Cape. It’s pretty world class, not many places like that.