Blues and soul ace Jason Masi began his music career after he became galvanized by his brother’s genre-hopping bands. He was a soccer player, but eventually figured out that his true calling was singing. Masi is big on mood music, and though most of his songs come across as mellow, he says he dabbles in styles ranging from rock to folk and adult contemporary.
He chats with EarnTheNecklace about his upcoming album, Capture the Heart, which will be released on November 30, 2018, and also shares some stories about his incredible journey so far.
ETN: If you could describe Jason Masi in one sentence, what would that be?
Jason Masi: Jason Masi is a laid-back, life/people/music-loving guy, trying to spread as much love and sweet melody around as possible.
ETN: Where were you born and raised? How has your hometown inspired you in your music career?
JM: I was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia and raised in a modest house on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. When I was growing up, the surrounding area was mostly farmland, but we were just an hour south of Washington, D.C.
Throughout my formative years, the area became more developed and inherited some of the D.C. metro cultures. I think I gained exposure to the southern culture of Virginia and some of the city culture of D.C. Maybe that’s why my music has a bit of a southern sound but with a taste of urban, as well.
ETN: You’ve said before that your brother introduced you to music. Tell us more about your childhood and your relationship with your brother.
JM: I have two older brothers, John and Jeff. I always looked up to both of them growing up, but Jeff became very serious about music as a teenager. He practiced constantly, and as he became proficient, he was asked to play in bands all over town. We had a basement that the bands would use as a practice space.
Jeff played in blues, jazz, heavy metal, pop, and country bands. Watching those bands practice was my first exposure to the process of assembling songs and making them click. I wasn’t a musician at the time. My energy and focus was mostly spent pursuing competitive soccer, but that is when I became fascinated by the experience of performing songs live.
ETN: Who has been your biggest support through your journey?
JM: My wife! She has been there since before I wrote my first song and has supported me through the ups and downs of the journey of being a musician.
ETN: We’d love to know more about your wife! When/where did you meet? Tell us more about your story!
JM: My wife, Jen, is truly one of the most inspiring people I know. I took her to my senior prom in high school and fell in the love with the person she was and aspired to be. We grew up through college and beyond, and we finally got married in 2010.
Jen always excelled in academics, and after undergrad at UVA [The University of Virginia], she taught history for three years in Charlottesville, VA.
After that, she attended GW [George Washington University] law school and chose to work in child welfare in D.C., advocating for under-served youth. She is currently the Pro Bono Director at the Children’s Law Center. Check out the organization!
ETN: Your upcoming album is called Capture the Heart. How are you and your team making sure it reaches your fans and audience on different platforms? Where can we find your music?
JM: Yes! You can find my tracks on all streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon, Tidal, Pandora), and physical copies at any show!
I recently signed on with AWAL for distribution, so the album will be available everywhere online on November 30, 2018! My team (me; my publicist, The Marketing Mixtape; my producer, Mark Williams; and my awesome super-fans) are getting the word out on social media and pitching to various shows and publications.
A couple of songs from the record were recently featured in the daytime drama, The Young and the Restless, too!
ETN: About the upcoming album, what were your thoughts and inspirations while making it?
JM: I was writing this album when life was a bit chaotic. A theme that I often come back to, and is highlighted on this album, is slowing down in a fast-paced, stressful world. Living in the NoVa/D.C. area has a tendency to heighten one’s sense of urgency.
It’s a dense, politically charged, traffic-ridden…a commerce-centric area with not a lot of room to breathe. That said, the community, entertainment, and people who live here make it an awesome place to live and visit.
It’s just really important to check ourselves from time to time and make sure we’re slowing down enough to smell the roses.
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Super excited to share this music video for "Calm Me Down" from the new album, Capture the Heart! Full video at www.YouTube.com/MasiSongs. I love playing this song. I hope you like it too! @carterlouandtheproject Carter Louthian did an amazing job filming, directing, and acting in this over the course of a couple of afternoons in Bethesda, MD. @bethhcannon performs superbly in her role as diffuser. My buds @markojet, @thehammeronbass, @bentufts, and @seanchyun rock it in the studio shots. Hope you enjoy it! Please like and share with your friends! New album out everywhere Nov 30. Album release party at Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg Friday Nov 30! Get your tix! #musicvideo, #newmusic, #jasonmasi #indierock #capturetheheart #albumrelease #rockmusic #stressrelief #calmmedown #calm #relax #tallyhotheater #healthanxiety #beatanxiety #newalbum2018 #newmusicvideos #indiemusicvideos #newrecord2018 #helpeachother #helpeachothergrow #showlove #compassionworks #hugsomeone #hugsmakeeverythingbetter #bethesdamd #cityshots #dcmusicscene #songwriters? #songwriterfilm #cinematicvideo
ETN: This is your fourth album, with the third one having been released in 2014. Any reason why there haven’t been any in the last three to four years?
JM: This is my fourth full-length album since breaking out solo. My college band also recorded two full-length albums under the moniker, Jubeus. I also recorded a three-song Christmas EP in 2017.
In all honesty, I have songs written for lots of albums, but it was a process saving up money for studio time. I booked the studio over the course of a couple of years as I could afford it. It was probably for the best, because my process of writing includes revisiting songs to try and make them better. I definitely think some of the songs on this album benefited from revisiting the initial ideas I had for the album.
I consider myself pretty prolific, but I think it’s probably healthy for me to have some space between full-length records and allow the songs some time to develop. I come up with ideas quickly, but I finish songs slowly.
ETN: Share with us some stories about your experience as an opening act for various big names in the music industry! How star-struck were you when you “opened” for Dean Dillon?
JM: I’ve had the opportunity to open for some great bands, both well-known and undiscovered. Some of the more popular ones I’ve opened for are Blind Melon, Everclear, John Waite, SOJA, The Sugarhill Gang, Donna the Buffalo, and Darryl Worley.
One of the more memorable experiences wasn’t opening for a band, but opening for the actor Ted Danson. I played a Smirnoff event in Chicago last year where Ted spoke after I played my set.
I’m happy to report that Ted is one of the nicest people on the planet. After he spoke to the group, he made a point to come over to me and talk about music. What I didn’t know until talking to him was that his wife, Mary Steenburgen, writes songs and sometimes performs in small clubs in Nashville.
Ted said he’s the guy always telling people talking around him during her performances to “shut the f*** up!” He asked me questions about where I perform and what my plans were. I thought it was pretty damn cool that he showed any interest and was so personable and humble considering his status.
I had another surreal encounter where I unexpectedly “opened” for the legendary songwriter Dean Dillon, at a wedding in Frederick, Maryland.
I knew in advance that Dean would be attending the event. I thought maybe he would show up incognito, make an appearance, and move on. I learned quickly that wasn’t Dean’s style.
In looking out at the crowd of suits, ties, and seersuckers, it was clear that one was not like the others. Dean is a true cowboy in every sense of the word, so he definitely stood out with his 10-gallon hat, Fu Manchu, and sleek cowboy boots. There was a sea of people at this event, but since he was conspicuous, I knew where he was the entire time I was playing. That was a bit unnerving.
As the event was winding down, Dean came up to me and asked, “Would you mind if I played a song?” I was, of course, okay with that. He proceeded to play the popular song he penned decades ago, “Tennessee Whiskey,” that he wrote for David Allan Coe but recently resurfaced as a big Chris Stapleton hit.
This was met with roaring applause. He then took requests from his friends and family, playing various hits he’d written for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Vince Gill, Hank Williams Jr., Keith Whitley, Alabama, etc.
I’m not sure how long he played. It was a healthy set. The coolest part was he was just having a good time playing music for the fun of it. He has this awesome resume, but in the end, he’s just a guy with a guitar who loves playing songs. That was inspiring.
ETN: You can’t choose among your children, but every artist has a favorite piece of their work! Which song are you proudest of?
JM: Every song has its own personality and place in my heart. That said, I really love performing “Love’s Lips” on this album. I had written and recorded this one in 2015, but I loved it enough to get it remixed and remastered to put on this album. It’s one of my most requested songs.
It captures the idea of being present with the one you’re with, slowing down and enjoying the moment. That’s really how I want to live all the time, so it’s good that I play it a lot as a reminder.
ETN: Do you write your own songs? Take us through your process as an artist.
JM: Yes, I do. Typically, I come up with riffs/progressions on the guitar that I think are interesting and sing gibberish over it until ideas start popping in my head for phrases, themes, and eventually storylines.
When I have something I think is an idea worth keeping, I record it in a voice memo. When I’m feeling inspired, I’ll listen back to the idea in the car on the way to a gig or when I’m fixing food in the kitchen or whenever and try to piece together any missing parts.
On occasion, I work the opposite way and think of a theme I want to write about, and take a few phrases to the guitar and see if I can come up with something fitting for what I’ve got.
ETN: Do you categorize your genre under “easy listening”? What other styles do you love to delve into?
JM: I would say some of it falls into easy listening, but mostly it’s adult contemporary. It has elements of rock, folk, R&B, and blues. I try to write good songs.
Sometimes I think I write a total rocker and someone tells me it’s mellow, and other times I write something I think is super-chill and people think it’s a rocker. Not sure why that is. I think we all just perceive style differently.
My goal is to have music for every mood, but my default mood is pretty laid-back. That’s probably the reason I sometimes get placed in the easy listening category. If you explore my catalog a bit, I think you’ll find some songs you can dance, work out, or drive to.
ETN: With all the rap and pop trending in today’s music scene, where do you want to see yourself and your music?
JM: As great as it might be to fit into the mainstream, I’m not sure that’s what makes sense for me. I want to create music I enjoy and can have fun playing live.
My hope is that enough people enjoy hearing the music I create as much as I enjoy playing it to create sustainability.
So far, I’ve been able to make my living playing for a super-concentrated group of fans that constantly come out to shows and hire me for events.
I think I’ve got more fans out there that just don’t know they’re fans yet. Hoping to find them with the launch of this new album!
ETN: Are you planning to do concerts along with your album release? What are your immediate plans?
JM: My album release party is Friday, November 30, 2018, at the Tally Ho Theater. I’m lining up events in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia; West Virginia; Florida; and beyond for 2019. Stay tuned!
SAVE THE DATE. TALLY HO THEATER — Jason Masi – Capture the Heart – Album Release Party Fri Nov 30th 7:00pm @jasonmasisongs @TallyHoTheater Ho Theatre, 19 West Market St., Leesburg, pic.twitter.com/OEeMdr0OOB
— Loudoun Entertain (@LoCoEntertain) November 20, 2018
ETN: We know you play the guitar. Do you know how to play other instruments?
JM: Guitar is my main tool. I sometimes plunk around a bit on the piano enough to write/play a few songs, but I’m no piano player. I play a mean egg shaker.
Be sure to download or pick up a copy of Jason Masi’s Capture the Heart on November 30.