Interview: Jason Sweeney

With Scottish rock outfit, The King Lot, on hiatus, vocalist/bassist Jason Sweeney has ramped up writing and recording solo material. His new single ‘She’s A Fighter’ drops Saturday, February 6th, (pre-save here), and we spoke to Jason about what people can expect from the single, his love of a good rock ballad, as well as the important charity work he undertakes, which proves yet again, how powerful music actually is. Check out Jason’s thoughts below, and don’t forget to give him a follow on Facebook, one of the best, interactive pages out there today.

How long have you been performing, both as a solo performer and in bands?

I’ve been in bands for 30 years, covers, originals, but only actually went full time in music two years ago to pursue gigging and researching the craft of songwriting. I have had a great time working with so many talented people.

How did you feel performing your first ever solo gig, and how was it?!

It was such a long time ago but it’s the same feeling with a band. I tend to get a little more excited when supporting or working with artists I grew up listening to. Overall there is always an adrenaline rush that goes through you.

How would you describe your upcoming solo material?

It’s an 80’s rock-inspired vibe, distorted guitars with sing-along lyrics. I love tunes that have a narrative running through them. I think that’s why I love modern country so much, like Kip Moore or Blake Shelton, they all tell stories with big hooks that sound like 80’s rock bands.

“She’s A Fighter” is the new single, what was it about this one that made you choose it as the first single? And what are the lyrical themes behind it?

There was no real reason why this was the first one I chose to release, it just happened that I sat and wrote out what I wanted to be on a record, so I decided this was the first one. All the releases this year have been planned so far.

The lyrical theme is a small insight into a woman who keeps finding hardship and challenges in life but keeps getting back up. The song’s key is based around E minor, representing a feeling of restlessness of spirit. I try to pick the key to match the emotion of what I’m writing about.

Who plays alongside you on the track?

I have been working with my live band over the last year; Scott Hannah guitar, Brian Stewart bass, and Chris Smith drums. However, lockdown prevented us from getting together to record after we were in the studio in November, so on the track, it’s just myself and Scott. It has been essential for me to find a way to write, record, and release and not allow the big CV19 to stop progress.

What goes through your head in the run-up to releasing new music, especially when it is the first of your new material? Are you excited? Nervous? – Both?!

The industry has changed so much that it feels long gone are the days of having a team with you who record, mix, market, and manage. Nowadays, certainly for me in these times, it’s a DIY musician situation. There is so much to do and so much to learn, then there is balancing family life. It’s a big melting pot of emotions in my head. However, it all about the lifestyle and the enjoyment of writing the music I love. I am very excited to get the music out there and be part of the rock scene.

What are the plans regarding future releases?

The goalposts have changed so much because of the pandemic. I was planning to release an album last year, but covid stopped and started that many times. Now the layout is set, and I plan to have a few songs released in the first half of this year that will form part of an EP. It will be based on that 80’s rock vibe, feel-good, emotional narrative content, big guitars… and a few beers along the way.

You recently asked on your Facebook page if there was a better Rock ballad than Extreme’s ‘More Than Words’ what was the most popular reply?

The most popular reply was “No it isn’t” ha ha ha I got so many messages about that. I decided to create a Rock Ballad playlist that’s on my artist page and listen to them. Some bands I hadn’t heard of! I love ballads. I need to let you know that I think one of the best ballad’s written is ‘Every Time You Cry” by Strangeways. What a band.

Good call! Sticking with your Facebook page (the line between research and stalking is being tested here!), you described Seb Bach’s vocal performance on Skid Row’s ‘Quicksand Jesus’ as “the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard from a rock band”, what was it about this one that made it so memorable for you? Is it from a fan’s point of view or a fellow musician?

It’s both. I will never forget hearing ’18 and Life’ when I was in America in the ’80s. It floored me. I spent the whole summer playing that song on the record player. The first three Skid Row albums for me are a great example of rock singing. I loved that band so much when I was younger. The song ‘Quicksand Jesus’ has a section in it that’s so expressive, where Bach hits a high F# resolving to an E while the band hang on a C Major chord. This all sounds such a muso, but it’s just so cracking. I wonder if they meant it or it was jammed out naturally in a practice room. I’d love to hear the demos for that song.

Tell us a little bit about your work with the charity Music in Hospitals & Care, how did you come to be involved? It must be very rewarding to hear all the positive feedback?

The charity is very dear to me. It takes music to people who cant come to gigs. There are so many memorable moments with these gigs. Music is so powerful in these situations that witnessing the moments of joy that happens is a remarkable thing.

One that stands out was during a visit to a dementia ward in Stirling. I sang a Johnny Cash song and a female patient became very animated and talkative. I noticed a nurse with a tear in her eye who came to thank me after the session. The woman had not spoken at all since she had arrived on the ward some months ago. The Johnny Cash story and song had somehow touched the patient deeply.

That’s great to hear, music is indeed very powerful. Congratulations on completing your music Masters degree, with distinction no less. You also were awarded Court Medal from The University of West Of Scotland, I believe that’s for being the best performing student? What are your plans now? What field are you hoping to go into?

The plan is to have a lifestyle of music, write, record, release a lot more often than I have in the past. My next academic step is to pursue a PhD that is related to music. This will likely be towards the area I have been working within the charity, but that’s still ongoing just now, fingers crossed it all materialises for September this year. It’s a balancing act that others who work with me understand.

The last time we caught you live, you were opening for Danny Vaughn on his solo acoustic tour, that was a special night. What do you take from working with someone like Danny?

What a great night, lots of fun with that man. He is a great musician, and I was honoured when he asked me to come up and sing one of his songs. I first met Danny when supporting him down south at the Robin 2 playing with The King Lot. We spoke about vocal techniques, warm-up practice routines, and vocal health, he is a great singer.

What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go ” I want to do that”? 

My first concert was Def Leppard at the Playhouse in Edinburgh, and that was a memory that has stuck with me forever. I was 13 and was standing on my seat at the back. A bouncer came up and said, “You can’t stand on the seat. Come with me.” I thought I was getting thrown out, but he marched me right down the front beside all the girls. I couldn’t believe it. I felt I had won the lottery.

Personally, who has been the most significant influence on you becoming a musician?

Jon & Richie’s songwriting team from Bon Jovi on the albums ‘Slippery When Wet’ and ‘New Jersey’ has impacted me. GnR ‘Appetite’ was a massive album for me also. I think rock music’s overall scene is what did it, loud guitars, arena’s chanting, beers, and the general nostalgic feeling that brings. I love getting lost in these songs from that time. It fuels me to write.

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

SEP 04 2019 Kip Moore Glasgow, O2 Academy Glasgow.

What current social issues are you passionate about?

As a dad of two young boys, I’m passionate about their education and how this whole year will affect their future. I keep real close to them and their learning even though they are young. These are times that will form their memories, so it’s vital to play your part in making that a joyous time and be involved in any social issues, and ensure that we are all connected in making this world a better place.

Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?

‘Wild World’ by Kip Moore. It’s cool, great songwriting, cross over country-rock vibe.

What new music have you been listening to?

Right now I’m up to my eyes in rock ballads, it’s not new, but a lot of the stuff is new for me. I missed Giant the first time around, so I’ve been enjoying listening to them. I tend to lean towards New Country these days as it just sounds like 80’s rock. Artists like Chris Stapleton, Kip Moore float my boat. I’m right into Airbourne just now as well.

Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?

Jani Lane from Warrant was brilliant. I sometimes think people didn’t realise how good a writer he was because of the scene he was in with hair and leather everywhere. I would have loved to have seen what he would have gone to do later in life if he was still here.

What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!

Adapt, stay healthy, positive, write, record, release, and be ready for when we can gig again. I’m optimistic it will come.

How active are you on social media, and where can people connect with you?

I’m more active than I have ever been, all my original material will be on:

Facebook
Instagram
YouTube
Spotify
Website

 

Live shots – Dave Jamieson

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