She's Gone Country: As a returning performer at the CMAO Awards, what are you most looking forward to this year?
Jason Blaine: I’m just looking forward to hang and seeing everyone again. It’s like a big family reunion. The CMAO has always put on a first class event and I’m truly honoured to be a part of it with 6 nominations and a chance to perform my new single “Dance With My Daughter” in front of fans as well as industry friends.
SGC: How does it feel to be part of an event that honours the incredible talent in the Ontario Country Music industry?
JB: I think it’s awesome. Other provinces, like SK, AB, & BC have been doing a great job for years, shining a spotlight on their talent. Ontario has a lot to be proud of and it’s taken the collective efforts of a lot of great people behind the scenes to make this organization & awards show what it is today, second to none.
SGC: How important is it to have a conference such as the CMAO Conference to help budding young country musicians? How do they benefit?
JB: I think it’s been a great way for the country music community of Ontario to connect with one another. There wasn’t anything like it when I was coming up and trying to figure out how to get my career started. It’s a really great opportunity for everyone. Studios, musicians, songwriters, & producers can connect and it could lead to working relationships, more gigs, more songs or even the next big star. You never know.
SGC: Was there a pivotal moment when you knew that you were going to focus on being a musician professionally?
JB: Garth Brooks, 1993, Ottawa. I was only 13 years old and had been playing guitar and learning Garth songs, along with many other country songs from that era. It was my first concert ever and it blew my mind. I thought, man, that’s it, I want to do that!
SGC: What is it about country music that really speaks to you?
JB: The stories, the pictures that the lyrics paint in your mind, the emotional subjects of the songs and how they relate to real life. I also always loved the instrumentation of country music. Hearing real instruments that I could pick out all the parts of what each musician was playing and how it added to the song.
SGC: As someone who has been involved in the country music industry in Canada, as well as the United States – do you think the scene differs down south?
JB: Yes and no. I find there are subtle little cultural differences between the two but a small town is a small town almost anywhere you go and people are pretty much the same. Everyone lives, loves, hurts, prays, hopes, dreams and likes to have a little too much fun on a Friday night. That’s country music.
SGC: This is pretty close to a home-town show for you, how does it feel to have such a supportive and thriving country music scene in Ontario/Canada?
JB: Country music is huge in Ontario and there is a huge community, but Ontario is also a massive province and everyone is spread out and sometimes many hours and miles apart. The CMAO does a great job of bringing everyone together. This year, I’m also looking forward to having my parents come out to the show again.
SGC: I read that you currently live in Nashville, when you do get back to Canada is there something you need to do that you can only do/get in Canada?
JB: Poutine & Tim Hortons. Oh, and Harvey’s burgers.
SGC: Do you have any fun tour stories or fan encounters that you can share from your adventures so far?
JB: I have many but one of my favorites was from a couple of years ago. A gentlemen in his mid to late 40s told me that he hadn’t spoken with his father in over 20 years and that it was my song “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore” that brought them back together. It actually made me tear up a bit when he told me that.
SGC: What advice would you give to musicians considering pursuing a career professionally?
JB: Find your identity. What do you want to say through your music and what is it that you want to be remembered for should you be lucky enough to get to have hit songs or videos.
SGC: You are quite active on social media and regularly reply to fans on Twitter. How important is social media as a tool to connect with your fans?
JB: It’s become a very big deal. It’s kind of strange. I never expected it from my musical heroes from the 90s, but even old Garth has come around to the fact that it’s just part of the expectation now. And, it can be fun! You always want to be able to let the fans know about cool news or upcoming tours or events.
SGC: Is there an artist that you would have loved to get a Tweet from when you were a kid?
JB: You guessed it, Garth. Yup, that would’ve been pretty cool.
SGC: What's on your iPod? Who have you been listening to lately that you think people should check out?
JB: Madeline Merlo. She’s a beautiful spirit with an amazing voice and she’s a Canadian girl! And, she recorded one of my songs on her new EP, called “Over and Over”. Check it out you’ll love her.
SGC: Is there something that you are obsessed with or addicted to right now? (an app? TV Show? Band? Food? Song? Activity?)
JB: I just recently became a Netflix’r. Ya, I know, I’m a little slow to the party on that one, but I really don’t watch a ton of TV. I grew up watching Full House so I had to see the re-boot with my family. Not quite as kid-friendly as the original by the way, but fun to see those characters again. They all still look amazing. I’m also into the new comedy series called The Ranch.
SGC: What would you say has been one of the coolest moments/highlights in your career that really made you realize you had chosen the right path for yourself?
JB: Boots & Hearts Music Festival in 2013. I was on stage singing “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore” and some 20,000+ fans took over singing for me. It was a total full circle moment from being that 13 year old kid at a Garth Brooks concert and finally getting to experience my own little Garth moment.
SGC: What can people expect from you next?
JB: We’ve got a great summer of shows lined up including a return to Boots & Hearts with Tim McGraw, an arena show in Halifax with Rascal Flatts and many more! All the dates are on my website www.jasonblaine.ca. I’m also looking forward to hosting my 3rd Annual Celebrity Golf & Concert Fundraiser in my hometown this June 14 & 15th. This year we’ve got Jason McCoy (of the Road Hammers) and Dallas Smith as our special guests!
SGC: And last but not least, is there a question that you have always wanted to be asked, maybe rehearsed your answer in the mirror, and no one has ever asked it? Here's your big chance!
JB: What do you think about Bro Country and do you prefer old country or today’s country music?
Glad you asked, haha. I honestly wish there was room for everything. I love the energy & excitement I hear in the more progressive pop or bro-country music, but I’m not always in the mood for that. Sometimes I want to hear those old traditional records full of hurt and heart and emotion. Chris Stapleton has been a very good thing for our industry as well as artists like Brandy Clark or Kacey Musgraves. They just prove that there’s a strong appetite for anything good, no matter what you want to call it. Besides, I also like to write and record whatever I’m feeling like without having to be in some kind of box or feeling like you have to choose between teams.