The CMAO Awards & Conference are only a couple weeks away!! She's Gone Country had the chance to talk to returning host Jason McCoy about the hosting experience, how aspiring musicians can benefit from the knowledge shared at events like the CMAO Conference and life as a solo artist versus a member of the Road Hammers!
She's Gone Country: As a returning host of the CMAO Awards, what are you most looking forward to this year?
Jason McCoy: I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces, along with so many new acts; Ontario country has never been stronger!
SGC: How does it feel to be part of an event that honours the incredible talent in the Ontario Country Music industry?
JM: It’s an honour to be part of the Ontario Country Music landscape.
SGC: How important is it to have a conference such as this to help budding young country musicians? How do they benefit?
JM: I think celebrating the efforts of your contemporaries in any industry is important, not only for morale, but it helps build the industry out to the masses as well. The CMAO is also very important in introducing new artists, managers etc., to the industry as a whole. This business is all about networking, and the CMAO is all about creating an atmosphere to do just that!
SGC: With such a successful career as not only a solo artist but also as a member of the Road Hammers, what would you say is the biggest difference between being in a band versus performing solo?
JM: It’s great being a solo artist, and having the autonomy to make all of the ‘decisions’…. but, it’s the exact opposite what I like about being in a band…the sum is greater than the parts, and it’s amazing to get that feedback from your band mates. I think learning how to make decisions as a team helps you make better decisions on your own as well.
SGC: Was there a pivotal moment when you knew that you were going to focus on being a musician professionally?
JM: At one point I was going to pursue a career in aviation, but music just took off for me (pardon the pun!). As doors started to open, I just followed what felt right. It’s been amazing to have such a long career in this business, I’m truly grateful for it.
SGC: I read that you became enthralled with the cowboy culture after moving to Alberta as a child - what was it that made you fall in love with country music?
JM: I was born in Ontario, but our family moved to just outside of Camrose, AB when I was 3 years old. My first memories are from Alberta. We always had an AM radio on top of the fridge playing country…it was always on in the truck as well. It seems as though it’s always been in my blood though, I can’t imagine a world without steel guitar! Perhaps some of it was my early exposure to the Prairies, and some part of it was listening to country from the beginning. When we moved back to Ontario, I recall wondering why the kids at school weren’t wearing cowboy hats and boots. It’s just who I am.
SGC: What influences your songwriting the most? What inspires you?
JM: Sometimes inspiration can be as fleeting as rain. You can have a drought long enough to question yourself, worrying if you’re “dried up,” but inevitably the rain returns. For me, there’s no one source, sometimes a phrase someone uses in a new way, sometimes a feeling from a day, many times it’s hearing new and inspiring music. It’s one of the few things in this life that doesn’t wear out, old melodies seem to continually inspire. I’d also say that the wisdom of my kids Grace, 9, and Caleb, 6, inspires me the most. If you can say it as honest as a child in a song, then you really have something!
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?
JM: I’ve always said that Canadian country is born of folk music, and American country is born of bluegrass. That’s a broad brush of course, but it makes sense in my head for some reason. But the stories, emotions and people in country music are universal. It’s from the heart.
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?
JM: It’s so great. When I was starting out, CMT was just beginning, Canadian country and Ontario country specifically were always fighting an uphill battle against bigger machines. Now we’re exporting the artists right from our own backyard, and it’s truly inspiring to see it happening.
SGC: What advice would you give to musicians considering pursuing a career professionally?
JM: Be yourself…loud and proud, be who you are, nobody can be you…nobody.
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?
JM: Social media wasn’t around when I started out, and I always felt ‘removed’ from fans in a way. It’s amazing to have immediate feedback, and keep in touch with fans around the world…truly amazing.
SGC: Is there an artist that you would have loved to get a Tweet from when you were a kid?
JM: Hmmm, George Jones for sure…definitely George.
SGC: What's on your iPod? Who have you been listening to lately that you think people should check out?
JM: I’m really into all types of music, …like many people, I’m revisiting the music of so many of the greats who’ve recently passed, from Haggard, to Prince….great music, is great music….Check out Haggard ‘the Epic Years’ box set….truly remarkable….
SGC: Is there something that you are obsessed with or addicted to right now? (an app? TV Show? Band? Food? Song? Activity?)
JM: I’m pretty hooked on Snapchat, and Spruce trees…crazy I know, but we’ve been planting trees at the farm lately. I’m loving it. Probably put in 200 little trees. One of the sponsors of the CMAO’s is Spring Tree Farm. You need good folks with good trees, give Elmer and the crew a call…ha, trees….who knew they could be so much fun!?
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?
JM: I don’t know if I’ve ever had “the moment.” I never considered myself a “musician” per se, but in the last few years, I’ve realized that my calling is entertaining. I’m conformable with it, and I truly love it…I feel most at home on stage for sure.
SGC: What can people expect from you next?
JM: We’re working on a new Road Hammer album, the biggest and best yet! And I have a little side project brewing that we’re working on, lots of writing at the moment. We’re gearing up for a busy summer with the Hammers, which is always a rolling party!
We can't wait to see what Jason has in store for us at the CMAOs this year!!
For more information about the conference and award show, head over to http://www.cmaontario.ca