Jason Harrod is a singer/songwriter who’s been playing and touring for almost 25 years – blending his own style of folk, blues, and acoustic rock. His third solo album, Highliner, has been followed up recently with a Christmas EP, Out in the Fields. Recently he played in Nacogdoches, Texas as part of his 2015 Texas/Oklahoma tour.
We talked briefly about his music. Please come out and see him live!
So, you’re making your second trip to Texas and Oklahoma in as many years. What’s bringing you back this way so quickly?
I got asked back to return to present and perform at the 3rd annual HBU Writers’ conference in Houston. It’s a terrific conference. That’s my “anchor date” to build a little tour around. I have shows in Houston, Dallas, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Nacogdoches, Stillwater, and OK City.
You’re about a year removed from your latest major release Highliner and 2014 seemed like a busy year of touring for you. How’s the response been to your music lately? Do you feel like things have been picking up for you?
I do feel like things are picking up. I hit an upswing or entered into a renaissance or something. I’ve been more creative and am enjoying playing more than ever before.
After a year of Highliner shows, is there a song off the album that you think people are responding to particularly?
Probably “Chains.” It’s a visceral prayer-song, very direct, less oblique than some of the others. You don’t have to scratch your head or wonder what it’s about. That, or “One of These Days.”
Right before the holidays, you put out your second Christmas EP Out in the Fields. It sounds like you had a lot of fun on the tracks for Angels From the Realms of Glory and Joy to the World. Do you enjoy playing around with old tunes and giving them a new sound?
Yes! I love that. It’s a lot of what I do for the church I work for in Manhattan. Arranging old hymns for the congregation. It’s really fun when we have a bunch of great musicians to work with. Our pastor, Pete Armstrong, [giving him a shout-out here] is a great musician and bass player himself and sits in occasionally with the worship band.
That little collection of songs you mention marks my first time producing and arranging my own songs since 2000’s “Living in Skin.” We had a great band and great engineer. And recorded most of it live with just a few overdubs and edits. I’m really happy with the way it turned out, and it gives me confidence to produce my own stuff going forward.
Short anecdote: Recently while listening to this EP, my daughter asked me, “Is this one of Jason’s songs?” Yes, she hears a lot of your music.
I said, “Well, he’s singing it.”
She then asked, “But who wrote it (Joy to the World)?”
I quickly misremembered, “Charles Wesley.” (I know it’s actually Isaac Watts) She asked if you and Charles were friends. I said, “No, Charles Wesley died many years ago.”
After a while of listening to the song she sighed heavily and quietly said, “Poor Charles…”
At the time, it struck me that she was a little sad for Charles that you had messed around with his hymn, but of course, she could be just sad that he’s dead. Either way, we both sing with gusto every time we hear the song, and I think – poor Charles.
haha! Hilarious. Charles Wesley is one of my favorite hymn writers. He wasn’t afraid to struggle with doubt and darkness in his lyrics. He had cheery titles like “Am I Only Born to Die?” Modern worship music writers could learn a lot from him today. Speaking of Wesley and Watts, I recently came across Wesley’s “Wrestling Jacob.” Where he’s basically demanding God tell him his name:
“But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.”
Isaac Watts said something like, that one hymn was worth all the hymns he, Watts, had written, put together. Very bold and refreshing.
The title track Out in the Fields is the heart of this EP. I can barely make it through a listening without a lump in my throat. Was it hard to write this advent song?
That song was mostly a response to the rash of police shootings we had [and seem to be still having] recently. For a while there seemed to be wave upon wave of bad news. Maybe some of that song was a reaction to personal stuff, too. It was really a relief to write and sing it. A lament.
When I describe you to others, I come up with some amalgam of “folky-bluesy rock/singer-songwriter.” Do you have a better way to describe your original music?
I struggle a lot to define my sound and genre. “Folk” sounds so bland. What you said isn’t bad. Sometimes I think I sound like Stephen Stills singing Neil Young’s songs. ha. I’ve been compared vocally to Buddy Holly, Burl Ives, Peter Gabriel, and Nina Simone. Hey, I’ll take it!
Texas is glad to get you back again. Thanks for coming!
Thanks for taking the time to ask me these questions!