Jason Reeves: The Internet Has 'Put The Power In Musicians' Hands'
Reeves will be the first one to admit that there are still plenty of obstacles for artists to overcome in the music industry today.
Posted on Oct 27, 2008 04:16 pm
There are plenty of guitarists who can remember the precise moment that was a musical turning point in their lives. For singer-songwriter Jason Reeves, it didn't come in the form of a Jimi Hendrix solo or an album like Led Zeppelin IV. It was James Taylor and Bob Dylan that immediately affected the 24-year-old guitarist, and those influences are distinctly evident in the blend of acoustic folk pop that Reeves plays today.
Unlike his musical idols, Reeves has been spreading word about his music in more contemporary manner. Sure, there are the usual concert venues, but MySpace has been an integral tool in Reeves digitally releasing The Magnificent Adventures Of Heartache (And Other Frightening Tales), which was recently picked up for physical distribution through powerhouse Warner Bros. Records. After posting several tracks on MySpace, Reeves eventually became the No. 1 MySpace Folk Artist (Unsigned) and earned a slot in the Top 20 Overall (Unsigned) category. While Reeves has found much success via the Internet, he'll be the first one to admit that there are still plenty of obstacles for artists to overcome in the music industry today.
UG: MySpace has played a large part in the success you've had so far. Talk about the impact that the Internet has made in marketing your music.Jason: It's hard to even know how big of an impact the Internet is having. Everything is still changing and still growing into something probably too big for us to understand yet. I think what it has initially done is totally changed the rules of the industry and how everything is going. It's put the power in musicians' hands, I guess. I didn't have to really ever worry about what a label was thinking. A lot of people have to do deal with that. It's about freedom to connect with fans without having to go through a system.
Could you sense that posting your music on a site like MySpace had made a fairly big impression?
I don't know if it was a huge impression. I knew that people were listening to it. I didn't expect it to get to the point that it got. I never thought it was a huge impact, I guess.
So do you think that touring played as big of a role as the Internet?
I think MySpace was a really important thing in getting people to come to the shows on the tour. I've only really been on one tour before, which is the one we just did this spring and summer. It's made an incredible change in how everything is going. Getting back to places a few times and circling around, coming back to a city for the 3rd time, you can really tell that things are growing. The work that you put into it is worth it, I guess. I don't know. I'm just excited to be doing it!
"I'm a writer that loves music."
I read in your biography that James Taylor and Bob Dylan were big influences for you. Who are some of the other artists that shaped your musical style?
Those two played a really big part in it. When I started writing songs and just got my first guitar and all that, those are some of the main people that made me want to do this in the first place. Before James and Bob, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson.
It didn't happen until about high school that I started listening to people from the 60's and all that. You know, Joni Mitchell and all those bands. I don't know why it takes you till a certain age to discover them, but I guess you probably couldn't understand it until some point.
At what age did you get your first guitar?
Were you self-taught?
I taught myself, but I give a lot of credit to my friends. When you're playing with people that are so much better than you, especially in the beginning, you learn a lot.
Are you someone who only likes to play a certain type of guitar? Or is that even a concern for you?
I can definitely get by with most guitars. At the same time, I would say that I'm kind of particular. There's a certain sound of guitar and feel of guitar that I definitely prefer. So I guess it's kind of a mix!
What kind of specifications do you look for in a guitar?
I don't know how to explain what it is about the feel of the neck, but the neck of the guitar is really important. After that, it's the tone. I like really rich, deep tones. There are a lot of guitars that sound kind of tinny. I prefer playing ones that sound rich.
Do you have a particular guitar that you take on the road with you?
I bring out two or three. I have a Martin and a Gibson usually.
Do you incorporate finger-picking in your playing?
I do both. It's definitely song by song.
You incorporate quite a bit of piano on the album as well. Are you playing any of it?
Yeah, some of them I am, and some of them I'm not. It just goes through a big, complicated list. I can't remember which ones I did and which ones I didn't even sometimes! For the most part I'm playing the guitar.
There are some tracks that do have a faster tempo with a good deal of percussion. Do you ever use a drum machine or track when you're sitting down to write a song?
Really it starts out with different ideas on a piano or a guitar. I guess sometimes I'll have an idea of what I want it to sound like in my head before we record it, but a lot of the times I just like seeing where the studio can take the song without really thinking too much about it. Then it can just happen.
How big of a role did you play in the studio production?
Most of it was done with Mikal Blue. A little bit less than half of it was done by a few of the people that I had wanted to do songs with.
"It's hard to even know how big of an impact the Internet is having."
You've collaborated quite a bit with singer Colbie Caillat. Do you write with her on an ongoing basis?
I think it's a normal thing that we've been doing. It's been hard recently both of our insane schedules. But speaking of writing with her, I'm probably going to be doing that tomorrow. We just have to do it now when we're in the same place, which isn't as often. We're just really good friends anyway. I don't know. It's just what we do!
You started playing guitar at 17 years old. At what age did you decide to take your act to the stage?
I've been playing since I was, if not 17, at least 18. I started playing in Iowa City in bars and all that. I did that for a long time until I came out here to California.
It sounds like you didn't waste much time after you learned how to play. Did you have a pretty solid idea of what kind of music you wanted to write at that time as well?
I think I had to find it over time. I think I had to get closer to where I thought I was going. I might not even be there yet, but I do hope that I have a vague idea of where I'm going!
Do you consider yourself more of a singer, songwriter, or guitarist?
I consider myself a writer first. I'm a writer that loves music. It's hard because I don't think I'm a very good guitar player, and I don't necessarily think I'm a great singer, either. I have fun doing that, I guess!
You've been playing pretty consistently for the past 7 years. What was your biggest obstacle as a performer during that time?
I guess trying to make it in a dying industry. It's the biggest obstacle right now for everybody. What's going on in the whole business with everything, you have work a little bit harder now. You have to get through a little bit more these days to make it. It just seems like there are a lot of these things happening, and people don't quite know what to do yet. Everybody is sort of learning at the same time. I guess that's the biggest obstacle, but we have to get around it.
Can fans expect any DVDs or other releases in the coming year?
Wow. I hope so! I would love to. I want to figure out something that we can get going later this year, in terms of extra things for the fans. I know I'm going to be on tour for a bit, and that's already starting at the end of this month. So we'll see how long it lasts. Tours have a tendency of going on quite a bit longer than they initially got booked for!
Interview by Amy Kelly