Jason Elmore interview 11/28/12
This is a phone interview I did with Jason after he won the Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Dallas Blues Act of 2012.
Our second album is coming out March 19 next year. Title is "I'll Tell you What". It's going to be pretty much like the last one. There will be some blues stuff, a little more R&B, some hard rockin stuff, and a Buck Owens instrumental country thing. It has its drawbacks. Usually the blues purists don't like it because it's not all blues and the rock purists don't like it because there's too much blues. It pleases me and I feel like it's a big part of what I do. It's all my different influences coming up. They're changing as I get older, but I still like all kinds of music and I think this album reflects that. For the next album, and that will be a year or two down the line, I will either do an acoustic CD, or if I get good enough, a straight blues album in west coast jump style. That's my goal. I'm practicing on it 3 or 4 hours a day. Holland K. Smith was "instrumental", heh heh, in turning me onto that jump stuff. Players like Hollywood Fats, Junior Watson, "Little" Charlie Baty, and Sean Costello. That's what I'm into right now. I can't get enough of it. I hope to always be a sponge. 8 of the 12 songs are originals. One of the songs, "Dirt Ain't Enough", I wrote in a hotel room one day after watching Bonanza. I was supposed to be napping but it just came to me, BAM, and I was able to write it. I don't remember all the details of that show, but they were going to hang some guy wrongfully and of course by the end of the episode everything was right. My song's not as optomistic at the end, but it was just a jumping off point. Some of the other songs I've been working on a long time. Some come quicker than others. I have to second guess it, throw it away, pull it out of the trash, it's a constant process for me.
My earliest recollection is my grandmother would spin a bunch of Elvis records all the time. She watched me during the day while my mom worked. She had stuff like Floyd Kramer and Nat King Cole. My dad would have me on the weekends, he had AC DC and bands like that. I got into Stevie Ray Vaughan about 1990. I went through that phase real heavy. My dad saw I was interested in guitar blues so he started taking me out to see Jim Suhler, Mike Morgan, Bugs Henderson, Smokin' Joe Kubek and other local guys. I was about 8. That was it. I was poisoned. My dad still apologizes to this day. He thinks I might have had a respectable job by now if he hadn't taken me to all those shows. I tell him that every time I see him I'm so thankful he exposed me to all that live music.
I got in with Kirby Kelly, I was a huge fan of his, also. He and Jim Suhler were the ones that really set me on the road of listening to Tampa Red, Charly Patton, and all the pre-war blues guys. Where it's really at.
I'm like that with Little Charlie and the Nightcats right now. I had to get everything they have ever done. I'm not crazy about all of it, but some of it is like Christmas morning to me. It gives me that feeling like I was 8 years old and going to hear this stuff for the first time.
I'm really comfortable doing the band thing right now. I do the occasional acoustic gig. Sometimes opening for my own band. It's definitely use it or lose it. It is different from playing with a band when you accompany yourself. The way you approach the instrument. You have to be the drummer, bass player, and guitarist when you are solo. Like those old pre-war blues guys were. With a band it's different. The music breathes a different way. Drums and bass are already there. I did an acoustic gig in Ben Wheeler a few weeks ago and it was the first time in months I had touched an acoustic. It was a train wreck. To me. Everybody seemed to enjoy it, but I knew better. That's had me at the house woodshedding since then. I don't want to be embarrassed.
I rehearse about 4 hours a day. Now that's not always getting anything accomplished. Sometimes it is 3 am and I have a bottle of wine down already. I guess I'm just a nervous person and I like to have something to do! It's an outlet. My therapy. Plus I want to improve and get better.
Jim Suhler introduced me to an agent up in Illinois and he got me on the road up north. We showed him a good hand a couple of times, proved we could be punctual, and have people talking about us after we left. We seem to get a little further out every time. We get to Calgary and Edmonton every 6 months or so for a couple of weeks. During the summer it is pretty jumping with festivals. We are going to do Calgary for New Years. That's a 35 hour drive one way. Trying not to stop and spend money on hotels. Then you factor in bad weather and you know how intense that is. I really like being out on the road and I like driving. Sleeping in the back of the van and all that. Of course I'm new at it so it's all fresh to me and fun. Guys like Jim and Holland bitch and moan about it but I'd go right now if I could go!
It seems like Texas blues is popular everywhere but Texas. They have different influences up there. There's a lot of great bands and players up there, but it just does not have that certain swing to it. When they see it they really eat it up. Of course they want to hear SRV when they hear we're from Dallas, but we don't play any Stevie. On purpose. I love him and I grew up loving his music, I owe a lot to him, but there are so many other guys already doing that. And have been. I do my own thing and I think Stevie would appreciate that.
We are going to do European publicity with the next record. We didn't even release the last CD over there. You have to have a separate publicist and it's all expensive. We have a little better financial backing this time and that's going to make that possible. Jim's going to hook me up with his booking agent over there, too. So hopefully, we'll get some interest over there next year.
Jim has done CDs with Mike Morgan and Alan Haynes. Jim and I collaborate well live. He was on my first CD and I did a song that will be on his upcoming CD. We have actually gone in the studio and done a couple of acoustic songs but we couldn't agree on what to keep. We have different work ethics. I like to have everything rehearsed and ready to go before hitting the studio. Jim has the luxury of having a little more time and money to spend and he likes to devolop ideas in the studio. I can't do that, it makes my nerves on edge and we end up acting like a married couple and the engineer is looking at us funny. So it's on the back burner. No animosity or anything, we're just both working on our own albums right now and to try to do that as well was just too much. It will get done, but after we finish our individual projects. He's also a faster and better song writer than I am. I'm not confidant enough in my song writing yet to do it as fast as he can. That's an area I really want to improve. I'm just finding out it's like any other skill set. You have to practice it and you get better at it. Even if you don't release every song. You might throw it away, but it gets your mind in the habit of thinking that way. It's not as easy as some people think it is.
I don't know where I want to be in 10 years. I just concentrate on the next 7 to 10 days and thats enough. I try to keep getting better, trying to increase my circle of influence. Incoming and outgoing. I'd like to be making a lot more money and have everybody know my name. Be able to be the best guitar player there ever was. I guess that's not realistic. I look at it as a contest against myself. I want to challenge myself. Do better than I did yesterday. I don't have any aspirations of ever making the big time. This style of music is just not popular enough to make millions of dollars and become a superstar. I don't know if I'd want that if I could. I would like to live a bit more comfortably. Move up from lunch meat to pork chops, maybe.
It depends on the venue. Up North we play some straight blues clubs and festivals and they don't want any rock. We're able to do that and as I expand my blues vocabulary we're able to do that more, both out of necessity and desire. A lot of other places are rock clubs and they don't want any blues, especially slow blues. They want distorted guitars and a more powerful approach. We try to accomodate whatever the venue and the crowd wants. If we're left to our own devices, around here, we pretty much mix it up and play whatever show we want. We take advantage of that and try to keep it fresh. We might do some old 60s Stax R&B, followed by a hard rock song, then some Otis Rush. Sometimes that works to our detriment because people might want to hear just one thing. Sometimes I'm that person when I go see a show! I also like diversity onstage. Blues is the common thread through all those styles. At least it is with me. Even my hard rock songs are blues based. It all comes from that.
I was never so terrified in my life. I never thought I was going to win. I didn't prepare a speech or anything. In my heart I didn't think I was going to win. I really thought Smokin Joe Kubek was going to get it. They stay out there touring all the time, they have a great new album out, they've been doing it longer than anyone else on that list. I felt like I was one of the least "blues" artists of those on the list. I wanted to go just to see the party, let The Observer know I appreciated the nomination, and to support the whole thing. I had the flu that day and felt terrible, almost stayed home, but I wanted to go so I did. I wasn't too enamored with all the hip hop acts then they got to best blues and called my name and I was floored. I was mortified about having to get up and say something. I figured I would be able to do it if the time ever came because I'm onstage all the time in front of people. To get up there and talk to people who don't know who you are. I have no idea what I said. If I just could have held a guitar while I would have been more eloquent. It was sure unnatural for me. I still can't get my mind around it that I won. It is just so awesome. I remember when Jim Suhler was nominated a few years ago, before they did it on the internet. I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams I would be on that ballot.
People around her take it for granted that there is just a great guitar player on every corner. It's not like this everywhere else. I'm just real lucky to be doing this and have people who support me and believe in me. My mentors like Holland K. Smith, Jim Suhler, Kirby Kelly, Joe Kubek, and guys like that, who have been so welcoming and sharing knowledge and helping me on this journey. Whether it's guitar licks, do's or don'ts, business tips, whatever. Joe Kubek got me hooked up with a string endorsement. Holland comes by and gives me jump blues lessons and rants. He came over and changed the alternator in my van the other day. Saved me $400 I couldn't afford to spend. He drove form Arlington to Richardson to do that and wouldn't take a penny. Jim has helped me out in a hundred different ways. I never would have imagined when I was a kid staring at these guys onstage and at their record covers that I would end up as friends with them and the recipient of so much kindness and encouragement from them. It makes me want to do better. To make those guys proud of me, too. My family, fans and friends, of course, but I want to be part of passing that torch. I want to take it out away from here and tell people we have Holland K. Smith and Texas Slim back in Dallas. Tell them they need to check them out. I really believe in that. We really have something special here and people need to know about it.