Jason Eady says he sort of backed into his traditional country style. Growing up in Mississippi, he heard the sounds of his stepfather’s Tuesday night bluegrass jams. Then, after leaving the Air Force, he battled a strong case of “singer-songwriter-itis.” Finally in 2012, he teamed with country purist Kevin Welch to steer his AM Country Heaven project and hasn’t looked back.
On Daylight & Dark, out Jan. 21, Eady shows he’s serious about making classic country music — so serious, he removed even the most basic of modern preconceptions.
“I started thinking there always is this ideal that you’re supposed to have so many up-tempo songs,” Eady told CMT Edge. “I started to listening to records that I love — Don Williams records, Willie Nelson records — and they’d have whole albums where there was no upbeat songs at all, and they are some of my favorite records ever.
“I thought, ‘Why is there this pressure to have all these up-tempo songs?’ So I just kind of quit worrying about it, honestly.”
CMT Edge: You’ve said that, in general, most songs are either happy or sad, and you didn’t want to do that. How did you avoid it on Daylight & Dark?
Eady: Well, yeah, and I meant that about my own, as well. The temptation when you sit down to write is to say, ‘Am I going to write a happy song or sad song?’ … I kinda got into vinyl [records] this last year and a-half. So as I started listening to all these songs that I had loved forever with the album cuts on there, I felt that was something they didn’t really used to do. It didn’t really walk either line. It just kind of told what the story was, and whether it’s happy or sad is up to you as the listener. So I really wanted to try and get into that, and I wrote the title track “Daylight & Dark.” Once we wrote that song, I kind of knew where I wanted to go with the rest of the record as far as writing. It really took that direction.
On “Daylight & Dark,” I thought you were describing what made you different from the “normal people.” What got you thinking that way?
I actually meant that in a lot of different ways. As a person, I think there are things that I look for out of life that I think are a little out-of-sync with what people expect you to want, and I think that’s true for musicians, in general. I think people, when they look at musicians, think that every musician is trying to work their way into the mainstream. Like that’s their goal — to get on the big stage in front of 20,000 people and do the big show. But it’s not an endgame for me. And there’s a lot of pressure in the business to kind of go after that.
“OK Whiskey” was your first single from this album, and I didn’t realize that in Oklahoma they had weaker beer.
We put that out as a single here in Texas, and I’ve noticed the further I get away from Texas and Oklahoma, the less that song goes over because people don’t know what that means. (laughs). In Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas, that song kills because it’s a big deal there. It’s a big thing that everybody talks about. It’s from back in the [post-prohibition] days. They were restricted in the amount of alcohol content that beer can have. Anheuser-Busch brews a different Budweiser for Oklahoma than they do for anywhere else in the country. Like, for every three beers you would drink in Oklahoma, you would only have to drink two beers anywhere else.
It’s crazy that I’ve never heard of this.
I had never heard of it, either. Actually, the whole point of the song is that when I started going up there playing from Mississippi, I didn’t know that, either. So the verse is actually really true. I would have a few drinks before the show, after the show, whatever, and I just felt like something was different and didn’t really know what it was. Finally, somebody explained it to me what’s going on.
I wanted to ask you about “Lonesome, Down and Out.” Do you feel that you are sometimes too guarded with your emotions?
Yeah, that’s probably a really good way to say it.
It seemed like other people were misinterpreting the way you felt. Is that something that happens to you — like people think you’re angry when you’re not?
Yeah, I get that a lot. Sometimes because of my lyrics. I hear that just because of the way I write. I’m also a pretty quiet person, so that gets misinterpreted a lot as either arrogance or not being interested. By nature, I’m definitely an introvert. I like to take things in more than put out.
I think a lot of other songwriters are like that, too.
Yeah, I’m starting to learn that. I used to think it was a real negative. It was something that worked against me, and I was always working to fix it by becoming more outgoing, more extroverted. And I’ve since learned that it’s not that way at all. It’s pretty natural for writers to be like that, and there’s nothing you can really do about it, you know? If you try to fake it, it just comes across that way and then it becomes even more uncomfortable. So I just decided to go with it, but it does get misinterpreted.
Check out the world premiere of Jason Eady’s “Lonesome, Down and Out.”