By Brian M. Howle
Now, when your daddy is a conservative Christian minister who takes a very dim view of any secular music – much less country music – well, one would think it tends to make the odds of you becoming a big-time, everybody-loves-you country music star pretty slim, huh?
Not so when you enter a local singing contest (after getting some positive input from mom), and then when the manager of Hootie & The Blowfish discovers you, life only gets better. And for the short answer to the man behind the riddle, well, my friends, come say hello to Jason Michael Carroll when he takes the stage at House Of Blues in N. Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, September 26, 2009.
Here’s a mix of info from his official website and Wikipedia:
The accomplishments are impressive enough for any new artist – Waitin’ in the Country, a chart-topping debut album nearing a half-million in sales, three hit singles from that album (all of which he wrote or co-wrote), a Gold ringtone certification, and opening spots on some of country’s hottest tours. The key to Jason Michael Carroll’s success is evident in every note he sings – live or in the studio – and it lies in his authenticity. Whether it’s the empathy brought to bear on the tragedy of “Alyssa Lies,” the pure passion of “Livin’ Our Love Song” or the youthful exuberance of “I Can Sleep When I’m Dead,” Carroll knows how to connect with fans, and together with hard work, undeniable talent, and good looks, that connection has launched one of country’s most impressive young careers.
Born on June 13, 1978, Carroll grew up in a religious household in Raleigh, North Carolina. It’s a career whose music aptly depicts Carroll as country’s Gen-Y family man, reflecting his generation’s transition from party to parenthood, and able to fully express the joys inherent in both worlds and the tensions that can come in moving from unencumbered freedom to the responsibilities of home and hearth. As a husband and father of four, Carroll sings eloquently about both sides of the equation in songs that recognize the firm foundation that country roots and a sense of community provide in a fast-moving world.
Now, with the April 2009 release of his sophomore album, Growing Up Is Getting Old (Arista Nashville), he fulfills the promise of his first record and takes his career a big step forward. The first single, “Where I’m From,” could have come from the pages of his life, and yet paradoxically enough, given his strengths as a songwriter, it’s one he didn’t write.
“People ask me, ‘Do you only record songs you wrote?’ My answer is always, ‘No, if I believe in a song I didn’t write more than a song I did, I’d record it first,’” Carroll says, “and here I kind of had the chance to put my money where my mouth is.” The tale of two men from seemingly opposite worlds who meet by chance explores the similarities that lie beneath most of our differences.
“No matter where life carries you, and it carries us in all different directions, if you boil it down to the nuts and bolts of it, most of us are really the same,” he says. The song is filled with points that hit home, from the seat he occupied in his father’s church and the fact that his son bears part of his grandfather’s name to the affect cancer has had on those close to him. Its authenticity is ideal to an album that finds Carroll digging deeper creatively and solidifying his place in country music.
“You have a responsibility to your fans,” he says, “not only to record songs that are hits but also to record songs that mean something to you and convey to your fans who you are.”
Those songs are all over Growing Up Is Getting Old. A Carolina-born preacher’s son raised in a strict household, Carroll threw himself whole-heartedly into life and music when he got the chance. The resulting tension between experience and responsibility, and the hard-won wisdom that grows out of the maturing process have always infused the music he makes.
Growing Up Is Getting Old found Jason Michael once again working with producer Don Gehman, known for his work with Hootie and the Blowfish, John Mellencamp, Tracy Chapman, and R.E.M.
“We collaborate really well together,” Carroll says. “Now, we butt heads really well together, too,” he adds with a laugh, “but I think that’s part of a great relationship when you have two people with really creative sides who can find a way to get both their influences into what they’re working on.”
The creative tension behind the teamwork produced an album that showcases both the passion and sincerity in his voice and the talent that brought Jason Michael from the Carolina nightspots where he honed his craft to national attention.
He quickly learned how his music could truly affect lives, with fans regularly approaching him with stories of the impact that “Alyssa Lies” or “Livin’ Our Love Song” had on them.
“My songs speak so much to so many people,” he says. “I really can’t take for granted what I’m doing, and I thank God every day I have the chance to keep doing it.”
But through it all, he remains a young man who has not lost touch with his roots, and it’s obvious he’s embraced the wisdom he received from a superstar touring partner.
“I was hanging out with Brooks & Dunn on the road, and Ronnie Dunn said, ‘Jason, don’t let anything change you. Be who you are. That’s what got you here.’ It’s great advice.”
Naw, he ain’t gonna go change on you, kids. He is gonna stop by and show you where the path has taken him, though, as Jason Michael Carroll takes command of House Of Blues in N. Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, September 26, 2009. Doors open 7:30pm. For ticket info call 843-272-3000 or Ticketmaster 843-679-9333; or visit http://www.houseofblues.com or http://www.ticketmaster.com.
The previous article also appears under “Nightlife & Entertainment” in Alternatives NewsMagazine, Sept. 10, 2009, at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com