Hi Jason, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? Can you talk to us more about your song “Thicc” off your new record?
For sure. Musically the song Thicc was inspired by my two favorite guitar players. I love Derek Trucks and Nile Rogers. I wanted to write a song that would fit both of their styles if they were to play in a band together. Derek is a blues and slide genius while Nile has perfected that percussive rhythmic style is so funky. I wanted the song to have the heart and tonality of American Roots and Blues music but the rhythmic groove of some of the classic songs Nile has played on (Up All Night; I’m Coming Out; He’s the Greatest Dancer, etc.)
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Yes. In a weird irony my teenage daughter Zakyra and her friend Julia got on this kick of saying “ehh she thicc” and so being the Dad and not being innately hip to teen colloquialisms I asked what they mean (and was subsequently informed it was Thicc with two c’s). My daughter said it was describing a woman who has curves.
It struck me that in this day and age of #metoo and the long over due empowerment of women we still have phrases that on the surface objectify women. This sent me down the rabbit trail and I brought the term up with my wife (who is a professional counselor) and we had a conversation around the desire of my wife (who is Thicc… i.e. curvy) to be desired by me and for that desire to be expressed but yet not objectified. So with the empowerment of women, which is much needed in today’s world, we can’t lose the space for desire to be expressed. For instance my wife wants to be desired for her looks just not only for her looks. She wants to be desired for how she looks but also her character, and her mind. It is my aim as her partner to express my desire for her in the strongest terms possible but only in the ways she desires for the desire to be expressed and for that desire to cover all of her; to desire the person, body, mind and soul. I took these two conversations and redefined the term Thicc to include all the above
The single comes off your new album Pieces – what’s the story behind the title?
The title of the album comes from the song Pieces. That song seemed to fit as an album title as songs are really just snaps shots of a time period in a songwriter’s life. By themselves they don’t always make sense but when they are fit together they usually give a pretty clear picture of where the songwriter was during that period of their life musically and lyrically.
How was the writing and recording process? This is your 8th record; I am sure its like second nature by now, yes?
I am not sure it is ever second nature. Every album is different and every process is different. We are big believers in recording all at once; five guys in a room all in red at once. My favorite albums were recorded in a very live environment. I love Exile On Main Street from the Stones and all the Muscle Shoals stuff. It was all recorded with humans interacting and playing the songs at the same time. That is always our process and always will be.
What was it like to work with Kevin Houston and how did that relationship develop? How much does a seasoned pro like Kevin influence the material on tape?
Kevin and I met through our mutual friend Bryan Hayes (who is a great Americana artist and producer himself) and we just hit it off. Working with Kevin was great. Kevin for the most part lets the band do what they do. He doesn’t say much and isn’t over bearing like a lot of producers but when he does speak up it is because he feels strongly that there is a better way for something to happen. Because he chooses so carefully when to disrupt the bands natural flow and when not to it is very easy to listen to him when he has a change or different idea. He creates a very relaxed vibe but at the same time you know he is paying close attention at all times. We had a blast working with him.
How has your sound developed over these 8 records?
We call our sound Soul Infused Folk and Blues. We have always mixed in Soul, Blues, Folk and Country. Each album may lean more towards one of those than the other but all those styles are in the sound.
So I would not say our sound has evolved at all I would say we have leaned into one of our stylistic influences more at certain times than others but the mix has permanence to it.
What role does Nashville play in your music?
To be honest it really doesn’t other than it being a music industry hub. I would say Memphis has a large influence on our sound as well as the Midwest (I grew up in a small town in Indiana). We record all of our music in Memphis area and are heavily influenced by the sounds that have historically came from Memphis- Blues, RnB, Soul, Gospel, etc. Growing up in Indiana (literally across from a cornfield) I was exposed to and grew up on traditional country acts like Willie Nelson, Don Williams, and Johnny Cash and the heartland rock of artists like Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, and Tom Petty; both of those styles play a large role in our music as well.
How does your background as a professor actually influences your career? You don’t see many PhD’s fronting bands these days.
I suppose you don’t see many doctorates as singers. Conversely, you don’t see many academics with their arms covered in tattoos either but here I am lol. I am not sure if it influences my career as much as it is an indicator of who I am and how I filter and process the world. I am eternally curious and existentially assimilating about many subjects- faith, philosophy, business, music, history, etc. I have no doubt it plays a role but I can’t quantify it because to do so would mean I would have to in some way separate it from myself. I can’t do that with any kind of precise of perspective.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics? Have these songs been stewing for a while, or are they all hot off the press?
Inspiration comes from a variety of places. Some songs like Blues In Bahrain are inspired from being on tour for a month in the Middle East. Cover Town is inspired by the small town I grow up in while the transcendent nature of existence and a feeling of gratitude towards the Cause, the Uncreated One, inspire New Strings On an Old Guitar. Where Prince inspires songs like Good Old Soul in how he could sing about apocalyptic themes but in a way that did not deter from the funkiness of the song.
Some of the songs on Pieces are older while others where written shortly before they were recorded.
Any plans to hit the road this summer?
We are a band that is in constant tour mode. We will for sure be playing for anyone who will have us. We love Europe and can’t wait to go back
What else is happening next in The Jason Lee McKinney Band’s world?
We are already in the middle of mixing our next album as well as celebrating 2020 being our 10th year as a band. We just re-released our very first album; it had been out of the public for 5 years. We are adding some of our older songs back into the set for this year, which has been a ton of fun. It allows for reflection, gratitude and the opportunity to relearn some of our old songs we had forgot how to play.