Plus a gallery from a great concert with unexpected audience participation!
Narrative songwriting is a staple of American music, but it’s not easy to do well. The charts are full of derivative, clichéd, sentimental songs that do sell well enough, are not likely to endure. On the other hand, when we think of the great songwriters, across genres, derivative and clichéd are not words that come to mind. In my conversation with Jason Myles Goss over beer and Irish appetizers at Rí Rá Irish Pub before his show at The Portsmouth Book and Bar on August 3, we talked about the songwriters he admires, and about his own songwriting. He’s definitely a student of the masters. As English major at Oberlin College he wrote a thesis on Tom Waits, but his appreciation is expansive, encompassing all the greats from Bruce Springsteen to Patty Griffin.
I would argue that he is destined to find his name among their ranks. At his best, Jason Myles Goss is one of those songwriters who can craft a song in which the lyrics and music work together to create a scene, populate it with characters, and then set you down in the midst of it so that you feel you’re there.
Jason first came to my attention on the Parlor Sessions Tour with his songs on the sampler the guys released before the tour, but I confess it was his live performances of “Black Lights” and “Hospital Shirt” from the Parlor Sessions Tour that totally knocked me out, no pun intended. (“Black Lights” is a song about boxing, and the title comes from a metaphor about being knocked out. He talks about both songs in the interview below.)
They are two very different songs, but both reach out and grab you from the first line, both because of the lyric and because of Jason’s voice, which is powerful and melodic, yet sanded just enough around the edges to be ideally suited to the topics he’s drawn to write about. As he explains in the interview below, Jason is increasingly interested in chronically the hard times communities like his home town of Hopedale, MA are experiencing, and he does it well.
How much can his music pull you in? When he played the Portsmouth Book and Bar that night, some passers-by stopped to listen to the music through the open window, one of which was quite drunk and insisted on expressing how much he loved the music at some rather inappropriate moments, from the window behind Jason. Undaunted, Jason not only kept right on playing, but he interacted with his admirer in the window behind him, ultimately enticing him and his family inside to enjoy the performance. Jason has a great sense of humor, something that shows in songs like “Coffee and Wine,” which he seized the opportunity to personalize for the man in the window that night.
You’ll see an image or two from that interaction in the concert gallery below the audio interview below. You’ll also see some images of Mieka Pauley who shared the bill with Jason that evening. I wasn’t familiar with her music, but at the pub before the show Jason told me I needed to make sure I caught her set because I’d enjoy it. He was right, and hopefully I’ll have occasion to talk more about her in a subsequent post. Check out her music at mieka.com
In the interview below Jason Myles Goss talks about his music and his approach to songwriting, and particularly how it has changed from when he started playing music in high school through his most recent album Radio Dial. He also talks a bit about the album he’s working on now and planning to release early next year. It’s being recorded with an approach that will bring the energy and feel of the live recording closer to that of a live show. I’m definitely looking forward to it!
The interview was recorded at an outdoor table at a Pub in Portsmoouth on a beautiful summer day, so I apologize for the background noise. I’m not great at removing that stuff. It’s all quite clear though, so click below to listen. Below that is a small gallery from the show with Mieka Pauley. Find out more and buy music at www.jasonmylesgoss.com