To coin one of Willie Nelson’s signature lines, Jason Benoit can’t wait to get on the road again. Actually Jason is already on the road, travelling from his home in Newfoundland to Southern Ontario then on to Alberta, where he is playing a string of dates with his fellow Canadian country troubadours and good buddies, The Washboard Union. Jason will be performing songs from his brand new EP, his first, entitled Revolution Pt. 1. The singer, who grew up in the Qalipu Mi’Kmaq First Nation Band in Newfoundland, says the support that he received during his formative years played a big role in bringing him to where he is today.
“Yeah, the support was amazing right from the get-go,” Jason says, as he calls en route from The Rock. “I started playing when I was 14. We had a lot of performers in the family who played and sang, who I took inspiration from. I think the Mi’Kmaq culture is there and it’s prevalent with regard to the type of music you put out there. We’re in such a diverse world today in terms of what you like. Country was especially big back where I grew up so it was an easy transition.”
The EP’s title comes from Jason’s evolution as an artist, and the fact that evolution can create a revolution. In the past five years, he’s done just that with four Top 30 hits, including his gold-certified Top 10 single ‘Gone Long Gone’ which garnered radio play across North America. Benoit’s uprising was just beginning, however, as he picked up the inaugural CCMA Discovery Atlantic Award from the Canadian Country Music Association, and then went on to share stages with major artists such as Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, Brett Kissel and Meghan Patrick. He reveals what’s kept him grounded through all of this in the EP’s first track ‘I Won’t Go’, a powerful love song fueled by a drum-guitar assault in the track’s chorus.
“I wrote that one in Nashville when I was missing my wife and family back in Newfoundland,” he recalls. “I was down there for four months, writing and doing industry stuff. I just wanted to sit down and write a song that kind of solidified the fact that I will always be with them regardless of where I go or what I do. I picked that theme and wrote a star-crossed lover type of song. Sometimes people think you’re not going to last in a relationship because of what you do and the circumstances you may be going through, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Love can conquer all is pretty what that song is all about, and I thought it might help some people going through the same circumstances.”
Jason wrote four of the EP’s tracks with two others coming from JT Harding who has penned hits for the likes of Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney. The singer found the process for acquiring outside material to be quite straight forward. You just have to ask.
“I actually met JT Harding when I was part of the SiriusXM Top of the Country Contest,” he says. “I told him I was doing the EP and he said if you need any songs just let him know. We touched base and he sent me a bunch songs. We really loved two of the numbers that we used on the EP, ‘Saturdays For The Girls’ and ‘Forget To Forget’, which is the latest single. I really like the country feel that the banjo brings to that one. As an artist, I came from the country world and I grew up playing classic country, so I think you have to have to include acoustic instruments like banjos. If you take the country elements out of a song, it just as easily becomes a pop song because the writing is going that way and the themes are crossing genres.”
Jason says that a lot of his musical influences come from 90’s country, and he cites performers like Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence. One of his biggest inspirations, however, was George Jones because “The way he could bring that emotion into his lyrics was amazing”. The singer explains that he draws little bits here and there from all of his favourite artists and tries to incorporate them into his style. These country elements may abound most on “Slow Hand”, a song that was both pop and country hit in the ’80s, which he turned into a spry duet with Leah Daniels on a single that preceded the EP’s release.
“There aren’t any more classic duet teams like George and Tammy or Dolly and Kenny,” he begins. “Today you have more male/female duos like The Reklaws, which is different from back in the day when there were solo artists that got together and put out a couple of duet albums. I still think that’s really cool because you get two different singers from two different worlds doing the same style of music, and sometimes magic would happen.”
“I’ve known Leah for some time and we always wanted to work together at some point. We wanted to see how we could do a different take on the song. It was first released by The Pointer Sisters and then a year or so later by Conway Twitty. It was never done as a duet and I think Leah’s voice really makes the song come alive.”
The EP ends with a couple of romantic songs, “Endless Love” and “When We Know”. The former is a classic love song in which the singer clearly wears his heart on his sleeve, while the latter is a bare-bones number with the wistful intro recalling Tracy Chapman’s ‘Give Me One Reason’.
“We wanted to go with a certain kind of vibe on When We Know,” he says. “It’s more of a 50’s or 60’s throwback kind of song along the lines of ‘Girl Crush’ by Little Big Town or ‘Blue Ain’t Your Colour’ by Keith Urban. It’s a stripped-down ballad and we resisted adding more instrumentation to it. It just felt right to do it that way.”
Jason seems to have a real knack for romantic lyrics, whether it’s on the previously mentioned ballads or the friskier ‘Two Wrongs’ which advances the theory that opposites really do attract. Open Spaces wondered about the secret to writing a great love song.
“Two Wrongs was written by myself and a good friend of mine from Prince Edward Island,” he explains. “We sat down one day with a bottle of Tequila and a bottle of Fireball. We didn’t plan on writing a song but by the end of the evening we pretty much had it done.”
Upcoming tour dates for Jason Benoit https://www.songkick.com/artists/9105744-jason-benoit
Other Country Stuff:
CCMA Award-winning country artist Bobby Wills has just released his latest EP ‘Longshot Bar & Grill’ via MDM Recordings Inc. /Universal Music Canada. Wills has already unveiled a handful of tracks from the album including the lead single ‘Raise The Bar’, ‘Bad Things Good People’ and his current radio single ‘It Matters To Her’, which showcases his more romantic side while remaining true to his classic country sound. “I love country music, and if I had to say why, my answer would be lyrics and song-writing,” says Bobby. “I had the opportunity to write with some unbelievably talented writers for this album and I can’t wait for everyone to hear the results.”
Open Spaces’ favourite western country gals, B.C.’s Twin Kennedy, are back with a terrific new single called ‘Blindspot.’ The number aims straight for the heart as it begins with a lovely acoustic guitar and soft but passionate vocals, and then slowly builds momentum with delicate strings and subtle percussion. The song, which is available on all platforms, simply grabs you from the start and refuses to let you go.
Rising country artist Rich Cloke recently released his new single ‘You’re The One’ and it’s is picking up traction across country radio. The Burlington native’s upcoming album, set for release in early 2020, was co-written by John Angus MacDonald (The Trews) and Mitch Merritt (Black Mountain Whiskey Rebellion).
Another artist on an upward trajectory is Jade Eagleson whose new single, ‘Lucky’, is out via Universal Music Canada. The new track arrives after Jade’s big night at the 2019 CCMA’s, where he took home the award for Rising Star, and also performed his Gold-certified single, ‘Got Your Name On It’ on the national broadcast. “I truly feel that all of the music we are releasing stays true to country music in its entirety and represents who I am as a whole,” Jade says. “I can’t wait to continue this journey and to show you what else is cookin’.”
Spencer Burton – The Mountain Man
And now, for something completely different to end with, we have a children’s album from Spencer Burton, the country/folk troubadour renowned for his storytelling songs. ‘The Mountain Man’” contains seven kid-friendly tracks, capturing the nostalgia of childhood while remaining true to Burton’s laid back melodic roots, to create a record that can be enjoyed by all ages. While he may not be playing selections from this album, you can catch Spencer live in November as he opens shows for Burton Cummings on his ‘Up Close and Alone Tour’.
By Roman Mitz