Jason Lee McKinney has always struck as a guy who isn’t afraid to color outside of the lines. His creativity and originality always seem to be in the front seat of whatever he’s working on, with little regard for conformity and norms. He marches to the beat of his own drum, and…we dig it! When we heard he was dropping a triple EP, we knew it would certainly be a special! Sure enough the 3-part project, impressively dives in to 3 different genres: gospel, country, and soul; each providing their own unique flavor and sound! We had the chance to chat with McKinney about his musical influences, his recently released triple EP “Sacred, Southern, Soul”, his upcoming a 30-day, two-continent, armed forces tour, and more!
Texas Music Pickers: Who would you describe as musical influences?
Jason Lee McKinney: Man I have ton and they are all over the place. If I had to list in order it would be 1) Prince 2) Willie Nelson 3) Rolling Stones… but there are so many others…Petty, Springsteen, Seger, Strait, ACDC, Zepplin, Delbert, Walt Wilkins, Pat Green, Howlin Wolf, etc.
TMP: Tell us about the new album, “Sacred, Southern, Soul”.
JLM: It is a Triple EP..one project but 3 albums in 3 different genres. It’s sanctified, chicken fired, roots revived, with an American Soul.
TMP: With it being a triple EP, how did you approach it differently than previous projects?
JLM: The main difference is that while the three of the genres represented have always been our main influences; they have always been woven and threaded into what we do in a way that may not make it so obvious. The difference is this time we separated them out. It’s like on past albums we have been serving people cake. Sometimes it’s a chocolate cake, sometimes strawberry, sometimes carrot; with this album we are showing them the common ingredients that make up all cakes- the eggs, flour, and sugar.
TMP: Which style (Gospel , Country, Soul) do enjoy writing the most and which genre do you enjoy performing the most?
JLM: As far as writing, I can’t really say. When your influences range the way mine do I really and truly love, honor, and revere all three of those genres. As far as playing I have to say the soul stuff is so much fun it has to top the list.
TMP: One of our favorite tracks is “Seldom Seen Montana”. Can you provide us with some background on it?
JLM: For sure. That song is a nod to that late 70’s era country that wove in just a bit of R&B into everything. I definitely had Long Run era Eagles, Conway and Ronnie Milsap on the brain when writing this one. Lyrically I love to play with internal rhyme schemes and alliteration a lot and the title gave me plenty of rope to hang myself in that way lol.
TMP: If you had to pick just one song from the album, which song are you the most proud of?
JLM: I truly love every song on this project but the one that immediately comes to mind is See You Soon. This past year, I have seen a lot of loss. The passing of band mates from cancer, former classmates from cancer, daughters of friends from cancer and allergic reactions, and my twin sons really close friend lost his life in a motorcycle accident. It’s not trivial, platitudes don’t fix the pain.. there is not 3 easy steps to moving on…BUT…BUT there is in my opinion hope. If hope makes me a fool then let me be the biggest fool there has ever been. If it makes me an idiot then let me be the dumbest person to ever live. This song means a whole lot to me. It is written about the last conversation I ever had with my friend and JLMB original guitarist John Thomson. My wife and I received the call from John’s wife Bridget that if we wanted to come say good bye we had better do it in the next week. John had cancer and treatments had not worked. So we made the drive and I sat with John for hours talking. In many ways it was no different than any other conversation we had in the past; that was until the end. As it was getting time to leave, I hugged John and I just could not find the right words to part on. I mean what do you say to someone you know you will never see again in this life. So I stumbled out the words “Goodbye I guess” and John looked up at me and simply said “Naw man I’ll see you soon.” There was so much hope in that simple phrase. It shook me. I went back home and this song literally fell out of me. When we recorded it we had a gospel choir sing a simple two part “Hallelujah” in the outro. I remember clearly the emotion and goose bumps Barry Strauser and I felt. It was there, it was real, it was….HOPE. So this song is dedicated on our album to John and anyone who is grieving the loss of someone.
TMP: What do you have lined up for the album release?
JLM: We are in the process of making a 50 minute documentary. It includes studio footage, interview footage about the making of the project, live footage from album release shows and will include onstage and behind the scenes footage from the Armed Forces tour we are headed out on. The overall theme is just about a band wrestling with balancing life- home, family, acceptance or lack of, success or lack of. The goal is to make it as raw and real as possible. to honestly reveal the highs and lows of a blue collar hard working band.
TMP: Do you have lead single planned for release?
JLM: We are tossing several back and forth and it depends on the genre. For Red Dirt we are for sure leaning towards Next Ex Wife. When we get back from overseas we do plan an onslaught of radio
TMP: What is your favorite thing to eat while out on the road?
JLM: My favorite thing to eat anywhere is sushi… anywhere any time I am all about that sushi life.
TMP: Tell us about the upcoming Armed Forces tour you have coming up.
JLM: We are so honored and blessed to get to play for our troops. We are doing a month long tour of West Asia with stops on two continents. These people go across the world and risk their lives for our sake, for freedom. They defend our rights to do this silly little thing called music, the least we can do is go play a few tunes for them.
TMP:Is there anything else you want your fans to know?
JLM:Just that if you love an artist, an artist without the big machine or daddy money behind them…champion them. Tell the world, shout from rooftops that you love this band because in the end that alone determines how far and how long that band can continue to make the music you love.
Take a listen to one of our favorite tracks, and the project’s title track, “Sacred Southern Soul” below