Interview With and Song Premiere From Jason McCue
By Julia Olson
Lead photo by Haley Ford
I was lucky enough to get a *sneak Peek* of the new release, and upon listening was immediately filled with this immense sense of awe.
Jason has seen a great deal of change in his artistic career in a matter of months, I saw him go from playing house shows to Bumbershoot (and also house shows) in a mere matter of months.
PANGAEA perhaps then, had a little more pressure when McCue sat down to write. The shift in direction on the new release is subtle, McCue still shines with the best of his storytelling and acoustic guitar melodies, but one is also struck with how fast McCue is growing in the wake of his recent win in regards to production and creative comfort.
In celebration of our conversation with Jason, we’re proud to debut “Fault Lines.”
In a live setting too, Jason has this unique way of taking up so much artistic space while onstage, throwing his whole self into the performances he plays and the stories he tells. Although my duties as barista kept me from personally attending, McCue’s Bumbershoot performance pal and KEXP/Stranger contributor Anna Kaplin described his set as “abundant sunshine.”
The last time I got to see Jason McCue perform the person standing in front of me turned right around to say, “man— I want to start a record label just so someone could get him signed.”
See, not only is Jason’s music the most fascinating combination of storytelling, honesty and complex guitar melodies, but Jason himself is perhaps the most genuine person I have the pleasure of knowing, a quality that is reflected most deeply in his music.
NM: Since Sound Off I’ve been seeing more articles about your music. What words do people typically use to describe you?
Jason: People like to call me “scruffy,” but I’m not sure if that’s about my appearance or my music. I also get the classics like “folk” and “songwriter,” which makes sense because I am both of those things. I don’t really like the term “singer-songwriter,” though, so I try my best to get away from that as much as possible.
NM: Why don’t you like the term “singer-songwriter?”
Jason: When I hear “singer-songwriter” I imagine something I don’t want to be. Like, somebody with an acoustic guitar in a coffee shop. I most definitely do have an acoustic guitar and I do play in coffee shops, but the word just kind-of generates a certain genre that doesn’t quite fit my music.
NM: I’ve seen you play with an acoustic guitar in a bar, which is more fitting than a coffee shop, but I’ve also seen you play backyard shows. Where do you most like to play your music, given it is so intimate with just you and a guitar?
Jason: My heart always goes out to house shows and backyard shows. I love that kind of DIY culture. And I like when there a bunch of people in a setting that allows them to pay attention to a dude with a guitar. I just turned 21 and I am trying out the bar scene a little bit more, but I find that the music gets kind of downed out, which also makes total sense in a bar.
NM: What is it like being a young artist in the Seattle music community following the exposure you received from Sound Off?
Jason: It is definitely more gratifying now that more people are paying attention. Since Sound Off there a lot of other unexpected things are happening too, like I’ve been on TV a few times…
NM: Oh man, how did it go?
Jason: Good. It’s easy to psyche yourself out a little bit before and after, but it has all been really fun, which is the whole point.
NM: You released Humans before all the Sound Off madness, and after Sound Off you released Obscure, was there any added pressure on Obscure?
Jason: The good thing about Obscure was that most of it was recorded before the Sound Off thing even happened, so I was doing more of what I wanted to do and thinking less about the people listening to it. I do find that when I am recording now at home I do have some thoughts of making sure my music is fitting this… thing I am trying to fill, but I still find it easy enough to go back to recording with the mindset I had before.
NM: What about PANGAEA? What Inspired you to make the new album?
Jason: PANGAEA was my project for over the summer. I started the home recordings for it in June, right after the school year let out, and was able to finish it up by October. As far as a basic album inspiration, I think it’s probably pretty easy to notice the themes of geology, scientific thought, and earth history all scattered throughout the album’s lyrics and song titles. I got pretty interested in those concepts toward the beginning of the summer, and it leaked into my songwriting. I also did an internship with Conservation Northwest over the summer, which had me looking at a bunch of topographic maps all day, so I was already thinking about geology, geography, etc.
NM: I noticed some different instruments and production styles on PANGAEA.
Yeah, for production, this one is different than everything else I’ve done. I recorded and produced it all in my house, but I used my Sound Off prize of studio time to bring the stems into Vera Project and have it mixed/mastered by the incredible engineer there, Lilian Blair. I’ve always liked how piano sounded, but never really had the confidence to try to record with it. MoPOP actually gave me a drum set and an electric guitar, so I was able to record some heavier stuff with them.
NM: What do you see yourself doing with music in the future now that you have the experience of a Sound Off Win and the goodies that come along with it?
Jason: I want to keep having as much fun with music as possible. My rule is if I am doing stuff with music and I am not having fun with it or it is not going to produce some kind of benefit in the long run, then I am not going to do it.
NM: Have you ever thought about any collaborations?
Jason: I sing with my friend Katie onstage every once in a while, and we have been really good friends since freshman year of high school. I love her voice and I think we mesh well. I also saw Star Anna at Timber and she actually played at my album release show, which would be cool. Oh also Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses.
NM: Would you go full Guns N’ Roses for that collaboration then or would he go full Jason McCue?
Jason: I would, I would wear the Axl kilt and grow my long blond hair out. (Duff if you are reading this I can get you Jason’s contact info.)
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