Jason Hemmens
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Jason Hemmens

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Band Pop Soul

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Mar
18
Jason Hemmens @ Whisky a Go Go

Los Angeles, California, USA

Los Angeles, California, USA

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We're sure you're aware that Hellcats' Aly Michalka and her sister AJ are bona fide rock stars via their chart-topping duo 78violet, but did you know Alice Verdura's real-life brother Jason Hemmens is also an accomplished musician? We tracked down Heather's sibling on My Space to get the scoop on his impressive career thus far.

Like his sister, Jason grew up in little Waldo, Maine sans electricity, but managed to get his hands on a radio somehow, falling in love with 1980s rap, classic rock, blues, jazz, and country. Already a mini go-getter at the young age of ten, Jason started embracing his songwriting skills and participating in his school choir. He got a local taste of fame as a teenager by performing with his family band Hemmens (was Heather in this group!?), as well as renowned high-school choir The Mount View Chamber Singers. After picking up the harmonica when he was 15, Jason went on to become a true multi-instrumentalist mastering the alto and tenor saxophone, piano, and bass. Oh yeah, he can sing too. Show-off!

The University of New Orleans graduate currently resides in Los Angeles where he is considered an "in-demand" performer, guesting with awesome artists like Stevie Wonder, and members of Guns 'N' Roses and Poison. Rock on! The big question on our mind is will Jason be making any appearances on Hellcats or what? His upcoming single scheduled to debut on November 9 is titled "Kissing, Dancing, Singing" — sounds like a perfect fit for our favorite show to us. - Wetpaint


"Jason Hemmens finished off the opening seduction of the crowd by blowing the sax in a hot and heavy manner that I'm sure if Grover had been at my table, he would lean over and tell me "...Cat can play!..."
-Frankie Firme
Latino LA - Latino LA


"Jason Hemmens’s impressive jazzy sax takes command allowing the intermission of numerous sonic effects, yet always returning to lead the song into the next intricate phase."
- Eddie Lascu
Gnosis Music Website - Gnosis


iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH

For the past several years, multi-instrumentalist JASON HEMMENS has been to go-to-guy for any artists seeking back up on stage or in the studio. The likes of STEVIE WONDER, TEVIN CAMPBELL, members of GUNS AND ROSES and POISON have benefited from his dexterity on the saxophone, harmonica, piano, and bass. Despite having studied music at the University of New Orleans, music always came naturally to HEMMENS. “The first instrument that I ever learned to play was the harmonica.” says HEMMONS “I picked that up when I was fifteen. I was home on vacation form school and this harmonica was sitting around. It was actually my brother’s harmonica and I just picked it up and started fooling around with it. It was pretty much an instant connection. I could play pretty easily and form that moment on, I never looked back. A year later, I picked up the saxophone and from there, the keyboards and anything that I could get my hands on.”

It was only a matter of time before HEMMENS and his substantial talent found their way into the recording studio. Under the production of SASSY OUTWATER, HEMMENS’ debut CD ‘WELCOME TO REALITY’ is the perfect introduction to an artist that is eager to change people’s minds as to what an album is capable of. “[On this CD] there are instrumental songs and vocal songs. I’ve got ballads and I’ve got some uptempo songs and songs that have a rock feel to them and others that are more pop-R&B. It’s really a well rounded CD and I want to open up people’s minds to what an artist can present.”

ROCKWIRED spoke with JASON HEMMENS over the phone. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about the finished product now that it is out there for people to hear and all of the work that has gone into it is behind you?
Actually, the release date just got pushed back. The original release date was supposed to be on December 8th but we’ve made a couple of changes to the album and people who were involved in the production got caught up in other things so it just seemed better for us to wait. We are in the last stages right now and have decided to push the release date back to January.

It sounds pretty drastic to make changes in this stage of the game. Talk about that.
The title track WELCOME TO REALITY, we decided to add a string section to it. We have a four piece string section that is going to be recording on that song and hopefully we will be doing that sometime early next week. Also, I’ve got another song on the album called BEY YOUR FOOL and we just recorded some trumpet on that song. There is this trumpet player named STEVE MADEA who recorded on a lot of STEVIE WONDER’s stuff like SUPERSTITION. We had the honor of having Himont he album so he was the other addition. Those were the two major additions. At the moment, we are fine tuning everything and finishing the mix. After that, we’ll go into mastering. We already have the actual CD design finished, so we’re almost ready to go. We’ll actually have the whole thing ready before January.

Aside from all of the fine tuning that is going on at the moment, talk about what all is going through your head in terms of the anticipation.
It’s very exciting. It’s definitely a new step in my career. It is definitely something that I’ve been working on for years as far as developing my style and my songwriting and how I want to present myself as an artist to the world. It’s a very exciting time in my life. I’m very anxious to se where it goes.

Talk about working with producer SASSY OUTWATER.
SASSY and I met a couple of years ago at this nightclub that I perform at on UNIVERSAL CITYWALK. She saw me playing saxophone and liked the way I played and ended up using me on a couple of productions that she was doing. We just worked really well together. When I finally got ready to do my own CD, she was the first person that I called to see if she would be interested in executively producing the album.

How long have you been out in LA. I know that you are originally from Boston and you lived in Louisiana.
I’ve been in LA for about five years now. I actually moved her form New Orleans. I went to school in New Orleans and I really got my experience in New Orleans. I’ve been in LA for about five years and had have had a stayed house band gig for three of those years at this club called HOWL AT THE MOON. I had the opportunity to develop myself as a multi-instrumentalist. Part of the gig was to be able to jump around from instrument to instrument and be able to improvise on the spot.

Talk about your musical beginnings.
I started singing when I was about ten years old in the fifth grade. I started this rap group called DEF POETS SOCIETY with a friend of mine named TRAVIS LLOYD. We wrote a couple of songs together and we performed at a few school functions and around that same time, I also joined the school chorus and have been singing ever since. In high school, I was apart of this elite singing group called the MOUNTAIN VEIW CHAMBER SINGERS and we would travel around to different states. The first instrument that I ever learned to play was the harmonica. I picked that up when I was fifteen. I was home on vacation form school and this harmonica was sitting around. It was actually my brother’s harmonica and I just picked it up and started fooling around with it. It was pretty much an instant connection. I could play pretty easily and form that moment on, I never looked back. A year later, I picked up the saxophone and from there, the keyboards and anything that I could get my hands on.

Was there ever one particular artist that inspired you or were there numerous influences?
It really was a bunch of people. As far as my initial inspiration, there was this blues festival in Maine called the ROCKLYN BLUES FESTIVAL where they had all of these great blues artists come through the area. With those bands, there were a lot of good harmonica players. That was what inspired me to pick up the harmonica. And become a musician. Initially it blues music and harmonica players that made me want to become a musician. Then when I started playing the saxophone, I started listening to a lot of great saxophone players like DAVID SANBORNE and GROVER WASHINGTON JR. As a multi-instrumentalist, some of my greatest inspirations were PRINCE and STEVIE WONDER. I love those guys because of their skills and how they were able to play all kinds of instruments and write their own music. They were a whole package and that is what I have been striving to do.

Explain the creative process to me. How do songs get written for you?
For me, I’ll just sit down at the piano. I’ll start with the piano and the music. It’ll depend on the mood that I’m in. I usually write late at night when I finish doing a show. I’ll create a vibe by playing the piano and from there, I’ll build a bass line and some chords and from that pattern, I’ll write the lyrics from that. I usually have the music before I work on the lyrics.

From the album, what songs resonate for you the most and why?
One of the songs that resonates the most for me is called SHINE YOUR LIGHT. This song was written for a friend of mine who was going through cancer. I was trying to give him support as he was going through cancer and uplift him. I put it into a song. The unfortunate thing about it is that he didn’t survive, but I did get this wonderful song out of it. It’s about not giving up hope and staying strong and fighting all of the challenges that life throws your way. It is a song that is really close to my heart. With this song, I’ve partnered with this cancer foundation called RETINOBLASTOMA INTERNATIONAL. Working with them, we are hoping to help anyone going through cancer.

For the album, you’ve got an impressive band behind you. Talk about them and what it is you thought each of them brought to the table both musically and personality-wise that made it come together.
For the first couple of sessions that I did, I recorded one of my original songs called PEOPLE ON THE STREET and for that session I used this key board player named HERMAN JACKSON who has worked with people like STEVIE WONDER and a lot of other great people. He brought some good leadership to the table. When we went into the session he wasn’t just concerned with the parts that he was playing but with everything that everybody else was playing. He was like a leader and a father figure making sure that the session went well and came out sounding really good. The drummer on that session was a drummer named PAUL ALLEN who I’ve played with before. We did a show in New York together a few years back and I brought him on the session. He just has a very natural feel for playing and I was very happy to have him on the session. I had a lot of very wonderful players. I picked all of the players that I wanted and got everybody together that way.

Has any of this new material been tested in front of an audience?
A couple of the songs have. I have this song called FORGOTTEN – an instrumental. I have this regular show that I do at this place called the SAN ANTONIO WINERY and I get to play it over there and give people a taste of what’s to come. For the most part, we haven’t performed much of this material. We’ve just been in the studio finishing up everything.

What would you like a person to come away with after they’ve heard this album?
I want them to come away with an opened heart and an opened mind and to open up to the possibilities of what an artist can capture in one CD. I say that because on this CD, there are instrumental songs and vocal songs. I’ve got ballads and I’ve got some uptempo songs and songs that have a rock feel to them and others that are more pop-R&B. It’s really a well rounded CD and I want to open up people’s minds to what an artist can present.
- BRiAN LUSH - ROCKWiRED MAGAZiNE


Discography

Single- The Sun Don't Shine Anymore
Single- Kissing, Dancing, Singing
Album- Welcome to Reality

Photos

Bio

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and raised in Waldo, Maine, Jason grew up listening to everything from eighties Rap to Classic Rock, Blues, Jazz and Country. He joined the school choir in fifth grade, and co-founded a rap duo called “Def Poet Society." At ten years old, Jason began writing songs and performing for school events. As a teenager he gained local celebrity status while performing with his family band “Hemmens,” and "The Mount View Chamber Singers," an elite high school choir. At the age of fifteen Jason began playing the harmonica. A year later he picked up alto and tenor saxophone. He gained experience jamming with various Blues Artists who passed through town including Shemekia Copeland, Bernard Allison Jr. and Phillip Walker.

Shortly after graduating high school, Hemmens moved to Louisiana, and enrolled in the Jazz Studies Program at the University of New Orleans. It was at this time that he really began to develop his skills as a multi instrumentalist/vocalist. He studied with Jazz legends Terrance Blanchard and Harold Battiste during the day and performed at clubs on Bourbon Street through the night.

After graduating from UNO, Jason moved to Los Angeles, California where he currently resides. He is making a name for himself as an in-demand performer and studio musician. Hemmens has performed with Stevie Wonder, Tevin Campbell, and members of Guns N’ Roses and Poison, just to name a few. Jason is a true multi-instrumentalist, fluent on Saxophone, Harmonica, Piano, and Bass as well as being an accomplished Vocalist. In February, 2007, Hemmens performed at the Java Jazz Festival with Indonesian Legend Dwiki Dharmawan, and Los Angeles based group “Shapes."

In April, 2009, Jason began producing his debut album “Welcome to Reality,” for release on his indie label, Fan2C Records, with executive producer Sassy Outwater. The project was recorded at Studio City Sound, with Grammy-award-winning engineer Tom Weir, and features some of the best studio musicians in Los Angeles, including Keyboardist Herman Jackson (Stevie Wonder, American Idol); Guitarist Tim Pierce (Michael Jackson, Santana Madonna); and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Marcus Miller). The CD consists of ten songs, eight of which are Self-Penned. The mix of pop, rock, and jazz album show-cases Jason on alto, tenor and soprano sax, piano, keyboards, vocals and harmonica. The album was release Dec. 7th, 2010