Jason McCoy

Jason McCoy



Jason McCoy is more than straight-up country. He may argue the point, but one thing is certain upon listening to his fourth and latest album, Sins, Lies & Angels, there's both homage to tradition, as well as classic pop songwriting, all held together by his voice, clever lyrics and rootsy production.

"The first two records I did were very contemporary country, fairly commercial. I was just trying to get my feet wet," Jason says. "The next album was a lot of experimenting with what fit my voice. It gave me more longevity, based on a body of work, not singles. On this one, I didn't go in with too many preconceived ideas; it was very relaxed."

With one gold album and numerous SOCAN songwriter awards to his name, the 33-year-old singer-guitarist has come into his own. From the retro feel of "Please Please," through to the front-porch folk of "Old Chunk Of Coal," the album is top and tailed by these two pieces that have a yesteryear feel, and divided by something a little different for Jason, the fast-picking hillbilly stomp of "I Feel A Sin Coming On." In between are more contemporary-sounding cuts, like the slow sexy single, "Still," cool pop of "She Ain't Missin', Missin' Me," absolutely gorgeous "Wild Flower," sentimental "She'd Rather Be Lonely Thank Sorry," and a genuine love song, "You Still Do It For Me."

Produced by Jason McCoy and Grammy winner Colin Linden (Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings), in Toronto and Nashville, and released on MapleMusic's brand new country music imprint Open Road Recordings, Sins, Lies & Angels also uncovers a man, who seems to have become the tortured artist over time, if many of his lyrics are to be believed. "I know," he laughs. "It's getting bad."

The two songs he wrote entirely by himself (something he hasn't done in years) are a case in point. "Guardian Angel" talks about loving way too fast, and acting before he thinks. "I've always run faster than my guardian angel can fly," he sings in the upbeat admission. In the sombre "I Lie," a song about the demise of a relationship, he says, "I was just in a place where I said, 'I'm okay,' but I lied because nobody wants to hear about it anyway”.

"I just went through a self-inflicted crisis maybe a year ago and it hasn't really gone away," Jason explains. "I always thought I had it all together, but I guess maybe don’t."

For the most part, Jason takes his woe and spins it into smart, wry songs of loss. From "Please Please," in which the self-admitted fool begs a woman to break his heart, to the self-blame of "She Ain't Missing, Missing Me," -- both tracks are fun and tongue-in-cheek -- he says the crisis phase doesn't seem to go away. "I don't know why. So I hope more songs come out of it, as something good."

Of the three songs on Sins, Lies & Angels Jason didn't write, "Old Chunk Of Coal" (by Billy Joe Shaver) has been a staple of his live acoustic set for years; "It Ain't Easy Being Me" is a self-deprecating alas lyric (by Chris Knight) selected for the reasons above; and "Thrown Out Of Love" (penned by co-producer Colin Linden, and Jim Lauderdale) has a slightly amused resignation to his failures in the love department.

But that's the essence of country music. Born in Minesing, Ont., a town so small it only now boasts its first ESSO gas station, Jason ate breakfast every morning to the sound of his dad's country radio channel. One of his sisters liked Donny Osmond; the other Barry Manilow, so the way he figures it he had no choice but to gravitate towards country.

At age 5, the family moved to Camrose, Alberta, returning three years later. "The cowboy culture really stuck with me. I just fell in love with the music. For some reason, as a little kid, I had some sort of connection with these guys who were singing about these depressing things," says Jason, citing Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash to lesser known artists like Ed Bruce and Wynn Stewart. "I just didn't have a voice for rock 'n' roll."

As a teenager, he did own a rock 'n' roll guitar, complete with distortion pedal, and was partial to AC/DC, but when the '80s hit and the guitar was largely replaced by synths, Jason joined a band called Three Quarter Country ("the part that wasn't country was stuff like Buddy Holly."), which performed at legions, Saturday night dances, and clubs in Barrie, Midland, Orillia and other "very small towns."

He used to have a steady gig on Thursday nights as well, but did double duty in his high school concert band, which practiced the same night. He'd dart out halfway through to play with Three Quarter Country. He had just got his driver's license, but before that someone would drive him to each gig, his bandmates at least two decades older than himself.

Jason's talent oozed through his tweed blazer and shirts with metal collar tips. At 16, he won a local talent contest, which took him to Nashville to record an album.