Maine Switch

 

Back in Portland with a new disc

Jason Spooner Trio will play pair of shows

June 21, 2007
By WILLIAM EARL
 
Portland-based guitarist Jason Spooner has received many accolades for his songwriting, achieving recognition in countless competitions which took him on tours across the country. But the 33-year-old Spooner, who started playing guitar in high school, found one of his biggest challenges in assembling a band to support his debut album, 2003’s “Lost Houses.” Since that record, Spooner has joined forces with bassist Andy Rice and drummer Reed Chambers. After years on the road, the trio has just released “The Flame You Follow,” an organic offering which blends many elements of the group’s sound. I recently talked with Spooner to discuss his influences, touring and the ignition of “Flame.”

Maine Switch: How is the new record different from your previous work?

Jason Spooner:
The most frequent feedback that we’ve been getting thus far is that listeners are finding it to be a very different sound compared to the first record. “Lost Houses” felt more like a songwriter effort — a series of songs that I’d written over the years into which a band was folded in, almost as an afterthought. Andy, our current bass player, hadn’t joined the band yet and I’d played a handful of casual, duo gigs with Reed. There were a few originals that the band was comfortable with, but the majority of the tunes picked for that record were new to us as a collective. The result is that many of the songs took shape in the studio itself. In some cases, that yielded split decisions which made for some cool moments and other decisions that I wish we’d had more time to mull over.

As we started thinking about the new record, the big difference was that the trio had roughly five years of extensive ensemble performance under our belts. We had played tons of local shows supplemented with a good deal of touring and performing in a variety of locations and settings: bars, clubs, coffee houses, churches, theaters, festivals, etc. As time goes on, you can’t help but develop a sound. For us, this grew out of the nature of a trio — trying to do a lot with a little. We really tried to translate that sound and use it as the foundation for the new record. The other major difference with the new record was extensive pre-production. We rented a small studio and recorded demos of everything, working and reworking them constantly. We took nearly two months to map out the framework of the disc so that the decisions were made and things were far more deliberate when we went in for the real sessions. We also did a lot of listening and “co-educating,” talking about guitar tones or snare drum sounds from our favorite records.

MS: What inspires the songs your band writes?

JS:
There’s a handful of different ideas on the record, but my overall goal from the early writing stages was to create a piece, a collection of songs where the whole felt greater than the sum of the parts. All of my favorite records were pieces: Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Beatles, etc. We all focused on keeping this cohesive from day one. If I were to categorize the tunes, I’d say there are some story tunes derived from things I’ve seen, read or dreamed up. Then there are some that might be called “snap shot” tunes that are more like character sketches. There are also, inevitably, some relationship tunes on the record; songwriters find it hard to avoid that territory, I think.

MS: How is the Jason Spooner Trio different live than on records?

JS:
We’ve always considered our situation to be somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, and I think it stems from the simple fact that we all like to perform and perform often. That premise means that when we get out and play shows we still have a lot fun with it. In Portland I think we sort of bring a light-hearted thing to the table that translates to the crowd that is looking to have a good time. We try to get people moving — it’s more like we’re partying with friends. It does seem, however, at times, that people are largely unaware of what we’re up to outside of the walls of the village. When we travel, the performances are much closer to the records, especially at national festivals where we’re sharing the stage with career songwriters and people whose records we own.

MS: After you complete touring to support the new album, what horizons does the band hope to explore?

JS:
I think we’re just focusing on building and growing our efforts while still keeping things fun and interesting. That’s the character of this band that I’ve always liked; that we are, above all, good friends who really enjoy playing music. I think the plan from here is to continue what we’re doing in different markets. The trio formation makes us a little more nimble than larger bands so I think we just need to keep expanding in different settings. The “songwriter” label is a pretty wide one that encompasses folk, AAA, college, jam band, Americana and the list goes on. I think it makes sense to have some experience in all of those markets and see where it takes us.

- For more information on Jason Spooner, visit www.jasonspooner.com, where you can also purchase his new album.

- Catch the Jason Spooner Trio in twin Portland CD release shows. The first will be on Friday, June 29 at The Wine Bar in Portland at 9 p.m.; the second, Saturday, June 30 at Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant in Portland at 9:30 p.m. Both shows are cover-free.