Good Times

Maine Spotlight:
Hanging Back with Jason Spooner

February 2005
Nick Kimball
Maine-based songwriter, Jason Spooner, has been impressing audiences with his special blend of original music in the Portland area now for over five years. At a young age, Jason absorbed a variety of styles and influences that have had a profound effect on his song crafting. Spooner attributes his musical roots to his father, who turned him on to songwriters such as Jim Croce, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Stevie Wonder.

Growing up in Washington, Connecticut, Spooner moved to Maine to attend Colby College. “Maine feels a hundred percent more like home than Connecticut,” says Jason. “Just everything, the people, the vibe; there is nothing remotely like the city of Portland in the state I grew up in.”

After college, living on a lake in mid-coast Maine, he began writing a solid foundation of original material. Moving to Portland, Jason switched his focus on writing, to playing live wherever he could. While primarily playing solo gigs for the first couple years, Jason formed the Jason Spooner Band in 99’, a backbone of solid rhythm and driving bass that has given his music another dimension of expression and performance. “Playing in a band has really expanded my range as far as music goes tremendously,” says Spooner. “In terms of how I look at music, how I look at collaborations, and how I look at my own songs, it’s just blown a whole new wing into the entire framework.”

The band which now consists of Jason (acoustic guitar), Andy Rice (stand-up and electric bass), and John May (drums), have become a tight nit powerhouse of soulful style giving their music signatures of blues, folk, funk, and country. Playing all over New England, the Spooner Trio has become favorites at many venues while their consistent original blend generates a mix of well-crafted songs and compelling rhythms. “When I started writing songs, I would envision myself performing in a mellow coffeehouse, and now it’s more of a band set up,” explains Jason. “With the band, the writing develops more in a live setting, where you can really explore with the music more.”

When it comes to his song writing, Jason tries to keep two approaches in his mind. “You can write very literal stuff and then kind of heady conceptual stuff, and to me the two folds are Johnny Cash and REM,” explains Jason. “With Johnny Cash, it’s so literal, that the poetry is in the fact that it is so literal. It’s not really about the lyrics, it’s more about how you sing it and what you are saying,” explains Jason. “REM is more broad stroke; you can listen to an REM tune and walk away with a number of different interpretations.”

Jason’s songwriting has emerged as being consistently riveting and poignant. His distinctive vocal style and unique chops have made him and his band a driving force in the local Portland music scene. The group’s commitment to their music and to each other has kept their sound continually growing and exploring its limits.

“We never set out for any one thing or any one genre or purpose,” says Jason. “When we first started, we just played the tunes; there wasn’t a lot of jamming. Now we are exploring more, and I think we have all gotten a lot more confident with the material. It’s gotten more interesting musically.”

The Spooner Trio has grown tremendously over the past few years, something Jason attributes to the space of the music. “It’s in what you’re not doing, or where you’re doing things; the band setting has made me so much more aware of that,” he explains. “For my own playing style it has made me hang back to an extent, but I’ve learned more about lead and little parts.” What stands out in the bands live performance is the crowd. It seems like everywhere they go, the Spooner Band’s audience goes with them; an energized crowd appreciative of the music that makes them feel the way they do. “You can really tell when people are with you and when they’re not and I think we’ve become pretty good at attempting things and realizing what works and what doesn’t,” says Jason. “We’re just grateful that in a pretty small city like Portland, we still get people out and have a good time when we play, that’s just about all you can ask for.”

The Jason Spooner Band adds their own flavor on everything they do, whether it’s folk music, blues, funk, or reggae. Their arrangements and original touch melt into whatever it is their playing. “The music has to be soulful and original,” says Jason. “I would hope that people just think that it is heartfelt and spontaneous.” The one thing this band takes to heart is the goal to have as much fun with the songs as the audience does. “When you see three guys truly having fun on stage, it’s going to translate to the audience,” say Jason. “Collectively, we frown on any attitude that comes along with music because it’s just not what it’s about. You need to be as appreciative as you can possibly be to the people who come and keep you company every week,” Jason explains. “If you loose sight of that, you’re just going to turn a lot of people away.” Turning people away is something this group knows nothing about.

As their diverse fan group grows, The Spooner Band’s performances become further polished and laced with more exciting originals and clever covers. The band plans to hit the studio soon and take things that happen live and formulize them into an ensemble record. The new album will have the band informing the songs in a live nature, rather than the songs informing the band. “You know, we’re not the best players around, we’re not the best singers around, but we really enjoy what we are doing,” says Jason. “I just want to play, and play a lot, and as long as I’m having fun doing it, I’ll play wherever.” For sights and sounds of the band, check out where you can stay up to date with shows and new material. Also, keep your ears out for Jason’s song “Big Black Hole” which has been chosen as a finalist in the John Lennon National Song Writers competition.