Vol. 2, Issue #13 July 20th - August 2nd, 2007

A Few Words with Jason Webley
By: Robert Cole

The man has a strange way with music. His style is unique and ranges from contemporary to ancient and makes his live performances among the best in the world. Jason Webley has been across every nook of the planet, playing for every type of human being and making them laugh, drink and celebrate no matter the language. Jason’s almost multi-lingual musicianship is fascinating to experience. This versatile musician and traveler will be making an appearance at Oklahoma City’s Red Cup July 26th.

> Out of your albums, which one was the most exciting to put together?

Exciting? Interesting word... not sure if any of them were exciting. The first one was the most surprising. I didn’t really realize I was making an album, and when I put the songs next to each other in order for the first time, it was almost shocking how much stronger they became once they were placed next to each other. That hasn’t happened so much since. Even though I like all the later albums more, when putting the songs next to each other there has never been that feeling that the songs were made stronger by the other songs. Except I guess with the last one. The other albums, I had a lot of strange attachment to. They felt ridiculously important while I was making them, when they were finished and I listened to them in their entirety I was a bit disappointed that no miracle had happened.

> You’ve recalled before that at some point someone “put an accordion in your hand.” When did you decide to become a professional busker and at what age did you begin to travel with your music?

No one put an accordion in my hand. My father bought one at a garage sale because it was almost free. And my mother played a bit. I asked to use it for a play I was working on my last year of college. I would have been 22 I think. I never decided to become a professional busker. I just quit the other things I was doing and decided to play the accordion on the street until I ran out of money. The traveling and being a person who actually calls himself a musician grew out of that slowly.
> What kind of music shaped your life while you were growing up? What sounds have shaped your life in your adult years?

Theme songs for TV Shows (the Land of the Lost, the Greatest American Hero) the Sound of Music. The first tape I ever owned was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Mostly I had bad taste in music. I loved Billy Joel and the Monkees. Someone made me a dub of Def Leppard “Hysteria” that I played to death in 7th grade. Somewhere shortly after I started listening to punk stuff. That is the only time I have been an active fan of music. I know every word of every song by the Dead Kennedy’s, Fugazi, Jawbreaker and a hundred mostly forgotten bands.

Now, I don’t listen actively to music so much. I try to just be alert and absorb what is going on around me. The stuff that really excites me are things that my friends are up to. I’m putting out solo records by my bassist Jherek Bischoff and violin/violist Alex Sprout Guy really soon. I’m pretty excited about both of those projects. My friend Jeff Harms from Chicago is amazing. I’m touring in January with a Czech accordion player, Jana Vebrova. I think she is an incredible songwriter and performer. I hope to put out records with both of them also.

> Tell me more about your interest in produce- specifically the Tomato. Is there an allusion to growth there or do you just have an affinity for grocery fruits and vegetables? Is it just a silly random thing that you enjoy?

I guess it started off silly and random. But nothing really stays silly and random. The Tomato, hopefully still is funny. But it I guess in a way is a metaphor. Often it is a woman. Sometimes my mother. Sometimes it is God. Sometimes it is the thing that kills me. Somehow I think it is connected to the heart. It is also my car.

> With instruments aside, how do you like to spend your time?

Answering e-mail. Booking, promoting and playing shows. Trying to remember and spend time with my friends.

>A 3 song CD 11 Saints was recently released that you and Seattle poet Jay Thompson put together in just an hour. What was the collaboration like and will we be seeing more of these albums after your 2006 release, ‘How Big is Tacoma?’

An hour? We spent a day writing the songs, and “putting together” the project took a lot more than that. It was fast, but not an hour... the song “Eleven Saints” was written in like 10 minutes, though. It is a 7” record with 3 songs that come with a 14 song CD, with those songs and out-takes. It is a new project for me, these limited edition collaborations. There will be 11 of them in all, and each will be limited to 1,111 copies. “Eleven Saints” is sold out already, and the second one with Andru Bemis is well past half-gone. They are a lot of fun. The next few records will hopefully be with Reverend Peyton from Indianapolis, Jana Vebrova from the Czech Republic, Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls.

> You would symbolically ‘die’ in the winter, taken away from your final show in a glass coffin, and come back to life in the spring with a new tour. I’ve read that at a 2005 Halloween show you did not die as expected. Was it a seasonal depression or just an allegory; and what started this cycle to begin with?

I don’t remember a glass coffin... How the whole thing started is complicated and was a mystery to me at the time. It is something I haven’t spoken much about and that I am a bit tired of. But, yes, I am done with dying for now. I will hopefully only die one more time.

> Can passers by still find you playing on the streets across the world, or have you been focusing on touring venues and festivals?

Nope. Haven’t played on the streets for a few years now. Except for very occasional moments of whimsy.

> You typically play solo performances with only your guitar, an accordion and a bottle full of coins from around the globe. Can you see yourself adding to your instrument ensemble in the future, or does that simplicity develop the older sound you’ve been nurturing over your career?

I like being alone on stage. There is something very powerful about a single person in front of a group of people. I play with a band sometimes though. I like to change things up.

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