Down East 2013 ©
Photograph by José Azel
Jason Spooner, a talented Maine singer-songwriter, has been revered regionally for close to a decade. This October, Spooner and his band (www.jasonspooner.com ) broke through onto the national scene with Sea Monster, an easy-to-listen-to, musically deft album that blends folk, funk, country, reggae, and pop sensibilities. We caught up with Spooner on tour to ask him about the new album and life in a Maine-based band.
How did you land in Maine?
I’m actually from northwestern Connecticut. I ended up in Maine because I went to Colby College. After Colby I ended up living on the midcoast on Lake Megunticook. I fully miss the midcoast. It’s just one of those places that is hard to beat. I moved to Portland around 1998, to be closer to a city center where things were really going on, and I’ve been here ever since.
What’s it like being a musician in Portland?
We get to see some of the most amazing cities and parts of the country, but there is something for me about getting off the plane or crossing that Kittery bridge and having that first deep breath of Atlantic air in Maine. All the places we’ve been deepen my appreciation for the state of Maine. Maine feels like our home. It’s certainly our creative home as a band. In addition to the wide array of artists that live here, the fact that I can leave downtown Portland at 4:59 and be on a deserted beach in seven minutes, that to me is invaluable. All my creative energy is rooted here, and I do most of my writing here.
What are some of your musical influences?
Neil Young is the northern star, the center of my galaxy. And recently I’ve been binging on JJ Cale. Traditionally my influences have been in the seventies singer-songwriter realm. I remember listening to my dad’s 8-track tapes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon. What amazed me is even at age ten, “The Boxer” or “Eleanor Rigby” could paint a completely definitive picture in the brain. That’s the power of music. But the other side of my dad’s 8-track collection was Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson — much more of a band groove thing. And those styles are closer to where my band is coming from. They have more of a funk/James Brown/reggae meter. My band has a much wider palette rhythmically. It makes for an interesting sort of soup of influences, and it really shows through on this record.
Can you describe Sea Monster?
This is our third studio album. We also have Live on the Loft, a live version of previous records. The elevator pitch for Sea Monster is interesting songwriting with a much more developed musical sensibility than we’ve had in the past. I think musically there’s a lot of growth here. As a band we’ve spent more time simmering this one musically. The singles getting the national attention right now are “Crashing Down” and “Half A Mind.”
What’s your favorite song on the record?
I’d say that our collective favorite song as a band is “Color of Rain” because it was a crystallizing of what it is we’re going for on the record. Personally, I would say “Seed in the Ground.” It’s probably the most honest one on the record and the most raw for me. A lot of people comment on that, that it’s one of the most poignant songs on the record.