There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who have discovered Jason Ayres, and those who are just about to. With his songs receiving airplay across mainstream media outlets like 96fm, Mix 94.5 and the ABC, and his constant drive to perform live around Australia, it’s hard to ignore his ever growing presence in the Australian music scene. We recently caught up with him and asked him a few questions.
Hi Jason, congratulations on your new EP, Got My Heart, which will have its official release in Perth on April 1st. Your song, Got My Heart, seems to be a song about unrequited love held by you, of a woman existing in an unfulfilling relationship: “I see all the tears that you’re constantly hiding … baby you’re golden and deserve nothing less than a man who’ll give you only his best … baby know that I will be waiting, until then I’ll love you from afar, got my heart …” Dare I intrude too much on your personal life, but is this song autobiographical? If it is, does writing songs about personal experiences, particularly painful ones, help with the healing process?
I believe you already have dared. Haha. The song is indeed autobiographical, at least the heart of it is. Most of my songs come from my heart and are dressed up in a way that can be consumed or appreciated by others. Songwriting definitely has a cathartic effect on me, but more than that, often times it opens up emotions that I never knew I had. I don’t choose a topic and then write about it. I open the creative space and explore what’s already here waiting for me to address.
In your Song, Baby Baby, you sing about being tired of broken hearts. Are you talking about your broken heart or breaking other people’s hearts or are you tired of people everywhere experiencing heart break?
I’ll take it one step further and say it’s about a couple who continuously break each others hearts. Not intentionally, but simply because they are perhaps not made for each other. Later in the song this line occurs “It’s not that I don’t love you, baby I still feel”… So while love may be enough to bring people together, it’s not always enough to keep them there.
In The Note You Wrote, you sing “I was hoping I would see you darling, one last time”, but then you sing “I’m alone and finally feeling free”. In my interpretation, you are exploring the dichotomy of so many intimate relationships where we love the person one minute then want to be free of them the next. Have I understood the meaning of the song fairly accurately and, if I have (I’m now placing you in the role of therapist), how do you believe people can navigate that push/pull dichotomy in relationships and maintain their dignity?
I like that you’ve taken your own meaning form the song. For me it’s about letting go of someone. Hoping that you’d see your darling, but that person no longer exists. They changed. You’ve changed. While still in the shackles of this turmoil trying to love someone who’s no longer there. Verse two brings the line “I was hoping that I’d see you my darling, but you’re not her.” The dreamed comes from knowing that there is life after love. Even if the whiskey was the band aid.
With My Dear, you sing “I’m waiting on the day to know you’re mine … another day just rolled by, so wait, let’s try to stop the time … so hold me close my dear, we’ll have no more fears.” Why is this woman so loveable and what are the fears you both will overcome if you hold each other close and try to stop time?
When you meet someone and really connect with them, I feel that time stops. I’ve experienced this. Where’s it’s 3am and you’re not tired because you just want to spent a little more time with them. It’s almost as if tomorrow may never come, or will bring challenges to separate you, but in this moment there is only you. There is only love. So you try to extract as much of it as possible while you can.
In Make Love Real, you sing about heavy days and nights, when your heart has become hardened by unmet dreams, in a world that doesn’t know you and doesn’t matter, and where everyone seems the same. That real love is extremely rare, if it exists at all. There is, however, a bright light, a very special person that enters your life, a person who loves you unconditionally amidst all of the challenges life throws at you and proves to you that love can definitely be real, when the right person comes along. What are your thoughts on our want and desire to mate with another and our discomfort, no matter how much some may profess otherwise, with living a single life? Surely it’s deeper than simple procreation in Darwinian terms?
I feel that certain actions and can be broken down into Darwinian terms. Where as living creatures our urge is to exist as long as possible, and procreation is the answer. But that only explains the physical realm. I am a believer in something bigger and more grand (although I can’t explain it) and there can be something very spiritual about finding someone you love. Which goes beyond procreation. It’s about finding someone who views the world as you do. Which makes the journey less lonely. Alone is not lonely. But it can be when you desire something else.
You’re touring your new music with the Got My Heart tour around Australia’s major cities throughout April and May. How rewarding is playing live and receiving that immediate audience response to your music?
Playing live and touring is at times the most difficult and stressful part of the whole process. It’s demanding from months before when you’re simply organising the tours, right up to tight schedules on planes and getting to the venue in a semi coherent state ready to perform again. . . But the process is so rewarding and fulfilling that in the moment, it’s all worth it. The connection with an audience throughout the performance is electric and addictive. And is the reason I keep flying around the country.
As someone who can barely play the spoons, that would be yours truly, how old were you when you first picked up a guitar, did you ever have lessons, and how did you become such an accomplished guitarist?
I messed around with guitar in my early teens, but it wasn’t until I moved to Perth at 17 years old that I picked a guitar up and dedicated myself to it. I started writing my own songs long before I could play anyone else’s, just because no one told me how to do anything. So I learned a few chords from books and away I went. . . I later found myself surrounded my accomplished guitar players in the studio and wrangled a few people into teaching me regularly. And through years of touring solo, I had to come up with ways to fill the space on stage with more Intricate playing and tricks to keep interest in the songs. So I was kind of forced into improving my craft if I wanted people to keep coming to shows.
When writing songs, are you inspired by personal experiences, are you inspired by observing other people’s experiences or do you write from your imagination?
I wouldn’t say I’m strictly one or another. But I know for sure that the closer I get to my heart and experiences, the easier it is to write, the quicker the process and better the results.
How do you know you have written a song that you know in your heart will touch people?
I don’t think I ever know for sure what will make an impact on people and deeply connect. I wrote songs sometimes with stringer and more emotive themes in the hope that it resonates with kindred souls, but there are no guarantees in art. Simply a love for the creation and the hope that it’s well received.
In your bio online, there is a quote that says “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who have discovered Jason Ayres, and those who are just about to.” I am enthusiastically in the former category, having just discovered you and your music. How does it feel to be introduced to the world with such a deep respect for your musicianship?
I’m honoured that you’re in enthusiastically in the former. I guess I don’t spend much time considering how I am addressed or perceived. I’m working hard at gaining recognition for my craft in the hopes that I end up with a loyal base of listeners who I can create for and entertain. I’m happy enough just being able to make music.
There are also two other quotes online: First, “… this artist possesses finesse and sophistication beyond his years” (Music Connection Magazine USA); and second, “… a charismatic and sincere performer who delivers quality songs” (Drum Media Australia). Do you allow yourself a moment to gloat? Speaking personally, I would! How does it feel to be described in such flattering terms and as such a talented artist?
I appreciate the recognition as I often work tirelessly on my shows and abilities to produce higher quality products each time I deliver. But there is no time for gloating when you’re busy. And I think there’s a danger in believing that you’re THAT good. I think it would make you lazy. It’s far more important to focus on improving and being great, rather than sitting back and just believing that you are.
Your songs are regularly being played on mainstream media including 96FM, Mix 94.5 and the ABC. You are consistently touring across Australia as the headline act. You are also supporting national and international acts including, Anastacia, Hot Chocolate, Leo Sayer, Thirsty Merc, The Whitlams and The Black Sorrows. As a consequence, your presence in the Australian music scene is continually expanding. How do you feel about your increasing popularity with the public as well as with fellow musicians?
It’s literally been a lifetime of work to get me here, so I appreciate it all. I’m grateful for every show, and every album sale. I consider myself very lucky to have had some amazing opportunities and I’ve done my best to make the most of them. So of there’s any attention at all on what I’m doing, I’ll appreciate it.
If I may be so bold, after listening to so many of your beautiful songs, I will make the following prediction: That you will enjoy great success and sooner rather than later. If I’m right, and I believe I am, I want to make a prediction for you to respond to: How do you think you will cope with national and international recognition and success?
To be honest, I’m still learning to cope with where I’m at. The level of stress and pressure can be very real sometimes. Compiled with an ever expanding ‘to do list’ – before you’ve even sung one note. So I’m hoping that I will experience a never ending expansion of my abilities to manage and cope as things proceed. I can’t predict how I will be in the future, but I will certainly focus my attention on improving my ‘present’ to have a better chance in my future.
Jason, I have been dying to ask a musician the following question so, lucky you, I am posing the question to you: Why do you believe so many songs, of every genre, and by pretty much every artist, are about romantic relationships?
Love is emotion. Great music captures emotion. Love is certainly the most universal. We as humans send so much of our lives searching for it, developing it. And we are devastated when we lose it. I guess it hits home for so many people, and songwriters aren’t immune to broken hearts or emotional turmoil.
Your music style has been described as folk, country, pop, rock and alternative. What is your view about identifying musicians in terms of genre?
As an artist it’s sometimes difficult to make heads or tails of it as you write songs based on feel. Perhaps not to fit into a genre. But I feel that as a listener it can be very important in finding what you like. If you like heavy death metal, or prefer classical then chances are you may steer clear of the new Jason Ayres record, and you’d be OK. You may miss the opportunity to discover something new that you may like, but essentially it’s like finding the food you like. So having it categorised makes life much easier for the consumer. And the consumer is the reason we fit into genres.
It has been said that some of your musical influences include Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Jeff Buckley and Ryan Adams. A two part question: First, what is it about these musicians that inspire your sound? Second, if I have a song in my head, it can bug me for days. How do songwriters such as yourself ensure your songs are not too derivative?
They have all influenced me in massive ways. In my mind – Bob Dylan made it OK for me to write and perform as a solo acoustic artist. Jack Johnson taught me about being the acoustic troubadour. John Mayer opened my ears to more complex musical structure while packaging songs in a digestible form. Jeff Buckley inspired me to work harder on my vocals and to hear things differently. While Ryan Adams brought my music home. He makes me want to capture emotions and put them in a song. And he’s taught me that country is not a dirty word.
My trick while writing new material is to stay away from other peoples music. When I’m deep in my album writing mode, I avoid radio, live shows and generally steer clear of hearing anything that may influence me. That way I know that what I’m hearing in my mind is pure. I can always colour the song in the studio, but at least I know my raw material is as it should be.
By Julie Ink-Slinger
GOT MY HEART
is the brand new record and tour, and is hitting a city near you…
1st April – Astor Theatre, PERTH – Click HERE for tickets
8th April – Club Voltaire, MELBOURNE – Click HERE for tickets
9th April – Red Rattler, SYDNEY – Click HERE for tickets
14th May – Republic Bar, Hobart – Click HERE for tickets
21st May – Milk Factory, Brisbane – Click HERE for tickets
AMNPLIFY – DB