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Our Spotlight – Jason Maxwell. Ontario native, Jason comes to us to chat about music and his career so far. We talk about inspirations and processes when it comes to putting out his tunes in this great convo. Check it out and learn a little more about this talented artist. 

Could you give us a little intro about who you are and your music?

What’s up Hidden Beats! I’m a singer-songwriter and Country recording artist from Toronto, ON. I record out of Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN and I’d describe my music as Josh Kerr’s songwriting meets Mitchell Tenpenny’s production.

What got you started in music?

Music was always an integral part of my day-to-day life but my aspiration to pursue music professionally was heavily influenced by the movie “School of Rock”. Immediately after watching the movie, I wanted to play the drums and guitar but my parents weren’t too thrilled with the idea of hearing drums banging and crashing throughout the house so we mutually settled on guitar. I first picked up the guitar when I was 12 years old but I didn’t really take the deep dive into the music world until my final year of university. I joined a local band to play rhythm guitar and sing background harmony – after a year or so I had the realization that I wanted to be the lead creative sharing my own artistry with the world. I recorded and released my first EP that Summer and ended up touring and performing all across Ontario. 

Later on that Fall, I applied for an emerging artist program at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, TN and I was fortunate and lucky enough to be approved which led to the first of several trips to record in one of the world’s most renowned studios – and here we are today!

Do you have specific inspirations?

I’m mostly inspired by real-life experiences – to be honest, I don’t/can’t write unless I’m genuinely inspired because I’m not your standard Nashville songwriter chalking up 10 songs a day for the sake of writing. I don’t create well when it feels forced but I thrive creatively when I’m personally connected to a song idea or concept.

What’s your process like when coming up with music?

It definitely varies in the sense that there’s no strictly regimented process or approach. Sometimes I’ll have an idea or a specific lyrical phrase I want to build the song around – other times I’ll have writer’s block content-wise and instead I’ll work out a vocal or instrumental lead melody to build the track feel and groove around. For me, there’s no such thing as words first music-second or vice-versa – I find I write my best songs when I find the type of sonic energy that genuinely and passionately resonates. Once I find that space, I always try to build the entire song around that core foundational feeling that ultimately gives the song its life.

Your track, For Now, tells a story about a relationship that wasn’t meant to be “For Now”. Do you draw on personal experiences often when putting together a track?

99% of the time my songwriting is inspired by personal experiences. There’s the odd time when I get an idea from outside my personal life but I’ll often relate the outside idea to a story or experience from my life that I can connect with more in-depth so I’ll write about my own story/experience instead. I struggle when it comes to writing about topics I’m not familiar with or connected to in any personal manner – I excel when writing about topics I’m personally immersed in/with.

What is the music scene like for you at home?

From a genre standpoint I’d say the Toronto music scene is heavily focused on Pop, Rap, Hip-Hop, and R&B. There’s a small Country music scene in Toronto but it’s starting to expand at an increasing rate in the surrounding GTA communities. Toronto is arguably the premier professional music hub in Canada as the city is home to legendary live music venues, major booking agencies, major management groups, and major record labels.

How was working on music during covid?

Everything shifted to the digital world – in-person writing sessions and live shows were quickly replaced with Zoom/Skype writes and TikTok/Instagram Live concert streams. I ended up doing a lot of solo writing and posting more content on social media than ever before.

Did you come up with some new hobbies during covid?

At the very start of covid, I got really into the board game Settlers of Catan. About halfway through covid, I got hooked on Rocket League. Just as we’ve started to return to normal on all fronts – now I’m hooked on the board game Ticket to Ride.

Tell us about Full Out 2 on Netflix.

Getting involved with Full Out 2 was a surreal experience. I had never been on a movie set before, my closest movie-making experience was when I was a background extra in a Daya music video. I got to perform my original song Girls Like to Dance in Full Out 2 and I played electric guitar in the movie – I always play acoustic guitar so I had spent an entire month learning the electric guitar parts from the song note for note so that I could perform it in the movie naturally without having to look down at the guitar to play. For my performance, I was accompanied by 4 backup dancers who had prepared a specific choreography routine for my song which was a cool experience because I’ve never had backup dancers perform with me and I’ve never had any dance choreography arranged for any of my original songs.

Are you typically business up front and party in the back or is that just the hairstyle?

I probably come across as more of a party up front and party in the back but in reality, I’m always in business mode but I’m never not in party mode. I didn’t go to music school – I graduated with a major in Law & Business and a minor in Accounting so I’ve always approached music with a calculated, business-oriented mindset. That being said, I’m never going to say no to a drink or 6 – I work hard, I play hard but I try to work harder than I play.

Now that the world is opening up how do you think the musical landscape has evolved?

The musical landscape has gone fully global. From a distribution standpoint, indie DIY artists can share their music worldwide at an affordable cost. From a marketing standpoint, indie DIY artists can promote their music on a worldwide scale by posting on social media. Live shows in-person will return to function as they once did but the rest of the musical landscape has transitioned into a fully digital era.

You’ve already got some fun names under your belt having opened for The Reklaws and Washboard Union already. Are there any live shows coming up?

I’ll be performing in Pickering on August 11th with special guest Jonny Lee and I’ll be back performing in Alliston this September/October.

Who’s your dream collab you’d love to work with?

Morgan Wallen would be a pretty dope collab – it would be unreal to sing on a song with him, imagine the mullet-to-mullet connection! It’d be pretty insane to have John Mayer rip a solo or two on a record of mine. If I could do a crossover collab I’d 100% be working with Russ – I’m a huge fan of his music but I’m a bigger fan of his personality, approach to music, belief system, and willingness to share invaluable industry insight.

Are there any up-and-coming artists out there right now you think we should be watching out for?

Madelyn Paquette. I’ve been following her journey for a while now – her artistry is remarkable and she’s an incredible songwriter and vocalist. I can’t imagine a world where she doesn’t become a massive superstar.

A couple of fun questions. What’s something on your go-to playlist that people wouldn’t expect you to listen to?

I’m a huge Lil Wayne fan – Tha Carter series and Da Drought series are a jam anytime anywhere. I was in high school when Lil Wayne hit the mainstream spotlight and I was instantly hooked by his lyrical wordplay – he always had the most creative analogies and references that were cleverly tied to contemporary pop culture.

What’s some advice you were given coming up that you held on to the most?

Do one thing to advance your career every day. It’s impossible to move a mountain in a day but you can chip away at it in small sections day in and day out until everything starts to snowball.

What motivates you to keep going with your music? Why do you do what you do?

I love music. I love performing. I love writing. I have a biochemical addiction to music. I can’t picture life without it. It’s never been about the size of the stage, the number of streams, or the size of the crowd – I do it because I f****** love it.

Spotlight – Jason Maxwell has come to an end. Big thanks to Jason for taking the time to chat

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