Over the last month, we conducted a poll to discover who is the best rising country star in 2016? Users were allowed to submit their own choices for their favorite artist and we received over 20,000 votes on the poll. Jason Sain & the Foolhearted received 5,058 votes which amounted to 23.36% of the total votes, making him the winner of our award. We presented this award to Jason and he was kind enough to answer some questions for us about his life as a rising country star.
Congrats on winning the fan’s choice rising country star award for 2106!
“The band and I are both tickled and honored. We forget sometimes, being based in Branson, MO allows us to play for people all over the country without spending 200 days a year on the road. It is nice to know that folks continue to come home from vacation and share their experience and our music with their friends. Thank you for this award, and I am happy to do my best to answer your questions!”
At what moment in your life did you realize you had to pursue country music?
“I realized I had to pursue country music shortly after my second divorce. I spent 10 years in a rock band called So Far Gone. This was the late 90’s early 2000’s and we toured with most of the big acts of the day including, Incubus, Papa Roach, and Buckcherry. After we broke up, I began to realize that no matter how much I loved rock-n-roll, I wasn’t from New York or LA, no matter how much I loved the blues, I hadn’t grown up in the Mississippi Delta, and though I might dig reggae, I’m certainly not Jamaican. My long time producer/mentor Lou Whitney gave me some advice, and said ‘Sometimes you just gotta breathe the air you’re born too.’
I grew up in the Texas Panhandle near the Oklahoma border where guys like Waylon Jennings, Don Williams, and Roger Miller were local artists. Even in my rock days, if someone would throw me an acoustic guitar to start playing, I could always get the room drunk and sentimental when I started playing country. I began to realize that my upbringing had given me a unique connection to the music. My old man has the best taste in country music in the world, and I had grown up learning to play music with him and his brothers and cousins at family gatherings.
Down and out after that second divorce, I started to take my songwriting seriously, and one of the guitarists from So Far Gone and I decided to put together The Foolhearted. He traded in his stack for a mandolin, and we picked up some local Branson hot shots to play dobro, bass, banjo, and fiddle. The mandolin player, Travis ‘Heavy T’ Gates, and I have now been playing together for over 20 years.”
Where is your favorite place you have ever played?
“Our favorite place is The Outback Pub in Branson, MO. It isn’t a huge venue, but it was the first one where we really built a following. Branson has been either a homebase , or a hometown for most of us, so every time we go back there now, it is kinda like Rock-N-Roll High School Reunion. I really used to love Foxtown City Limits near Frontenac, Kansas before they closed their doors, as well. It was half indoors, and half outdoors. Summer shows there were a ton of fun.”
Who are your main inspirations?
“My main inspirations would be Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, and the Stanley Brothers. I’m a sucker for a sad country song, and those guys did it better than anyone. Bob Wills was from Turkey, Texas, about 50 miles from where I grew up. I really love Western Swing, as well! That combination of country music and jazz is so much fun, and challenging to play correctly. I guess, I’m one of those Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music kind of guys…”
If you had to chose someone other than yourself to be this year’s emerging country star, who would it be?
“If I had to choose someone other than ourselves to be this year’s emerging country star, it would have to be either Sturgill Simpson, or Cody Jinks. Both of those guys are great! It thrills me that there are some really great up and coming traditional country guys out there making a go of it. I also love, Whitey Morgan and Tommy Ash, as well.”
What does country music mean to you?
“It may be cliche’, but to me country music is ‘Three Chords and the Truth.’ There will always be a need for songs about real life, and the often overlooked majority working class in this country. In recent years, we have a seen what I like to call ‘The Decline of Country and Western Civilization.’ However, there is beginning to be a resurgence of authentic country music played by the guys who still write their own songs in the underground. Hopefully, this trend will continue, and Nashville will take notice. Several of my fellow musician buddies like to dis Pop Country, but I always point out that Pop is short for popular. They make it because, they believe they can sell it. It is the music BUSINESS after all. I am the first one to urge fans of traditional country to go out and actually purchase the albums of any new up and coming traditional artists. That is the only way to force the pendulum to swing back.”
For people interested in your music, what one song do you think defines your band the best?
“The song off our current album, ‘Dames, Trains, and Texas Size Tales’, I would most like to be remembered for is ‘Rust On the Wire’. I wrote it after spending a few weeks on my family’s farm in Texas. I saw these rusty, 50+ year old barbed wire fences, and wondered about the stories those fences would tell. We shot a big part of that video on our farm in Collingsworth County. I am very pleased with how it turned out. The song, ‘Down and Out In Dallas’ defines us as a group pretty well. I wrote that one after bailing Heavy T out of jail in Oklahoma one night on the way to Dallas.”
Country music has many genres, what genre would you classify your music as?
I have always thought our contribution to country music has been based on where we were from. I grew up in Texas, but the rest of the guys grew up in the Ozark Mountains. Our sound has kind of developed into a West Texas take on Bluegrass, or Ozarks music. Occasionally, we get a drummer buddy to sit in, and break out the Telecasters for a night of all out Bakersfield worship, but overall we are a cross between old-time and honky-tonk.
Do you have plans for any new music, albums or anything you are currently working on?
“Currently, I am finishing up a bluegrass gospel album with my family that I have always dreamed of doing. We do plan to finally release The Foolhearted’s follow-up to Dames, Train, and Texas Size Tales this year, tentatively titled, Blue Collar Blues. It will feature our most popular song, ‘She Deleted Me From Facebook’, which has yet to have an official release. We finished that album up with my long time producer, Lou Whitney, shortly before he passed away.”
If you weren’t playing country music what would you be doing?
“If I wasn’t playing country music, I would most likely be teaching in the Roots Music Department at The Conservatory of the Ozarks, in Springfield, MO. They have been a great support to us, and I have loved teaching songwriting workshops there, on occasion. I plan on finishing a degree in American Folk Music, and teaching there, if I ever decide to take a step away from performing.”
What makes your band different or what new elements do you bring to country music that sets you apart?
“The thing that sets us apart from other country artists is our backgrounds. We really are a great mix of our styles and influences. Of course, I grew up in Texas, and have been greatly influenced by Western Swing and Honky Tonk. Heavy, our bassist Seth Darby, and banjo man Todd Plympton all grew up in the Ozarks, and are well versed in traditional Ozark’s bluegrass. Our fiddler, Louis Darby grew up in Louisiana, and won the state championship in Cajun style fiddling a number of years. Kris Snow, on dobro, grew up in California, and was around all of the great bluegrass coming out of there as a kid. The background Heavy T and I have in big budget rock shows has given our live show an energy you don’t get with most artists in traditional music. We still live by the punk rock ethos, ‘Loud, Fast, Rules!’ Not to mention, thanks to Branson, we love lights, fog, and pyrotechnics… and Nudie suits when the venues are appropriate.”
What other thoughts, advice or insight would you like to tell fans out there?
“I would like to encourage fans to dig into the underground country scene. The best artists, and hopefully the stars of tomorrow, are guys you haven’t even heard of yet. Underground country is not unlike the underground alternative music of the early 90s, in that it is ripe with artists who are getting back to the roots of the music. There will always be a need for simple songs that a kid can learn to play in his bedroom.
I get a feeling the underground is ready to explode on the scene, as I see one internet feed after another blasting the over-produced, over-formulaic music being pushed on us by Nashville the past few years. If you are as sick of the current commercial formula as the rest of the silent working class majority is, then I hope you will search these underground artists out, and actually buy their music. They are out there struggling and working their asses off for their art, in hopes of making a human connection. The humanities, such as art and music, exist so we might have a human experience, and learn something about ourselves in the process. The cream will always rise to the top, but it is the fans that will get them there.
They will continue to create, because that is what artists do… we create. If you appreciate our work, please support it. Ol’ Hank used to say ‘Me and the boys have eaten a lot of beans and biscuits of this number…’ before playing ‘Cold Cold Heart’, which, during his lifetime, was his most successful song. Artists still need that support. We all know how easy it is to get music for free these days, but I encourage you all to help support the artists you love, and help them become the cream that rises.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! Where can we find your music?
Our debut album, ‘Dames, Trains, and Texas Size Tales’ is available on iTunes, the Google Play Store, CD Baby, Amazon, and many more. You can see videos and live clips on YouTube, and listen to the album on Spotify, and several other sites. We would also love to come out to Colorado and play the Grizzly Rose sometime. Several of our friends have, and they only have great things to say about your venue. Thank you again for this award! We are very thrilled, and a little surprised to have won.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thefoolhearted
Reverbnation Page: https://www.reverbnation.com/jasonsainthefoolhearted