An Interview with Jason Irwin
Photo: Stephanie Bartik
Jason Irwin made a name for himself in North Country performing live for years building a dedicated local fanbase along the way. Irwin is not only known for DJ’ing but also his fun live musical performances on guitar. Over the past couple of years, the awareness of Irwin’s music has grown and continues to pack his schedule out with shows all across Upstate, NY. Coming off a recent Listen Up Award win, we wanted to chat with Jason to see what is next. Read the full interview below:
What do you like most about performing to fans in the North Country?
I enjoy performing anywhere, but being around people you know is always cool. It always puts a smile on my face when a friend walks into a gig…it’s a great feeling. Fellow musicians, too…what a great show of co-support. Especially when I know how busy their schedules are. I try to do the same when I’m not booked up. This area is big enough to be home to a ton of amazing talent, but it’s still small enough to be a community.
Did DJing come first or was it guitar?
Actually, drums came first, starting in 5th-grade band. I stuck with it all through high school and beyond. Can you picture me wearing one of those big marching band hats? I still love to play them, but mostly at home or for my own projects. Somewhere in early high school, I started my DJ career, doing parties for friends and local events. It just progressed after that, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I think guitar (and singing) came along during my senior year. I had this creative itch and found it much easier to write songs on the six-string over the 5-piece.
It seems like you have a great backbone of support. Who have been some of the folks who are helping you get to where you want to be?
There are so many people, I’m not sure I could fairly list them. But definitely, all the club owners, booking agents, event organizers, radio stations, newspaper and media staff, and especially music fans. Anyone that supports the scene. They know who they are. People, well, now…like me! And you! I think that’s why I do some of the things that I do and have stuck with this industry all these years…to give back some of what I’m thankful for myself. My parents were pretty supportive -or at least tolerant of my “hobbies.”
Photo: Frankie Cavone
What is something that people might not know about you?
I can’t play an “F” chord.
Where do you draw your musical inspirations from?
I used to love saying “The Ramones” and “The Sex Pistols.” But really…all kinds of stuff. I like mostly rock, punk, power-pop, some pop and metal. Not so much country, but I’ve been known to rock out a Johnny Cash tune now and then. My first record as a kid was a hand-me-down copy of KISS’s “Destroyer,” and I loved their flair. My first concert was Rick Springfield at SPAC. I thought he was so cool. I’d have just as much fun at a Taylor Swift stadium show as at an early Jane’s Addiction basement gig. As far as writing, I’ll just have an idea for a riff or a melody, grab a guitar, and see how it turns out. I was certainly inspired by other local acts early on. I’d see band names in the paper playing here, playing there. I was underage, but I’d be like….”soon.”
It is also really cool to see you supporting other acts with 518Rock, especially the acts that don’t get much love. What drove you to start it and for those who don’t know about 518Rock, fill us in!
518 Rock was originally started as a booking-agent type of business for venues in upstate NY. That all started when a club I was the DJ at “told” me I was now their band booking agent. I said, “sure,” and went with it. We now do booking for several area locations and events, present a wide variety of events, and offer some highly-effective promotional avenues to both artists and venues. Being part of our database is totally free, and when we get requests from venues, we send out availability checks to artists that fit the bill. We work within the venue’s budget, and we never take money from an artist. Anyone can sign up at 518rock.com. We are currently starting to add more content to our website, including local artist profiles and recording & show reviews that can even more help get the word out about local acts. It’s always growing. We have T-shirts now!
What are some of the biggest things you are looking to accomplish this year?
I have a “to-do list” that you wouldn’t believe. I’m so darn busy…I’m thankful, but it’s definitely bittersweet. I have an unfinished documentary film that I’d like to complete. I’d like to do more with local music on my morning radio show…that’s something I’m working on presently. I started building a personal recording and creative studio in my home, so I’m chipping away at that. I love acting, so I’d love to grab a part in something this year. I could use a good nap, so maybe that as well. I’m also getting married this July!
Who are some of your own favorite local acts to check out that people should know about?
Well, I’ll make that simple and say this: Check out this year’s GEM Fest lineup….so many incredible local acts on that bill! There are just so many others. I’ve been a huge fan of local music for so long, I’m not sure we have enough space. I’m also pretty good at delivering satisfying -yet vague, noncommittal answers, aren’t I?
Is there anything that you would like to plug?
I’m just thankful that I live in an area that is so rich in talent and support. But sure -feel free to visit me at jasonirwinrock.com. That’s kind of a launching pad for some of the different things that I do. And thank you so much for letting me be a part of what you do. Much respect!