New Artist Spotlight: Jason Sturgeon
By: Bob Doerschuk
Some of the sauce and swagger of That’s Me stems from the independence Jason Sturgeon cultivated in his early teens, on his way to becoming an award-winning quarter horse jockey. Maybe it comes as well from the summer jobs he worked in oilfields and on the family farm. A lot owes to his listening tastes; he has no problem shuffling from Kenny Rogers and George Strait over to Godsmack and Rage Against the Machine.
The truth, though, is simpler: That’s him. His debut album reflects his small-town upbringing in Petersburg, Ind., the protectiveness of a mother dead set against his learning guitar for fear it would lead to bar gigs and the far-sightedness of an uncle who knew that Sturgeon would end up being a Country singer anyway.
First, he honored his parents’ wishes by graduating from Vincennes University in Indiana and finding a job as a medical device engineer at Cook Medical in Bloomington. But the horses and the hours passed under open skies drew Sturgeon back into music. With his band Red Eye Max, he opened shows for Rodney Atkins, Brooks & Dunn and Luke Bryan. They split up after nearly winning Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” competition, which liberated Sturgeon to try his luck as a solo artist. And an encounter with Dane Clark, the drummer from John Mellencamp’s band, set the stage for That’s Me, on Toolpusher Records.
Co-writing all 11 songs with Clark and co-producing with him too, Sturgeon introduces himself on his first single, “Simple Life.” From an opening verse sweetened by steel and mandolin, with muscle added by Clark’s drums on the chorus, he lays out a vision defined by small-town borders yet drawn toward limitless horizons. If there’s a whiff of Mellencamp in his vocal, that’s understandable, but in the rugged romance of “The Cover,” the stark heartbreak of the cello-brushed “Alone Again Tonight” and the fist-pumping passion of the title cut, there’s much more than that to savor. That’s Me? That’s Sturgeon.
IN HIS OWN WORDS Q&A
DREAM DUET PARTNER
“Emmylou Harris — what a voice!”
SONG YOU SING IN THE SHOWER
“Usually old blues tunes or ideas for songs I’ve had.”
ACTOR TO PORTRAY YOU IN A BIOPIC
“Russell Crowe — in ‘Gladiator,’ not ‘A Perfect Mind.’”
FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
“My favorite mode of transportation would have to be on the back of my Harley, I lose myself and that’s a great feeling!”
SONG YOU WISH YOU HAD WRITTEN
“‘The Dance.’ It’s such a timeless song, with so much feeling and meaning to so many.”
“I was playing a show in Sacramento, Calif., and a Marine gave me a coin from his platoon that was stationed in Afghanistan. He said that heard my song ‘Simple Life’ on the radio that day and came down to the show to give it to me and asked if I would take it with me on my travels, I got goose bumps. I was in awe listening to him tell his stories and it was an honor that he gave that coin to me. I keep that with me wherever I go.”
FAVORITE FOOD ON THE ROAD
“One of the best meals I’ve had was when I played at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. Buck’s place sure does a steak right!”
PROFESSION IF NOT AN ARTIST
“Probably an engineer. I did that for 10 years while gigging part time during the weekends before pursuing my full time musical career.”
On the Web: www.JasonSturgeonMusic.com
© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc. Used with permission.