Jason Webley – Hard Working Troubadour

Jason Webley

by Rasmus Rasmussen on February 28, 2012

Jason Webley is a man of many talents. I met him during the preparations for his 11-11-11 concert in Seattle last year, which I was honored to cover. This particular show was the culmination of a massive tour spanning 35 countries. Jason had invited numerous friends to come along and add their own touch to this special event, including fellow indie rocker Amanda Palmer and writer Neil Gaiman. And the show was pure magic. It blew yours truly – and as far as I could see everyone else present – completely away.

Webley’s music wants to be listened to, just as he claims it insists on being written. He manages everything himself, from writing songs and music, to planning tours, booking gigs and promoting them. I was thrilled when he agreed to share a few insights into the workings of a true indie rock star, running his own show and doing it well.

There is time for one more group hug before the 11-11-11 concert is to begin...

You incorporate a lot of storytelling in your performance, and your songs are often stories themselves. What are your favorite kind of stories to tell?

I don’t actually get asked about that often. I enjoy stories that are simple and gently allegorical, that taste of melancholy and whimsey, that are playful and stretch language around like taffy. Usually I only write stories specifically for some performance situation, and my process is a mad frantic scampering to finish in time. I’m hoping to someday find the discipline to write when there aren’t such hard deadlines and perhaps put together a book of some sort.

You’re a self made musician and run your own record label. How do you handle it all and still find time to write new material?

The writing has actually suffered a bit in recent years. I’m not sure if that is because I’m so caught up in the other work or if some gears have just moved, but I have written only half a handful of songs in the past four years.

When I am on the road, I find that I have to divide up my attention. I always need to be clearly focused on the needs of the concert happening that day, making sure my travel is in order, that I am in contact with the friends and promoters, that I’m not overlooking something. Then I need to also keep my focus on the next week’s worth of shows – how are ticket sales? is the word out? is there anything more I can do to help promote them at the last minute? I spend a fair bit of time each day working on this.

Then I need to have the larger calendar in mind of the next three months or so. Are there shows that still need to be booked? Am I keeping in touch with the promoters about each of them? And lastly, I try to look at the whole year – where am I planning to go? what is the ideal routing? There are, of course, a lot of other specific things, but generally that is the biggest trick I think – to keep your focus on the immediate needs and the bigger picture at the same time.

Usually the songs have just been written alongside all of this. They assert themselves and insist I make room for them.

Jason Webley with Amanda Palmer (aka Evelyn Evelyn).

Last year you finished a massive tour. What do you take away from such an experience? What were some of the highlights? What would you have done differently if you were setting out tomorrow?

I’ve been doing a lot of big tours for over ten years. I’ve always spent much more time on the road than at home. But last year was a bit special. I decided to revisit nearly everyplace I’d ever performed and also finally make it to some new places. It is hard to think of highlights because almost every show felt like the best show I’d ever played in that city. The first couple weeks of the year were so full I didn’t know that I could make it through eleven more months.

I played nearly 200 concerts in 35 countries. I set foot in nearly every state and province. It was crazy and exhausting, and I felt like I was wringing myself out like a sponge. But if there were any regrets it is only that I didn’t go more places. I really wanted to make it back to Kiev and to Mexico City, but the timing didn’t work out for either. And I was forced to miss my concert in Winnipeg because of a freak snowstorm.

You finished off your tour with a huge 11-11-11 concert in Seattle. How would you describe that night, and the people who performed with you?

That night was a huge blessing to me, as are the people who were a part of it.

Now that you are taking a break, what are you really working on? What kind of future projects might we expect to see from you?

I am hoping that this break will be a true break and that I will give myself an ample amount of time before I start worrying about future projects. I’d like to try my hand at writing a bit more. I could see myself returning to acting a bit if something interesting came about. But for the moment I want to lay low, work on fixing up my house a bit, enjoying the sunrise, watching what floats by on the river, and sharing time with family and friends.

For more Jason Webley, visit his official site, follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, check him out on WikiPedia — his music is sold through his own site. Get it here.

More photos from Jason Webley’s 11-11-11 concert in Seattle

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