Jason McCoy of The Road Hammers: “Fans are #1”

Since he’s a performer at heart, it’s only natural that Jason McCoy’s career would have a a number of influences and subject matter. It was both the traditional country of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Charlie Rich, as well as the Urban Cowboy country of Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee that set McCoy on his artistic quest, “Country music speaks to me,” says McCoy. “That whole Mars-Venus connection – what men want, what women want — just seems to be dealt with better in country music. What I really like about country is the classic period of the ’70s, that dealt with drinking, cheating and other things on a level of emotional honesty whether it’s better or worse. That’s who we are as people. Country is the new rock, it’s the largest format in the world right now. I’ve always listened to George Jones, Willie, Merle and all the classics growing up but started to get into more rock and roll when I was an adult in my 20s.”

Eric: A lot of these country artists that are your age or my age – our 20s [laughs], grew up with the classics artists like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. But when you talk to country artists today, their influences are those, but they’ve added Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
Jason: Old country is Garth. Which is cool, they’re born in a different year and it is what it is. For me, I look at country as the new rock and roll. I’ve been blessed to be able to do this closing in on thirty years and our music has evolved, but the thing that never wavers, no matter what the age or no matter what the fanaticism is or whatever the trend is in country is the nucleus of the country fan never changes. I don’t care if you were 30 years old in 1982. I don’t care if you’re 30 now, or 18. The country fan, the heartbeat of what country music is, it’s called the people’s music and there’s a reason for the. I don’t care if you’re talking about newer bands like Blackjack Billy or Doc Walker. Country music is a full encompassing genre and the fans who are into it like the stories of the songs.
Eric: Why do you think that is? When audiences go to festivals, like Boots and Hearts, just north of Toronto, they like everybody on the bill. Even Jazz isn’t like that, Jazz has divisions. You’d never get that in country music, you have it in Folk music. There’s a real sense of community.
Jason: You just said it, it’s community. A lot of people say this, but the reason we do it is because it is true. It’s about the fans creating that community or the party and we’re just the soundtrack for it. The country way of life is always there. This country is built on rural roots. It’s just the soundtrack for the common people and right now it’s the hottest format in the world because it’s crossed some pop elements in it’s production, etc. For us, speaking topically, we released this song “Mud” and it went gold. It’s a huge download and the reason being is because we get out there and we know that there are all these people who are 18 years old to 40 years old who have a jacked up jeep who love to get out and play in the mud. These are my neighbors! I live on a farm, I like that and so we’re like, we’re the soundtrack of what they like to do and what I like to do. Just common people stuff, that’s country.
Eric: Pete Townshend from The Who says that as well. The Who just held up a mirror to their audience.
Jason: Yeah, look at “Teenage Wasteland.” They were singing to their audience, right? I write all sorts of stuff that I want it to connect, from kids songs to rock and roll stuff.
Eric: Tell me about writing kids songs!
Jason: I’ve got two kids. 8 and 5. Daughter is 8 and my son is 5, and I write songs with them. I have a backhoe on the farm and my son who is 5, him and I wrote a song for the backhoe. They love it.

Eric: Let’s change gears a bit. The Road Hammers split up for a time.
Jason: I was a solo artist and had wonderful success at that and just started this is as a lark, for fun, to do a trucker album and CMT turned it into a reality show and the creation of a band and the thing debuted at #1 and turned out we’re the highest selling Canadian country band in history. It’s mind-numbing. It’s all just following our heart and having fun.
Eric: What do you think the band gave you that you couldn’t do yourself?
Jason: I like writing really aggressive rock and roll and rock and country stuff, and I can’t sing it. Clay, he’s all that. He’s the rock star. It’s great, because another thing it gives me is goal posts. I can write within the Road Hammer goal posts and I know exactly what a Road Hammer is and what it’s not. But talking about the band just exploded, it was amazing, took us to Nashville, and one thing led to another and the record label we were signed with eventually folded into another label, went bankrupt and then there were lawyers and were kind of hung up for a couple of years and our hearts go broken. We just had to take a break, that’s as simple as it is. The business eclipsed the creative and it just sucked the life out of us for a while.
Eric: When you got back together, was there an elephant in the room that had to be dealt with before you started working together?
Jason: No, it was gone. We were really lucky.
Eric: That must be so irritating when record label politics come into the business of art for you. It’s has to be so heartbreaking to know that the possibility of success has changed over situations out of your control.
Jason: We were ready to go ahead with another record and the label just got caught up in the paperwork of shutting down, it was owned by lawyers, we should have seen that coming. It just went into purgatory for a couple of years. It really did break our hearts because you can’t do anything. You can’t even dream of having the ambition of saying – OK, we’re going to record an album and when this is all over we’ll release it. At the time we were told, nah, you’re hung up forever. We’re lucky, we had something on the other side of it and it worked out OK. But some of these young artists get signed, it’s painful to watch. Really painful. But we’re back on the road. Fans are #1. Talk about amazing. Those fans are amazing.

The Road Hammers on tour
May 29 Grande Prairie Stompede 2015 Grande Prairie, Canada
Jun 19 Summer in the City Steinbach, Canada
Jun 26 Ciderfest Stoney Creek, Canada
Jul 04 Elliot Lake’s 60th Anniversary Elliot Lake, Canada
Aug 02 Boot Hill Country Jamboree Bothwell, Canada