When Jason Eady first moved to Fort Worth, more than a decade ago, he began frequenting open-mike nights.
The Mississippi native, fresh out of the Air Force, would stop by McHenry’s and the White Elephant, honing his chops as a performer and a songwriter.
Occasionally, he’d add a venue in Plano to his weekly rotation, but for the most part, Eady stayed focused on sharpening his songs in Cowtown.
What he discovered was the pathway from musical hobbyist to thriving country troubadour.
“I thought the only way to do this was go to Nashville, get a record deal, be on the radio, be a country star and that was it,” Eady says. “All of a sudden, I realized there’s this whole other way to do this.”
The weekly demands of each performance — keep the covers to a minimum and bring some original tunes with potential — helped Eady buckle down and become a tunesmith capable of crafting an accomplished record like his latest studio effort, Daylight and Dark.
Steeped in classic country without being obvious, the album is a stunner, featuring gorgeous harmony work with co-writer Courtney Patton (whose vocal blend with Eady evokes iconic pairings like George Jones and Melba Montgomery or Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash) and an unflinching outlook, occasionally approaching something like romanticism.
“We’re so comfortable singing together; we can move in and out and she’s brilliant at that,” Eady says of singing with Patton. “With this one, I wanted to make a record that we could go out and play and people could close their eyes and feel like they were listening to the CD. Three of the songs Courtney and I wrote together — she’s such a great harmony person [that] when we write together, we write songs with that in mind. It’s not an afterthought.”
Another element that is abundantly clear, from Daylight and Dark’s opening moments, is that this is real country music, with scarcely an ode to trucks in sight.
“People want you to do this thing where you put as much effort into it as you can, to make every song count,” Eady says. “There’s an expectation for that, which takes all the pressure off.”
Which is not to say Eady doesn’t still feel some pressure, much of it self-applied.
Even though he has graduated to headlining gigs, Eady still keeps pen to paper, admitting he’s already working up songs for the next record, despite having a new album just now out. “I don’t ever want to be in the position where it’s time to make an album and I don’t have songs,” he says.
He reflects on the early days in Fort Worth, needing fresh material each week, not just to satisfy those who showed up to the open-mike nights, but also the loose fraternity of Texas tunesmiths, who keep pushing each other to excel with every new composition.
“Everybody seems to find each other, no matter what kinds of music they play,” Eady says. “It is just about being yourself and writing. When you stop trying to write a certain kind of song and do what you do, that’s when it starts working and people start responding. As long as it’s authentic and real, everybody responds to songwriting.
“This group of people I’m writing with now — it’s been 10, 11 years we’ve all been writing together. We were doing this just going over to each other’s houses and sitting and playing them for nobody but each other for years and years, so it’s funny now that we’re making records to finally get to do in public what we’ve been doing all this time.”