“Let me tell you ‘bout my hometown, streets roll up when the sun goes down, hustle and bustle don’t mean a thing, except on Friday night. Two stoplights and an IGA, a little park where the children play – place where people mean what they say and say it right to your face… around here it’s the simple life, ain’t got too far but I’m doin’ alright. In love I believe and for freedom I’ll fight, I’m happy living the simple life.”
When Jason Sturgeon sings about the simple life, he’s not just painting a picture of small town America. He’s describing who he is. Born and raised in Petersburg, IN, (pop. 3500) Sturgeon grew up in a family of coal miners, oilmen and farmers who literally made their living off the land, and still do to this day. Running wild and free as the quarter horses he learned to ride and compete on from the time he was 14, he grew up listening to country music artists such as Kenny Rogers, Alabama, George Strait and the outlaws but indulged his rowdier side through acts like Pantera, Rage Against The Machine, and Godsmack, and all of those influences collide on his latest CD, the aptly titled, “That’s Me.”
An enterprising young artist from the start, Jason found a way to make money off of his talent early on. As a kid of 5 or 6, he’d sing for the family at holidays and they’d give him quarters. “At the time Kenny Rogers was popular,” Jason recalls, “and that’s who I wanted to be when I grew up, so I’d sing all the words to Kenny tunes for my family and they’d give me quarters at family gatherings. And a couple of years ago I had a CD release party with my band, and after the show was over we had a meet and greet, and every one of my family came up and each gave me a quarter. It was so funny…my dad was the first one to get to me, and he shook my hand and stuck it in the grip, and I said, ‘What’s this for,’ and he said, “Well, you sang for us,” and then it was my aunt, and uncle, and they all came up and gave me quarters! It was really touching, and I bawled like a baby of course!”
Watching his uncle, who was a great guitar player, inspired Jason even further, and he continued to sing in elementary programs, at church and school choirs. Jason also remembers taking long rides in the country with his grandfather when he was 13 or 14 years old. “He’d pop in a Michael Martin Murphy tape of cowboy songs while driving the back roads and I would sing to him,” says Sturgeon. “He would tell me that one of these days I was going to be a country singer. He died in 2001 but I still have that tape and I keep it around just because of that… I’m still trying to do what he said I was going to do.”
Jason begged his mom to let him take guitar lessons, but knowing where it would lead she refused at the time. “I played piano when I was younger… my mom wouldn’t let me take guitar, because she knew if learned I’d be up in a bar singing. She’s a hell of a lady, but that’s just the way she thinks… ’I’m not even gonna let you know how to play guitar because you’ll end up in a bar every night.’ And it’s funny it turned out the way it did, because that’s exactly what I did when it finally came around! I finally started playing guitar about nine years ago.”
Along with music, Jason was into horses big-time from the time he was old enough to ride. His grandparents on his mothers’ side had thoroughbreds he jockeyed from an early age, and he eventually started racing in AQHA open horse shows and placed 8th in the World Championship Show in Oklahoma City and 4th in the Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus. From 15 until 19 during the summers, he also worked in the oilfields for his family and learned to build, renovate, and basically do anything that needed done around the farm.
“Being a farm kid we’ve all added renovations to our houses… you’re always building something. I‘ve always loved construction and architecture, and I can do just about whatever I want to do, growing up like I did. My dad was a farmer, a diesel mechanic, a welder, an auctioneer, owned a body shop and was a car salesman… he does everything.”
After high school Jason planned to head to Nashville but his father convinced him to attend college at Vincennes University first and learn a trade, just in case. He earned his degree s and became a medical device engineer for Cook Medical in Bloomington, IN where he quickly rose up the ranks to lead the product development of their drug eluting stent program. But music was always lurking somewhere close by in his heart and soul, and Jason soon found he couldn’t ignore its call. “Music had always been a part of my life and something I had never gotten rid of…I always had that want to do music and get things out there, and I was still scheming and trying things while I was doing business stuff,” admits Jason. “And I had an opportunity to try music and thought, why not, you know? So I started a band called Red Eye Max and we played cover tunes and did shows around the area.”
The band became so popular that they opened for artists like Brooks & Dunn, Rodney Atkins, Luke Bryan and others who were coming through the area, and they even released their own CD in 2008. Tapped to be part of Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” competition, the band nearly won and made some invaluable contacts, but they soon went their separate ways with Jason determined to continue on as a solo act. He traveled to Nashville and met with a producer or two but didn’t feel the right chemistry, so he returned to Indiana to focus on his music from his home state. When a phone call from Dane Clark, a member of John Mellencamp’s band came in, he knew he had found a musical family.
“Somehow Dane found out I wanted to do something and he contacted me and said why don’t you and I get together and do this. I guess through a mutual friend the word had spread and it kind of knocked me flat. It was a great opportunity… I live 5 miles from Mellencamp and they’re a rock and roll hall of fame band! It was an honor to learn from their input, insight, experience and be buddies with them. They’ve all turned into great friends too. It’s been one hell of an experience I’ll never forget!”
The resulting album, “That’s Me,” is a vivid collection of audio snapshots of Jason’s life. From the hard-driving, unapologetic opening strains of the sexy, growling title track to the scorching heat of “Endless Summer,” you know exactly who he is, where he comes from, and what kind of ride you’re in for…which is not for the faint of heart. A hell-raising country rocker who can tear it up all night long, he also shows he can break it down in the quieter moments on tracks like the seductive “Blankets,” or spend moments in contemplation on what we’re all doing here on tunes like the homespun song “The Cover.” And he sums up his journey so far on the heartland ode “Simple Life,” a three-minute declaration of all that he is and holds dear. To understand Jason, pop in the CD and listen…he lays it out bare for you in three-minute vignettes packed with truth and honesty served straight up, just the way he likes it.
“I named the album ‘That’s Me’ and I think you can really hear who I am in the songs. If you know anything about my background you know I’ve been to Ozzfests and metal shows and I love bands like Pantera and Godsmack, but I also love George Strait and the bedrock band and singers of country music. I’m a Sinatra fan, and love Beethoven and Bach and Handel’s “Messiah.” I’m just a fan of music, and I dig a lot of it. And all I can really say is that’s me, that’s my background, and what comes out of me and what I’m into, and it better come across in my music or I’ve done my job wrong! I just really want people to hear this and feel it and have a better understanding of who I am just from what I’ve written. And I think they will.”
Jason Sturgeon - "Time Bomb":
Jason Sturgeon - "The Cover":
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