When I was looking for bands to interview, I came across Jason’s IG @croonerandstrummer and thought now this looks interesting. I did a little research and asked him if he’d like to answer some questions. Here’s what he had to say..
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself & when did you first become interested in performing music.
A: I have always been a musician, mostly growing up in various ensembles and choirs, performing in plays etc. I probably got the bug early. My early teens and in high school i would dream of performing live to audiences and did so a few times. It wasn’t until really until I was around 21 yrs that I had really wanted to learn an instrument and sing at the same. I saw The Reverend Horton Heat and Southern Culture on The Skids at the The 930 Club in Washington DC and was floored by the energy. And then, my buddy and I were walking around in Bethesda MD and ran into this little joint and a band called Jumpin‘ Jupiter Live in Arlington, VA 2015 were playing. Straight up rockabilly music that I had been dreaming of. I became friends with those guys and learned a lot about traveling and playing live from hauling their gear around and taking in the scene.
Q: Your style is quite a mashup of different musical genres. How would you describe it and what category would it fall in to?
A: Right now, I would throw it into the Americana category. I mix in rockabilly, classic country, folk, singer-songwriter, old times music and bluegrass. I can listen to The Stray Cats, George Jones, The Louvin Brothers, Lillie Mae, Neko Case, First Aid Kit in one sitting and be fine.
Q: Is there a lot of interest in that style of music in Virginia? And what was your first gig ever? Tell me about that experience performing live for the first time.
A: This music is gigantic in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. I travel mostly to the Appalachian areas of VA and TN to play, such as Charlottesville, Knoxville, Bristol and Johnson City. These areas are rich in bluegrass, old timey music. My first gig was at the Iota Club in Arlington, VA. We really wanted to play out live. It was with a band called The Peashooters. We weren’t quite ready and it was a bit rough. Good thing we were the opener! But you have to cut your teeth somewhere and work out the kinks. I remember just trying to strum chords properly and sing at the same time. But it was adrenaline pumping with nerves and excitement to finally get out there and play in front of people.
Q: Your band is currently called the Southsiders. You’ve also been in a few other bands. Tell me about it the progression you went through to now being with your current band.
A: Southsiders is a name a I use every now and again…nothing permanent. I started out in a straight up rockabilly band playing covers from the 1950’s. But I am a writer, so I loved this opportunity to write write write and I did. Being in a band also has its quirks and you start finding out about people and relating and what drives you nuts. So my first band was The Peashooters lasted a year or so. My bass player Louie Newmeyer and I decided to start another band with a different style. There were hundreds of rockabilly bands coming around in the 90’s. We started a skiffle band called The Old Line Skiffle Combo. This was a mix of rockabilly, jazz and jug band folk music. No one was doing it. I played with this band for 15 years! We did two releases. We played in every festival and went to Europe as well. I even started a band called Speedway Operator which did rockabilly versions of The Smiths and Morrissey songs. We then wrote our own material and had a release as well. Currently, I play solo and bring a band along when it calls for it. I mix a lot of genres together when I play live. As I get older, I feel the need for less personnel. I am really enjoying bands like Alison Kraus, Nickel Creek, Kings of Convenience, Lillie Mae, Colter Wall. A lot of new grass bands..quieter folk like music. More musically directed..more songwriting..more freedom and no relying on other people. It’s quite freeing actually to say “Nope. I actually don’t have to do that.”
Q: Name some of your musical influences. What about them that makes them special to you? What does their music mean to you?
A: I remember going to the local Target type store when I was a kid. I think it was called Mammoth Mart. I would pick up the latest Stray Cats album. My mom would take me to the local record store called Record Sword when I was a teen to get the latest pop records of the 80’s and then onto The Smiths and The Cure cassettes. Even picked up a few Agent Orange and Dead Kennedys cassettes. Great mix of music. I was floored early by Brian Setzer and Johnny Marr’s guitar playing. Then the live shows of Reverend Horton Heat and The Living End Official Page. I caught some great alternative shows as well like Belly, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Beastie Boys. Big mix of stage shows and genres before I actually started to play an instrument. My tastes narrowed as I got older and have stuck to a main genre but enjoy adding in different influences to keep it interesting.
Q: You performed in the 2018 Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival in 2018. Being a fan of music in general, who were you most excited seeing perform and did you get to meet any of these nationally acclaimed artists?
A: I have played Rhythm and Roots on many occasions and what is cool about the festival is you can meet any of the bands like they were your neighbors. We all eat at the same place, play the same stages. There is always a hello. I was really excited to see Third Man Recording artist Lillie Mae and we actually ended up parking vans next to each other and hung out on the last day of the festival in the parking lot for awhile and we have remained friends since. Not everyone is approachable like that. When you get to talk and hang out with an influence, it really ices the cake. We stayed at the same hotel with Jerry Douglas and Charlie Cushman and the folks from Earls of Leicester band. Nashville’s finest musicians. We watched them play and then decided we should never play again haha! Talk about pro players. Great people!
Q: What is Jason “Hoss” Hicks working on next?
A: I am constantly writing new songs and recording in various spots. I love visiting The Earnest Tube and Bigtone Records to do recording in Bristol VA and TN. I am working on a trio right now with an acoustic guitar, upright bass and dobro. It is looking to be a great project. To be out on the road soon. I have spent most of my time away from home when I play. Mostly festivals and when I do travel to venues, I usually like to do a 3 day weekend type of tour. No months touring or staying out until 3 am anymore haha!
You can find Jason on his official website: Jason Hoss Hicks official page Watch his live performances on YouTube and his Facebook page JHossHicks. Jason will be hitting the road for a few dates down south starting on 2/11 at Raleigh Times in NC.
Until then, I am Your Music Stylist – Linda Dias