Everyone has a dream. Depending on your age, your geography or life situation, dreams can change.
For artist Jason Turner, those dreams have come true, even if they’ve come in unexpected ways.
The south Jackson native, who turns 36 this week, is a singer-songwriter with a busy schedule, playing venues across the southeast. He’ll release a new record, Like The Night, on December 2, with a Duling Hall show.
As a child, Turner had aspirations of drawing comic books. You can still see that influence in his visual art, even on the cover of his new record. He’s just illustrated a children’s book that’s awaiting publication and, from time to time, creates show posters for other musicians.
But it’s the musical arts that occupy most of his time. “You’ve got to play non-stop,” he says from the front porch of Sneaky Beans. “It’s a very blue collar, bust your butt way to make a living. And you have to find other ways to do it, like playing on someone’s session or playing for a church (Turner is the music leader for The Journey, a house church that meets in Ridgeland.)
In 2003, Turner was married to his wife Becky and, within two weeks, the couple had moved to Nashville. He now calls it a “crazy idea” and “ill-advised,” but a great experience musically. “It opened my brain to a wealth of stuff I didn’t know,” he explains. “I moved there and thought, ‘wow, there’s a whole other world.’”
Four years in Music City, waiting tables and selling cell phones along with playing out whenever he could, Turner was chasing the proverbial dream. But it was allusive and frustrating. Until he decided to move back to Jackson.”
“I eventually found the dream was back here,” he laughs. “(In Nashville), everyone is trying to be a session musician or songwriter. I was stuck in the ‘play in a band with your friends, band of brothers mentality,’ which hampered me.”
Frustrated, he didn’t play for a couple months until former band mates came calling. “Luckily, the guys I played with wanted me to come back out,” he says. “It was the best thing I did.” Turner has been a full-time working musician for four or five years.
On his latest project, Turner says he’s all over the place stylistically. But the subject matter is constant. “Everything is a personal experience,” he explains. “There’s no concept other than what I was going through at the time.” Turner says his songs reflect getting it together, changing past situations and finding hope.
“I used to be a bad alcoholic, or I guess I still am, as they would say,” Turner explains. “I got away from a really dark thing and changed my life. (The record’s) not all about not drinking. But it’s about not settling or thinking you can’t overcome. And some of the songs are about chicks, particularly the one I married to,” he laughs.
And then there’s the Malaco connection. Turner recorded his new record there and is signed to a publishing deal with the legendary gospel and R&B label based in Jackson. There’s hope of having his songs placed in TV shows or commercials. He practically grew up at Malaco, with his mother working in the accounting department. “One time I got suspended from school and had to shrink wrap CD’s as punishment,” he recounts. “Which, for a music kid, was the coolest damn thing of all time.”
The Like the Night release show at Duling Hall Tuesday, Decmber 2 at 7:30pm is $5 and includes a backing band made of previous Turner players from past years. CD’s, tees and Turner art will be for sale.