The press is calling Jason Kent familiar and they’re right. Kent sounds like a voice you’ve been acquainted with for years.
He is a familiar face that you’ve seen around the city. In one instant he is a wallflower, the boy next door and in the next, an alluring spark with an audacious smile.
His sound is a warm fresh ’70s breeze echoing only the greats. He’s created a comfort zone with a folk-rock base and country trimmings in psychedelic shades. Kent borrows from history and builds a future with his solo debut. He’s in his element and will pull you in. Even in simple conversation.
Have you ever seen The Big Chill?
It’s a great film, if anything just for the soundtrack. It has Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, the Rascals; all these great bands from the ’60s. It’s a soundtrack I grew up to.
You grew up here in Montreal, born and raised, right?
Right here at the Royal Vic. There was even an audience. I was very much alert, kicked the nurse, I was ready to go and happy to live! [Laughs] I lived in Hudson outside Montreal. But Montreal is Montreal, Toronto never crossed my mind. A lot of my musician friends moved and did the whole Toronto thing.
You’ve played with many musicians and in different bands like, Soft Canyon, the Sonny Best Band, Bodega and now you decided to go solo? Why now?
I wanted to do my own thing five years ago, but I wasn’t really ready. If you heard the album I had ready five years ago, we might not be talking. [Laughs]
I was always doing what I wanted to do, just with very many people. When Soft Canyon broke up I thought, “Well I have this time now, what should I do with it?”
So here we are with your self-titled solo debut, was it a D.I.Y. effort?
Pretty much. There are a few other players on the album that I’m very thankful for. It can be nice not having to rely on other people, but at the same time you’re losing that human touch when you do it all yourself.
Looking into the album, can you tell us about your song “Midnight Love”?
If you heard the first version you wouldn’t recognize it. It was very cold, very bleak. I reworked it and it became what it is now, I suppose an Air rip-off. I fell in love with The Virgin Suicides Soundtrack. [Some] think it’s a big drug oriented song. I didn’t think of it that way. It’s very innocent, the sky, and the stars. Like a little prince imagery in my head.
“Any Old Day” stands out on the album. It comes across a little different than the other songs.
“Any Old Day” is different. This song was more of a vibe thing. I started out recording a riff over and over. At first I didn’t have any words written out at all. Now it sounds like a really sexual song: “I went looking for your sweet loving and found it all the way down.” It’s very unlike me. I tend to write more thoughtful songs. I don’t write ambiguous, weird, let loose songs. You know, it’s a rip-off of Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop.
You’re very influenced by the 60s and 70s.
I love the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and the whole tragedy about him. I love the sound of the snares in the 70s, some great music. People in the 60s and 70s seemed to have a better vocal range, write better songs and they seem more inspired.
What current musicians are you listening to?
My business is music so I should be more in touch with today’s music, but when you start making albums I guess you get a little na’ve to what’s going on. I’m not too familiar with all the bands going on today, but naturally the bands that come to mind are Radiohead, Wilco and Sparklehorse. What’s good these days? What about these kids that are all over – they have their photos in HMV’s window?
Fall Out Boy?
Yeah! Fall Out Boy! I can’t get into them. I have aesthetic issues with the way they look! So if you’ve seen their poster, then you’ve seen mine. Next door at Fido, the guy smiling with the dog, that’s me! [Laughs]
Oh, I think we’ve all seen those Fido ads. When did you start modelling and working in advertising?
I started two years ago. I first auditioned for a Budweiser ad. They were casting for a rock star who plays guitar. So I got it! They posted 36 stills of me on metro cars. My legs were so sore from jumping and posing. But when they told me how much they’d pay, I didn’t care how my thighs were feeling!
Speaking of feelings, it must feel good to take your music overseas and you will be again soon. What do you like about playing in the UK and cities like London?
Yes! It’s very different. One thing about playing in London is you can play Monday through Friday and still have a different audience every night. London is so exciting, so much history and music. So many great bands came from London. Going to London is just me wanting to fulfill a small little dream. Going back in June is like a better, bigger dream. I’m just trying to make things happen.
Jason Kent plays with the Autumn Defense at the Main Hall on Friday, March 23 at 9 p.m.