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“A good time at all times”: JoJo Mason is country cool

By Kristy Koehler, Augst 29 2019—

JoJo Mason might just be the coolest guy in country music, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s a household name. Nominated for the Canadian Country Music Association’s Rising Star award, Mason’s single “Better On You” has been streamed more than a million times. 

Now living in Vancouver, Mason chatted with the Gauntlet from a parking lot, taking a quick break to guide another driver into a stall.

“You’ve got lots of room — I believe in you,” he says. “You got it. Keep going. I gotcha. There you go!”

That interaction pretty much sums up Mason — kind, humble, outgoing and a cheerleader for other people. 

Originally from Saskatchewan, Mason, like many a Canadian boy, was a hockey player. He moved to Victoria, B.C., to take his shot on the ice but a herniated disk ended his career.

“I ended up going through a bit of a dark period for about a year,” he says. “It got to the point where I had to quit all my jobs — I couldn’t stand for more than an hour at a time. I was going through a crazy amount of depression.”

Mason credits his mom with saving his life and nowadays, he has no regrets about the hockey career that could have been.

“Knowing what I know now about that industry, knowing what I know now about how competitive and how cutthroat it is — not to say that this business isn’t competitive — but right now, I have so much fun every time I get on the stage, every time I interact with a fan,” he says. “Being in this industry is absolutely amazing.”

He still plays hockey, boxes and is a die-hard football fan. Asked about where his CFL allegiance lies — after all, he was born in Saskatchewan but makes his home in B.C. — Mason laughs. 

“I will bleed green until the day that I die,” he says, confessing that he’s also a fan of an NFL team that wears green — the Philadelphia Eagles.

Why the Eagles? Well, Mason used to work in a bar in Victoria and two of his co-workers were football fans — the bartender was a Dallas Cowboys fan and the cook was an Eagles fan. The two would bet on the games and Mason needed to make a decision about whose side to take. He picked the Eagles as his team because he liked the cook better than the bartender, and he’s been a fan ever since.

The titular track from 2017’s Both Sides of the Bar pays homage to that life working in bars. He wrote the song about a regular customer. 

“He used to come in all the time, happy as can be, nicest guy,” says Mason. “But one day, he comes in, sits in the same spot he does every day and he’s completely silent, tears in his eyes.

I come around and I sit beside him and ask if he’s okay. He says he’s ready to end it all. I went and I sat down with him for about 45 minutes and we just talked. We shared experiences. We shared laughs. I didn’t see him for about a week after that, but he comes in about a week later and says, ‘I just want to thank you man. If it wasn’t for you I probably wouldn’t be here right now.’  It was pretty powerful.

“For me, it was a no-brainer to name the album Both Sides of the Bar, because I’ve been on both sides.” 

Before Both Sides of the Bar, Mason had three Top 10 hits. His 2016 single “Red Dress” was released under the 604 Records label, the production company led by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback fame. The most noticeable thing about the video for “Red Dress” is the casting — there are women of all different shapes and sizes, a decision Mason says was absolutely intentional. 

“That was the concept behind it,” he says. “Every body is beautiful. That’s one of the things we wanted to portray in that video.”

Inclusion is important to Mason, who says that right now is a great time for country music because of how diverse and accepting it is. 

“It’s becoming more and more diverse. You’ve got Kade Brown down in the States just killing it. You’ve got Darius Rucker — Mr. Hootie and the Blowfish. These guys are all paving the way for people like me — for people of ethnic descent that are wanting to become prominent in the genre. I’m able to be a part of something that has not predominantly been accepting of people like myself — and not just be a part of it but also thrive.”

Mason brings something unique to country music and his sound is developing with every song. Better On You, he says, is a huge step in the direction of the sound he’s ultimately going for. 

“I started out in country music basically catering to country radio,” he says. ”And now we’re taking chances. My goal in country music is to bridge the gap between soul and country music.”

The fans love it — and Mason loves them too. He’s starting to get recognized in public and asked for photos and autographs.

“It’s so cool — I’m an extrovert. I know a lot of musicians are introverts — they don’t like that attention. But me — I love the attention,” he says, the joy in his voice evident. “That reason why I love the attention is that it means I’m doing something right. If I’m getting recognized on the street, it means that my music connects with someone.”

That’s another thing Mason loves about country music — the ability to connect with people.

“It’s beautiful, beautiful music,” he says. “It’s a good time at all times. It makes you feel something. Every song I put out I need to feel something. If it makes me feel something it’s gonna make somebody else feel something. For me, that’s what country music is — it’s more a feeling than anything else.”

Country music clearly brings Mason joy. He says his mom is his best friend and he promised her that if it ever stops making him happy, if he ever becomes jaded and angry and doesn’t enjoy every aspect of it, that he’ll leave the industry. That seems unlikely to happen — his enthusiasm and love for the genre are infectious. 

Mason has been hard at work in the studio, recording new music and getting ready to release a new album. His new EP “Chapter Two” is available for pre-order, due to be released Sept. 13. His upcoming ‘Hug Life’ tour, also starts on Sept. 13. Hitting the road in Whitecourt, Alberta, Mason will be joined on select dates by fellow Rising Star award nominees Sons of Daughters and Eric Ethridge. 

Sure, he’s on stage with his competition, but Mason doesn’t see it like that, instead adopting a ‘rising tides lift all boats’ mentality. 

“Everyone that I’ve met in this genre has always been super accommodating, super nice, and everybody that I’ve had a chance to talk to has always been ‘If you need me, just reach out. No problem, I got you.’ For me, that means more than anything else,” he says.

The CCMA Awards will be presented in Calgary on Sunday, Sept. 8. 

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