Jason Eady is sitting with a cup of coffee in the Fort Worth Stockyards, waiting for Chief Records to open. And beneath his black hat, pulled low, is the look of a man who just released an album he's proud of.
Eady grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, where he learned how to play country music as well as gospel and blues before joining the Air Force and then moving to Fort Worth in 2002. In his late 20s, he began playing open mics at local venues like Live Oak, the White Elephant Saloon, and Love and War in Plano.
“There was this place called McHenry’s,” he says. “It’s not even there anymore, but it was kind of my home.”
Eady gave a nine-to-five job a shot at one point, but that did not suit him well. “Turning 30 is what did it,” Eady, now 42, says with a laugh. “I quit my job the year I turned 30.”
A few years ago, Eady married singer-songwriter Courtney Patton, who sings harmony on his self-titled sixth album, released April 21 on Thirty Tigers. Fourteen tracks were recorded for album but ultimately 10 made the cut. Eady wrote about half of the songs himself. Most of the others he co-wrote.
“Every song on here is very personal,” he says. “Either the lyrics or the story behind the song means something. Right now, 'Black Jesus' is really standing out. But if you ask me tomorrow, it might be different.”
“['Black Jesus'] is the most autobiographical song that I didn’t write,” Eady says of the song, written by Channing Wilson. “I definitely have a specific picture in my head of who that is.”
For Eady, the lyrics conjure memories of J.C. Cannon, an old, black, Delta blues player who worked with his dad. While Eady was learning how to play country music on his guitar, Cannon was simultaneously teaching him how to play the blues.“We’d play for a few hours,” Eady says. “Then we’d talk for a few hou rs. I was 15. And he was probably 70 at the time.”
Eady’s sound carries a hint of gospel influence that he says he picked up as a kid while playing music in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church. Add to that the bluegrass festivals he routinely attended with his stepdad, and a Steve Earle concert he went to while stationed in England.
“Finding Steve Earle was kind of a big turning point for me,” he says. Through that, Eady was also able to discover Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. However, he says Merle Haggard was probably his greatest influence.
“Why I Left Atlanta,” another song on the release, has Eady crooning about Haggard, and Georgia having seen its better days.
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“To me, it really is about leaving Mississippi,” he says. “But Atlanta had a better ring to it. It’s more of a poetic license on that one.”
Eady partly owes his poet's life to that boss who didn't try to talk him out of quitting. Instead he encouraged him to follow his heart. That is one lesson Eady wishes he had mastered sooner. “You know, you have to take the risk,” he said. “I’m very happy with where I am right now creatively, and musically, and what I get to do.”
Eady isn't obsessing over his big break or what it might look like. “I‘ve always waited on it. I’ve known people who have had those. I’ve never had one," he says. "For me, it’s been more of a year after year, show after show kind of thing, sort of slow and steady.” Just like Eady's music.
Jason Eady, 6 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Shipping and Receiving, 201 S. Calhoun St., Fort Worth, $15-$20, shippingandreceiving.bar.