Interview by Scott Preston
Jason Dennie, Ben Daniels Band
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
8pm doors, 9pm show, $10, Buy Tickets
Jason Dennie grew up around acoustic music. The sound of acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo were pretty common and familiar to his ears by the time he actually had an interest in playing anything himself. Guitar was what he chose and while early influences could be named; Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, the music that would come from him would always be a unique combination of everything he’d heard.
His main references were from the Bluegrass world, after all, that’s what most of his family played. He had a direct link to the heart of Bluegrass with his Grandfather being good friends with the man who had ‘started it all’ Mr. Bill Monroe, and an Uncle who filled the role of banjo player for Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys in the early 70′s. Jason can remember time spent at many Bluegrass festivals as a child and the sounds of Tony Rice’s guitar and distinct voice filling the house…to this day Tony Rice is still his father’s favorite guitarist. (from jasondennie.com)
Cincy Groove: What are the things you miss most about Cincinnati?
Jason Dennie: What I miss most about Cincy is the circle of friends that was left behind, just good people that I ended up getting to know thru 8 years of playing around town before moving to michigan….miss those faces!
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your musical background/upbringing, was your family supportive?
Jason Dennie: My dad dabbled in country and bluegrass on a local level and my grandparents had a bluegrass gospel quartet out in Milford, OH. That was around while growing up but I was never included/invited to participate as a youngster necessarily and first picked up the acoustic guitar after graduating high school and was no longer living at home. May have picked up a few lessons here and there but I’m largely self taught…
Cincy Groove: What kind of environment do you like to be in to write your songs?
Jason Dennie: Song writing for me is anywhere and everywhere. I currently co write a fair amount with a good friend in Iowa and we are constantly throwing ideas back and forth, and writing on my own happens when the muse strikes… Can’t be too planned! I write to reflect the different projects I play in, solo, duos, acoustic trios, electric trios, etc. and that certainly keeps evolving. I play guitar, mandolin, mandola, and tenor guitar these days and sometimes the instruments lead the way.
Cincy Groove: Who do you currently perform with?
Jason Dennie: While I am a solo artist, I’m also an often used sideman on harmony and mandolin throughout MI. I regularly join Annie & Rod Capps on mandolin and vocals, touring mostly as a trio and have done several CDs with them and currently working on another. My bluegrass band, Wayward Roots took 2nd place in the 2011 Telluride Bluegrass Band competition but had to go on hiatus due to family and work obligations, so I’ve been working with another acoustic group, Thunderwude, largely bluegrass based, and will be coming back to Southgate Revival House in late Feb 2015 with that outfit. The list of MI songwriters I’ve joined and recorded with includes STELLA, Mark Lavengood Bluegrass Bonanza, Dave Boutette, Chris Buhalis, Billy Brandt & the Sugarees, Jill Jack, the Marvin’s, etc. to name a few…
Cincy Groove: Where do you like to perform in Ann Arbor?
Jason Dennie: As far as performing in Ann Arbor, it’s impossible to beat the Ark for a venue. Close to 500 capacity, it’s is the room to see acoustic music. In my world of gigs, medium sized venues would be upwards of 200 folks, and most often playing smaller rooms and even house concerts. Intimate venues suit me and my music very well….
Cincy Groove: When and where was your first live performance?
Jason Dennie: My first gig? I honestly can’t remember but for some reason I think it was opening for the Spookfloaters at a pool hall in or outside of Goshen maybe around 1992? Too long ago! I soon started opening for bands it Kilgore’s and Ripley’s in Clifton and never looked back…
Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects/recordings?
Jason Dennie: Currently working on a solo record, 98% vocal but with a few instrumentals for those fans of my acoustic guitar playing, and working on another record with Annie & Rod Capps out of Chelsea, MI. Thunderwude should have a release of some kind in 2015 as well, more of a roots / bluegrass kind of mash up.
Cincy Groove: Do your kids show an interest in music?
Jason Dennie: My two daughters are 13 and 9…they both love music and are constantly singing and dabble a bit in piano and ukulele but my ex wife and I haven’t been too pushy with their musical interests. It’s been my job for 22 years now, and I want them to just enjoy it and it be fun for them wherever it may lead.
Cincy Groove: Will there be any hometown special guests at the Southgate House Revival show?
Jason Dennie: No special guests with me at Southgate House Revival show, just focused on what I’m doing now musically and the folks I make music with in MI are some wonderfully talented people….though I certainly hope to see some familiar faces while I’m back in town!
Cincy Groove: Have you performed with or opened for anyone that made you really nervous?
Jason Dennie: I think the only time I’ve been super nervous about anyone that I opened for was when I had to share my dressing room at Bogarts with Debbie Harry, she was joining the Jazz Passengers for a tour and knocked on my door to ask if I minded sharing so she could get away from the ‘smokers’. Me and Debbie Harry on the couch …around 95/96 perhaps. Good times, good times! I opened for Kansas in 1994 but it all happened so quick that there was no time to get nervous. My first crowd of close to 9, 000 or so was opening for Over The Rhine at the Cincinnati Zoo and in the rain…little nerve wracking but awesome and I ended up touring with OTR a few times over the years which I will always be eternally grateful for!