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About Jason Myles Goss
Jason will always be that kid who grew up in a small, Massachusetts mill town who wanted to write songs and play music. Despite hanging his hat in Brooklyn, NY for the past six years now, his heart will always be in those small-town streets–that straightaway down by the cemetery, the baseball field built atop the old factory dump, or the parking lot outside the drugstore. After years of making records on his own dime, driving long hours, city to city, to play for a handful of onlookers at a time, and flying well under anyone’s radar, Jason has released his fourth album and first self-produced effort, Radio Dial. Here we find a songwriter who has clearly come into his own, with a burgeoning confidence and a distinctive voice that has been forged from a variety of influences, both musical and literal, and sharpened by many late-night highway drives and gas station coffees.
“With Radio Dial I knew I wanted to make a big, classic-sounding record, and I felt I had a lot to prove to myself. I have always been a melody-driven songwriter; I love big choruses and hooks that swim around your head for days. As a teenager, I would get lost inside albums like The Wallflowers’ ‘Bringing Down The Horse,’ or Counting Crows’ ‘August and Everything After.’ But as I got older, it was records like Gillian Welch’s ‘Time (The Revelator)’ that turned my world upside down–that kind of bare-bones, knock-you-on-your-ass songwriting really taught me what a song could be and what it could do. Rather than fight with these two different influences, I strove to make a record where they each could pull up a chair at the same musical table.”
To start, Jason enlisted the help of friends Austin Nevins (guitars) and Sam Kassirer (keys), both members of Josh Ritter’s Royal City Band, as well as David Dawda (bass) and Joel Arnow (drums). Work began at Vanity Sound in Brooklyn, NY where Jason and engineer Myles Turney decided to record basic tracks live to analog tape, giving the songs a rawness and roominess reflective of the records they loved. They wanted to have musicians together in the same room, breathing the same air, letting the dynamics of playing the songs live shape the arrangements organically. In fact, several tracks that ended up on Radio Dial were taken from the original demo recordings (Keep Your Love With Me, Chocolate Croissant, Bows And Arrows, and Hospital Shirt).
“It’s easy to get in the control room and start putting a song together like a science project without letting it run wild a little bit. It doesn’t take much effort to kill something by trying to capture it. As Tom Waits once said, ‘It’s easy to cook up the feathers and throw away the bird,’ and I didn’t want that to happen. I was very fortunate to be working with this band, this was my first time producing a record from start to finish, and I really depended on them for their ideas and know-how.”
Several themes run through Radio Dial, but the most pervasive is that of struggle–to find a place in the world, to create light from darkness when death and loss inject meaning into our lives, and to fight for the things you love. Ultimately, it’s a record about growing up, about learning how to take your lumps, and realizing that the world is a beautiful place full of painful and magical things that will always be bigger than your heart’s ability to decipher them.
“Writing has always been my way of working through my own fears and apprehensions. It didn’t dawn on me at the time, but a lot of these songs ended up being about death, and letting go, even songs as upbeat as ‘Home and ‘Into The Night’ have undercurrents of that. I was also reading this book called “On Boxing” by Joyce Carol Oates, and it really made a huge impression on me; boxing became this anchor point for a lot of the material on Radio Dial.”
Boxing is mentioned in several of the songs on Radio Dial, (Bows And Arrows, Come Back To Me, Hospital Shirt), but takes center stage in the most cinematic song on the record, Black Lights–a story of a young fighter, struggling to make a name for himself, and the punishment he endures in a vainglorious attempt to “be somebody.” A compelling comparison is alluded to here between the reality of being a fighter and the reality of being an artist, how each is a performer at the mercy of their audience, and how each works tirelessly, and mostly in solitude, at something which then culminates in a public spectacle (ring vs. stage), where each has to access a very different part of themselves that, otherwise, has no real place in day-to-day life. Both crafts also focus on the perfection of simple things, find their power in those things, and are both perceived in ways that are very different from what they actually are.
Although the songs shy away from the deliberately autobiographical, Radio Dial contains many threads and ideas deeply meaningful to Goss; even the cover art features loom and shuttle patents invented by his great-grandfather in the mid-twentieth century, whose first job, upon emigrating from Italy, was working in the factory that now sits vacant in the center of Jason’s hometown–a unique and deeply-personal tribute to the history of where he (and his family) came from.
“My great-grandfather came through Ellis Island when he was only a teenager. He was a brilliant man–an inventor, an opera singer, and a multi-instrumentalist. I think about the courage he must have had to leave everything behind, and how, with a lot of effort and ingenuity, he was able to build a life for himself and have a family. These patents are his American story, and they have become very meaningful to me, especially as I get older. I feel a kinship with that spirit of working hard to try to create things that you can build a life with. They remind me that, whatever road you take, you need to have faith in yourself.”
As an album name, Radio Dial embodies the spirit of these songs, with a keen eye looking back on those days when Jason was a teenager, walking the old town railroad tracks with his head lost in music, while also conveying a sense of hope and optimism for what the future may hold.
“It has this life-affirming quality to it that I feel a lot of the songs speak to, despite the difficulties and darker things lurking in there. I think part of growing up is learning how to be brave in the face of these things. I have alway found tremendous solace in music, in how records would make me feel, and my hope is that this record is able to do that for someone else.”