POSTED ON JUNE 12, 2013:
Connecting the Dots
Singer's new release comes with a little help from his friends
Although Jason Ferguson has been playing around Tulsa for roughly six years now, he has finally emerged over the past two, becoming a regular fixture on the local pop/rock scene, often opening for local or national acts as well as appearing regularly at Hunt Club and a handful of other locations. Instead of pushing the rock envelope, Ferguson has found his niche and comfort zone within the window of mid-tempo pop songs, culminating in the release of his new disc, The Unicorn EPisode, with five of his best tracks.
Looking back, it has all developed and happened quite naturally for Ferguson. When sitting down to discuss his path to date, he shared quite simply, "I was 18 or 19 when my older brother taught me a few chords on the guitar. It was that famous old G/C/D, and a few weeks later, I was out playing an open mic night."
From there, Ferguson played as often possible, mostly at coffee shops and open mic nights around town. "I spent a lot of time opening for people, playing acoustic sets," he said. "Basically, I just went out there and played for anyone who would let me."
As a result, Ferguson started to build a little bit of name recognition, eventually breaking into the club scene.
"Radio Radio got me my first big bar gig," he reflected. Looking back, that show was roughly two years ago, a late summer all-ages show on the Hunt Club patio with Radio Radio and Chase Stites. Beyond that single showcase, however, the show opened up doors for Ferguson to play additional shows around town as well as officially introducing him to the Hunt Club, where he has since become a regular.
Since that time, Ferguson has appeared not only at Hunt Cub, but also at venues like Vanguard, The Shrine, Treehouse, Elwood's and even Old Memorial Lounge a couple of times, picking up fans and making friends within the music community along the way.
"It has always been more about hanging out and making friends with everyone and people liking my songs," he explained. "I've never really had to go looking for gigs. It's always been more a matter of getting to know people and them asking later 'Hey, can you come play on this night?' And although I'm playing more and more, that's never really changed."
Ferguson's reputation within music circles has grown in much the same way. "I remember just randomly meeting the guys from Able the Allies one night at Treehouse," Ferguson reflected. "I had played an acoustic gig earlier and saw them play. They were cool guys and really good, so I asked them to play with me for the Ryan Cabrera show I had coming up."
Although some might find that a little presumptuous, it's something that comes naturally for Ferguson. Always willing to jump up on stage to play with a friend or acquaintance, he's also just as open to inviting others to come play with him. That's part of what makes his performances so endearing and has built him such a loyal audience: Even as his voice and songwriting continued to develop, he has always been open to playing with others, pushing himself and being part of a music community.
In turn, it should come as no surprise that when it came time to record his latest CD, he didn't hesitate to draw from his pool of friends to expand the songs and bring them to fruition. Instead of recording a simple acoustic record, Ferguson entered the studio with Rockwell (Ryan) Ripperger at the helm and recorded five songs with Bryan Coager on drums, Billy and Bobby Moore (of Able the Allies) on bass and guitar and Cody Clinton on guitar.
Beau Tyler of We the Ghost even makes an appearance, giving "One Night Stand" a distinctly different swagger on the verses, before swinging back into Ferguson's distinct melodic swoon on the chorus, providing a contrast within the song that makes it stand out within the EP.
When discussing the dynamics of recording with a band versus performing acoustically, which is usually the case for Ferguson, he shared that "Basically, I brought the song to the table, but I felt like Rockwell had a really good grasp on the material, as well as the guys I was recording with. They're all such good musicians, I really just left it to them to flesh the songs out and do what they though fit. Of course, I guided started it out with something in mind and guided it a little, but for the most part, I left everything up to the musicians and I couldn't be happier with the results."
The results come out this weekend as Ferguson releases The Unicorn EPisode this Friday night at Cain's Ballroom. In order to recreate the disc, Ferguson will be performing with a full band, including Brandon Holder on drums, Eric Arndt on bass, Jeff Coleman and Cody Clinton on guitars and Brian Lee on piano. Of course, Ferguson will be playing acoustic guitar while singing and the night promises to include a few guest appearances from Rockwell and Ben Mosier on acoustic guitar.
More than just making the evening about himself, though, Ferguson has turned the CD release into a showcase for his friends as well. By including All About A Bubble, Desi & Cody, Stephen Speaks, FM Pilots and Young Lyons on the bill, the night has become a showcase for Tulsa's current pop/rock scene and some of the busiest acts within that movement.
When asked about doing the show at Cain's Ballroom, Ferguson explained that "It really just started out because I was at the Taddy Porter CD release show at Cain's and got to talking to Mary Ellen (Slape, owner of Hunt Club) and asked her 'What do you think about the possibility of me doing the CD release at Cain's?' She told me 'You just need to talk to Brad (Harris, Cain's Production Manager),' and once I did, it was a matter of 'Yeah, we could do this....'
"Honestly, it would probably be smarter or a little more cautious to do it at Hunt Club or Vanguard, but when the opportunity comes up to do it at Cain's you can't not take it," he said. "And besides, we'll still be having the after party at Hunt Club -- that's only natural."
Of course, once the opportunity came up to play Cain's Ballroom, it was only natural to include his friends on the bill. Ferguson has played multiple shows with All About A Bubble, while Cody Clinton (of Desi & Cody) has joined Ferguson on guitar on a number of occasions, including opening for Love & Theft at the Ballroom last August. Paul Cristiano (formerly of Radio Radio) is now playing bass in Young Lyons and was the one who initially invited him to play that first gig at Hunt Club, while Nick Whitaker of FM Pilots helped him make his first recordings and Rockwell Ripperger (Stephen Speaks) produced this latest EP and helped Ferguson develop his sound even further.
As such, The Unicorn EPisode and this Friday night's release party at Cain's Ballroom have all come together in the same way that Jason's career has to date: much like connecting the dots. If you're not familiar with Jason Ferguson and his melodic pop, this Friday night's show is a great way to get introduced -- and also a great way to see what other artists are coming up within local pop/rock scene. Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 the day of the show and doors open at 6pm, with music starting at 6:30pm.
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Now that May is officially behind us (and hopefully the storms as well), the summer season is upon us and it's the perfect weather to get out and enjoy some live music. As always, we've got the highlights for you -- and you can find complete listings in our events calendar. If you're looking for a head start, check out these options:
Thursday, June 13
The biggest show on the calendar is the one that Urban Tulsa is bringing to you as NewVo 2013 is at IDL Ballroom. Admission is free for the 18 and over crowd and the night will include sets by Robert Hoefling, Dead Shakes, Johnny Badseed & the Rotten Apples, Fabulous St. Knicholas Cage, Grayless, SocietySociety, and RL Jones. If you're looking for something different, you can get your country fix with 2 Steps Back at Red Dirt Dance Hall or kick back with John Moreland at Mercury Lounge.
Friday, June 14
Jason Ferguson celebrates the release of his new EP at Cain's Ballroom with All About A Bubble, Desi & Cody, Stephen Speaks, Young Lyons and FM Pilots for a Tulsa pop music showcase. Afterwards, you can roll down the street to Hunt Club for the after party with Loaded Dice and Steve Lidell. Also on Friday night, Mercury Lounge hosts Folk Family Revival, Pidgin plays at Shrine and Red Dirt Dance Hall welcomes JB & the Moonshine Band.
Saturday, June 15
Vanguard hosts the big show of the night as The Flatlanders (Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely) return to Tulsa and Parker Millsap opens the show. Meanwhile, Cain's Ballroom hosts another night of dancing with Butch Clancy, Mayhem, DJ Getter and Knic Knac, Shrine welcomes Mountain Sprout and The Great Scotts play The Colony.
Sunday, June 16
Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers bring their southern rock and country grooves to Vanguard for a killer night of tunes while The Yeti welcomes the indie rock of Sons of Beatrice. You can also catch your favorite standbys like Brandon Clark at Mercury Lounge, Paul Benjaman & Friends at Colony or Dan Crossland at Baker Street to wrap up your weekend, then rest up as everything revs back up and gets busy again next weekend.
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