Interview: Jason Manns Talks Producing, Working with Friends, Space Jam & More!
Jason Manns is a person who wears many hats. He is a singer, songwriter, member of the band The Station Breaks, music producer, and soon-to-be marathon runner. He also keeps himself busy as part of the Creation Entertainment convention circuit, traveling all over the world. He is brilliant, fascinating, and charitable. This past weekend, myself, Pau, and guest interviewer Julia were able to interview Jason on behalf of Nerds and Beyond where we talked about all his upcoming projects.
Nerds and Beyond: So let’s start with the “Bad Idea Tour”. Can you share a little bit about this Random Acts E4K project, and what made you want to participate in a marathon?
Jason: Well I have this friend, Misha Collins, and he’s the kind of person who can leave his house and run fifty miles just because he was bored. We were sitting in the green room at a convention a while ago, and I was talking about the fact that I needed motivation. We did Tough Mudder several years ago, and I remember having that was the push I needed to workout. I was telling him that, and he was like, “Well I’m running a marathon, you should run it with me”, and I said – before I was really thinking about what I was saying or doing – “That sounds like fun.”
Nerds and Beyond: Fun?
Jason: It was the wrong word. He looked at me and said, “Really?” The way he looked at me made me feel like I should reconsider what I just said, but it was already said.
Nerds and Beyond: What is your training regimen looking like?
Jason: I do about four runs a week, one of which is a long run. I add between 10-20% to the length of the long run [every time]. This past Monday was thirteen, and the next week I’ll run sixteen, I think.
Nerds and Beyond: We’ll all be cheering you on. Since this is for charity, I wanted to ask you what charitable causes are close to your heart?
Jason: Anytime I am given the opportunity to raise funds for something, I always try to direct them towards the orphanage in Haiti that Random Acts built.
Nerds and Beyond: You went there, right?
Jason: I went there. Being there, I remember painting the walls, and I remember seeing the faces of the kids. I remember how happy and joyous everybody was. To see the physical manifestation of the work you have done through fundraising is just awesome. To paint a wall that was built with money that you helped raise, brings it home in a way that I had never really experienced before. So that’s always what I do.
Nerds and Beyond You’ve participated in producing different music for artists like Briana Buckmaster and Gil McKinney. Can you share what your favorite part is about doing that work?
Jason: I discovered that I really like producing when I was doing the first Christmas album (Christmas with Friends). I told everyone I was doing a Christmas record, asked if they wanted to jump in and sing something, and pretty much everybody said yes. I recorded it in my house. It was a total friends and family deal. My brother engineered it, and it was the first time I had worked in the studio and was not the singer. I did sing some things on the album, but I didn’t sing everything. It was the first time I was the one saying, “Hey, try it like this,” or “What if you sang this note?” It was really fun putting those puzzles together on each track, and I just discovered that I really liked producing in general. Specifically, I really liked working with singers and helping them find their own voice in the studio. A lot of the Supernatural cast have amazing voices, and they have grown up in musical theatre or grown up singing. The singing they have done has usually been performance and not recording in a studio. They’re really different things. It’s really fun helping somebody through that process, and telling them they can take way more chances in a studio. They can do more things, and they can try things different ways. It takes a really long time to just be able to throw caution to the wind and do crazy stuff with your voice, and eventually find something that works really well.
Nerds and Beyond: We just went to Briana’s performance in New York City, and she did amazing. It was her second performance, and I think it seemed like it was her hundredth performance. What was it like as both a producer and a friend seeing someone go from it being perhaps more of a hobby, to seeing them in the studio, and ultimately live?
Jason: It’s fantastic. It’s also interesting to have this feeling that, fatherly is the wrong word, but in every aspect of my relationship with my friends on the convention circuit, we are absolute peers. Then to be in a situation where I kind of take a mentor role and help with the production and producing, looking at the show. I like taking on that role and showing people what I’ve been doing in my career apart from the cons.
Nerds and Beyond: Aaron Beaumont is brilliant. Was it your idea to bring him and Bri and the piano piece performance together?
Jason: When we conceptualized her album, I wanted it to be piano heavy to differentiate it from a lot of other stuff that we are kind of used to hearing her sing. So we actually started with piano tracks for almost all the songs, and then we built a song around it. When we had a little private show in Los Angeles for some of the Kickstarter backers it was a really intimate show, and it didn’t make sense to me to have this big huge raucous performance for 10 people. So I said, let’s do just the piano, and it ended up being really unique and really interesting. It ended up really nice, and we decided we should dig into it. So when it came time to do a show in New York, since we had already done a show in LA with the full band, and Aaron lives in New York, we thought we could do the entire thing that way. It was really spectacular. I think the piano arrangement leaves room for the harmonies the way the whole band doesn’t so you really get to hear those two singers singing that song together [Wave] rather than big band, lead vocal, backup singer.
Nerds and Beyond: Going back to Gil, can you share anything about the Christmas album?
Jason: Yes, there will be Christmas songs on it.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you share one?
Jason: I would be happy to share with you, but we don’t know yet. We have a list that we are going to work off of, and we will record more songs than we need so that we can pick the best ones. Given the time constraints and that we want it to be ready by Christmas, I think it will be a piano arrangement similar to Briana’s show. I’m looking forward to it, it will be really fun.
Nerds and Beyond: Is there still a dream for a Richard Speight, Jr. country album in the future?
Jason: We are working on it. We are officially in preproduction. We have a list of songs. We are basically in the same place with Richard’s as we are with Gil’s. Gil’s will be simpler, so we are going to start with his and get it done by Christmas, and then shift gears to Richard’s and hopefully work on that until it’s finished.
Nerds and Beyond: Very nice. Switching gears to The Station Breaks. Can you share anything about The Station Breaks’ writing process, and specifically you and the band seem to connect as friends, so how does that influence the work you do together?
Jason: The Station Breaks is a project that grew into existence slowly. Rob and I started singing together many years ago, and we would just sing when we were at the same place with guitars. Then we started performing once in a while, and then we decided we should maybe writer some original stuff just so we have something to breakout that people haven’t heard before. We wrote a couple songs and we really like them, and then when we said, “Let’s do it, let’s make a real band,” Rob brought in Billy [Moran], and I brought in Cooper [Appelt] and Rob Humphreys, and it just kind of turned into a thing. The writing process specifically, the first record I would say is a pretty even split between songs Rob and I wrote together. Then we brought Billy in on [and there were] songs the three of us were in a room together writing, or songs that one of us brought in near completion or completed that the other two either gave notes on or reworked a little.
Nerds and Beyond: And do you have anything coming up with The Station Breaks?
Jason: We are in the process of writing, but it is a little bit slow going because we are all so busy. I’m producing those other things, and Louden Swain just did an acoustic record. We’re always traveling, so we’ll find a window soon and really focus on the writing and then we’ll just get it recorded.
Nerds and Beyond: So you just went on tour with Blake Lewis. What is your favorite part about performing live, and do you have any traditions or superstitions before performing or after performing?
Jason: My favorite part of performing is when you get into a role, where you’ve had a couple shows, you have a couple more to go, and you’re in a place where you’ve knocked the rust off. You feel good, the voice is there, you’re not tired yet, and you’re comfy. That’s right in the middle of the tour. It’s kind of fun to experiment with songs you’ve played a thousand times. You can get on stage and play with stuff a little bit, you can sing it a little faster or slower, change the key or do a run at a different place than you normally do. It’s fun to just make things different, and that’s why I like touring with other musicians. Having Blake there, it is literally impossible to do it the exact same way with Blake because he’s a musical mad scientist. We get finished with a song, and we’re like, “What did we do?” and we can’t even remember what we did. So yeah, I like that. I like ad-libbing and changing things up, being in the moment.
Nerds and Beyond: I know that you studied English Literature, and there are artistic connections to that in its own way. Are you artistic in any other way besides music?
Jason: Depends on your definition of artistic. I wish that I could draw, but I cannot.
Nerds and Beyond: You write. Do you ever write poetry or short stories, or anything like that?
Jason: Sure. When I first got to L.A. I did some script doctoring, but I don’t know that I would have any kind of art that I would be happy to say, “Hey this is another type of art I can do.” None of it is at the level of what I can do with my voice, so I’d rather just say, “I’m a singer.” Do I enjoy writing? Yes. Do I write screenplays, or poetry, or do I want to write a novel one day? Yes. Is it anything you could read? No.
Nerds and Beyond: So we at Nerds and Beyond always ask nerdy questions. So along those lines, asking some of our traditional questions, who is your favorite superhero?
Jason: Can I ask for clarification? Movie or comic book superhero?
Nerds and Beyond: Either or, or both.
Jason: Daredevil was my favorite comic book superhero. I have not enjoyed his film representation as much as I enjoyed the comic book. As far as screen adaptations go, I feel like Wolverine is tough to beat.
Nerds and Beyond: What would your lightsaber color be?
Nerds and Beyond: Do you want to share a little bit more about why? Is it just like a feeling, or is there anything that comes to mind?
Jason: I couldn’t even tell you because green isn’t even my favorite color. It was the force, it spoke through me.
Nerds and Beyond: What do you nerd out to, what are you a fan of?
Jason: Star Wars. I remember when I was young, my older brothers were into Star Wars. So automatically it was the coolest thing on earth because watching them nerd out about it made me nerd out about it, and it’s just very nostalgic. I also used to nerd out about comic books a little bit. I’m not really into comic books anymore. Just because I don’t have as much time.
Nerds and Beyond: If you were going to introduce the Star Wars universe to your kids. Would you introduce the movies to them in chronological order, or film release order?
Jason: That is such a good question. I feel nervous about the conclusions you will draw about me as a human being by my answer. I feel like my gut is telling me to give them release order because that way the dip is in the middle.
Nerds and Beyond: This was a big debate in the Supernatural fandom. Waffles, pancakes, or French toast? If you had to choose one.
Jason: Am I making or eating?
Nerds and Beyond: Eating.
Nerds and Beyond: You’ve been trolled lovingly online about “Space Jam”. Here and now, to put it to rest (which I think will be the biggest breaking news from this interview), will you share if you will ever actually play “Space Jam”?
Jason: I promise that I will not ever play “Space Jam”, and not share it with everyone.
Nerds and Beyond: So you’ve never played it before?
Jason: I have not ever played it before. I feel like I now I kind of have to play it, but at this point it has to be epic.
Nerds and Beyond: At this point I also feel like you have been having so much fun trolling everyone back.
Jason: Yes, indeed. I feel like with this kind of lead up, if I did a crappy cover of “Space Jam” as like a throwaway, that is not worthy of the years of commitment that these fans have put into trolling me with “Space Jam”. Also, there’s a new “Space Jam” coming out. Maybe we should have mounted a fan campaign to get something in the movie. Maybe I’ll do something to celebrate the release, or maybe I’ll just watch the new one to see if there’s something there.
Nerds and Beyond: A lot of people have comfort food, do you have a comfort song?
Jason: Yeah, Sam Cooke is where it’s at.
Nerds and Beyond: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Jason: I have enjoyed this interview, and Nerds and Beyond is awesome. I have a lot coming up!
Thank you again to Jason for taking the time to answer our questions!