Today’s guest is Jason McCoy who with The Road Hammers has won 5 Canadian Country Music Awards, a JUNO award, and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year.  They are the best selling Canadian country band of all time. Before The Road Hammers, Jason was already a very successful solo artist winning the CCMA Male Vocalist of the Year twice, 3 SOCAN Song of the Year awards, 19 CCMA nominations, and 5 Juno nominations. In 2006, he was awarded the Global Artist Award at the CMA Awards in Nashville.


Hello and welcome to episode #44 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive!

Today’s guest is Jason McCoy who with The Road Hammers has won 5 Canadian Country Music Awards, a JUNO award, and SOCAN Songwriter of the Year.  They are the best selling Canadian country band of all time. Before The Road Hammers, Jason was already a very successful solo artist winning the CCMA Male Vocalist of the Year twice, 3 SOCAN Song of the Year awards, 19 CCMA nominations, and 5 Juno nominations. In 2006, he was awarded the Global Artist Award at the CMA Awards in Nashville.

Jason recently announced the development of the We Are 1 World Project with the release of the song ‘We Are One’, a powerful message of hope, recorded by renowned musicians and singers in isolation from across the world. The COVID-19 virus started with one person and has spread to all parts of the globe, affecting the health and well-being of the entire planet, and “We Are One”, is a song of unity, to celebrate the power of one, together in isolation.

The first version of the song ‘We Are One’ is being released from Jason McCoy and Friends, which included Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, the Harlem Gospel Choir, Tim Hicks, Deric Ruttan, Gordie Johnson, Carolyn Dawn Johnson, and many more. With all proceeds from the song going towards The Red Cross COVID-19 Relief Effort, including International Red Cross and Global Citizen, “We Are One” aims to create awareness, hope, joy, and raise much-needed funds and demonstrate The Power of One.

Diane Foy
Tell me all about the “We Are One project”.

Jason McCoy 2:58
Wow, this you know, it’s just kind of a whirlwind because we’ve really only been doing this for, you know, just under three weeks, I guess. Well, three weeks, I guess. My friend Jim and I were written a few songs together, we wrote Zamboni for the Road Hammers while back. And we thought, well, let’s write a song to support COVID-19 relief efforts. And, you know, that’s not the newest idea. There are a few songs out there like that. But we thought, well, how do we get, you know, how do we get people to join in and share their voice from wherever they are in isolation to see what, what isolation looks like around the world? And we thought, well, first of all, we should have guests on it from around the world. And we had musicians from British Columbia to Nashville to LA that just friend of friends, you know, join in and they recorded their parts and then send it to the studio put it together. And then we were thinking about the vocal guests to have a sit-in with my daughter who’s 13 and we thought, you know, New York was just really hard hit at the time and point be great to get someone from New York is to just to show that we can still record in isolation and get the message out that of hope you know. And I remember seeing the Harlem Gospel Choir one time on Good Morning America. And I was just a big fan. I’d seen them all over YouTube. And so I got my daughter to find the contact info and I sent a note to their manager, and she called me back within 10 minutes. Her name is Anna Bailey. And in a couple of days, we had all their parts, and then when we put it back together, it was like I said, Harlem Gospel Choir. And that just led us, it’s amazing!

And then we just asked more friends, you know, Haley Jensen has been on the voice in Australia met her a few years ago. And then Jessica Falcon, Sweden. She’s a friend of ours from through another friend in Nashville. And it just kept going on like that. And Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies and then Tim Hicks and Hunter brothers, and it really is just, it was a matter of whoever we asked and they said yes, you know, and just to get it done and get the message out and then we thought, well, let’s give the song away in a couple of different ways at our website. So we’re raising money for two different causes. One is for the Red Cross worldwide, and one is for the unison fund which supports the music community in times of crisis, which of course is right now because nobody’s touring and there’s two ways we’re raising money. One is by directing people to our website, which is one is a numeral, and there’s buttons there to donate. The other is through the royalties of the song which are being donated. So the more it gets played on the radio or the internet, the more generates, and you can, you know, or Spotify, you name it, but you can spin our version or we’re asking people to download the tracks at record their own version posted on their socials and then hashtag it as #weareoneworldsong and then just spread the message and hear everybody’s voice.

Diane Foy 5:59
That’s cool. And it’s perfect for up and coming artists to get out there, gives them a project.

Jason McCoy 6:05
Yeah, you know, it’s amazing. We had a young girl named Katherine. She’s a part time postal carrier out in Kingston. And she’s also, you know, an aspiring artist. And she’s got her songs on iTunes and things are, her stage name is Mellow Lily. And she, you know, has a lot of YouTube action and things like that. So she posted one. We have, you know, our friends in the western swing authority from Kitchener, and they posted one. We have lots of folks who a fellow named Brian Bone I just saw on Instagram posted one so and he’s got a rap section in it, you know, like people are making it. They’re all a guy. There’s a young young fellow played the ukulele and did his version. It’s just really cool. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re like, take the spotlight off us. That’s not we’re just getting the message out there. But the real life to this thing is hearing these new voices and new artists.

Diane Foy 7:00
Very cool. This podcast is very international. So maybe we’ll get some people from different countries participating here.

Jason McCoy 7:10
Yeah, that’s the key. You know, we, you know, we’re we’re asking, you know, lots of people. Anybody who’s been involved in the project, obviously, are sharing it on their socials and things like that. So that’s a good start for us. We had participants from Greece, Sweden, and Australia, you name it and India. We’ve had submissions now from Ukraine from Uruguay from oh my goodness from Oh, China a fellow did a remix from China of all the tracks. So if you’re, you know, whether you sing or dance, I mean those talents. You know, we’d love to celebrate that as well. We also love to celebrate, you know, the digital arts like, you can go to the website and download the tracks individually and the stems and remix the song and make it your own you know, so there’s so many different aspects of it if you have any creativity at all we can find a way to incorporate into this message.

Diane Foy 8:08
Yeah, and it is different these days is that the crisis is international. It’s not like, oh, something that’s happening over there, or over here. It’s like, it’s happening all over the world, and it’s something to unite us all.

Jason McCoy 8:23
Yeah it’s interesting. The thing that’s, you know, separating us right now is actually the very thing that is bringing us closer together through, you know, through social media, through podcasts like this through keeping in touch with people on different news sources that we normally wouldn’t access. So it’s pretty enlightening to to get a window into other countries, other communities to see what the isolation looks like in those communities. You know, it’s no different than anywhere else, you know. And that’s, I guess it’s comforting in a way to know that we are all one. It also makes the world a little smaller for a short period of time. And it just makes the whole world tap the brakes a little bit because it said it’s a serious business. In our generation, we’ve lived through things like this and it’s it’s just a little pause and time to allow us to prioritize things in a different way.

Diane Foy 9:19
Yeah, it’s a definitely a reset for everyone. So what first drew you to music when you’re young? Like what was your childhood like? What was your music all around the house? How’d you get into it?

Jason McCoy 9:33
Yeah, my dad was country music fan. Always had a radio on, I was born in Ontario lived out in Alberta for a while moved out there when I was a little guy. So my first memories are Alberta so it was all country music for me. Then when I move back to Ontario, which is you know, just stuck. I had a guitar played a few chords but nothing serious and I just, you know, wanted to be a like one of the guys on the radio I just I really enjoyed country music and that was it.

Diane Foy 10:04
So who were your favorite artists?

Jason McCoy 10:06
Oh, I would say, you know the Johnny Cash, Willie Nelsons, Merle Haggard those guys. Really the singer songwriter storytellers. And I guess, you know, the country outlaws those kind of cats. That was because that’s what my dad liked. And then I started to, you know, play records that he had. That’s your first exposure, what you fall in love with. And then I got into Randy Travis Dwight Yoakam in the early 80s, mid 80s. And it just stuck with it. Oh there you go.

Diane Foy 10:38
A dog guest appearance. How did you start songwriting?

Jason McCoy 10:43
Well, I probably was 10 to 12 years old, and I was just trying to emulate the people I heard on the radio. So just trying to, you know, my best to try and be Merle Haggard, and would try to write songs that I thought would, you know, have subjects you’d hear on the radio and no particular rhyme or reason but no plan. It came from a combination of learning a few chords and then just trying to string along some sentences to make what I thought was some resemblance of a song. But that led to, you know, into playing in bar bands when I was 16, 17, stuff like that you start to get a little bit of living and experience under your belt. Went on the road when I was about 19, doing the same thing, and then that, you know, would lead to a treasure trove of other stories. So I will say, you know, I went on the road when I was about 19. I forgot to quit.

Diane Foy 11:35
What was your first break?

Jason McCoy 11:37
Oh, I don’t know. I think you know, I think I have a series of breaks throughout my life. I would say my first breaks would be doing a talent contest against my hometown, Barrie and when I was about 16, and that led to meeting Ray Griff is his name. We did a little recording in Nashville when I was 17. So, and that led to an independent release, which got MCA’s year at the time, and they released a couple of songs, and that eventually led to a full record deal. So that kind of thing. You know, it’s not like there was one lightning rod moment, but I’d say it was a series of little breaks, just always trying to be there at the right time.

Diane Foy 12:18
Right. I saw that your first few solo albums, they’re different labels, where did you switch labels? Or is that part of the big family?

Jason McCoy 12:28
Well, they were all within the universal MCA group. But what’s interesting guy who was head of MCA at the time, Randy Lennox, he is now head of all media and I’m actually I do a radio show at Bell Media as well. So it’s kind of all within the family still.

Diane Foy 12:46
How cool. I saw you open for Martina McBride in Vancouver, in 90s.

Jason McCoy 12:53
Oh yeah. The Elizabeth Cohen theater?

Diane Foy 12:56
Oh, might be Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Jason McCoy 12:59
Queenless, that’s right. On the other end of the country. That’s right. Wow.

Diane Foy 13:05
Yeah, that was kind of when you first kind of the public started to get to know you then.

Jason McCoy 13:11
Oh, wow. Yeah, that’d be 98, 99 maybe.

Diane Foy 13:15
I think it was 96.

Jason McCoy 13:17
Oh, yeah, we’re Dixieland. Oh my goodness. Yeah, that’s a while ago.

Diane Foy 13:22
And so what made you after you’ve had some success as a solo artist What made you want to join a group or put together the Road Hammers?

Jason McCoy 13:32
Well, I guess I would say that, you know, I came off since Lies and Angels album and I didn’t really know what to do, for lack of a better term. I was in the middle of the music industry that was kind of changing. You know, the format was changing a lot. I mean, we were getting like country music always done little too pop or little too country. There was always that argument. And I don’t know if I like I knew which way to go. So I thought, well, let’s just do a little side project supposed to be a one and done. And it was going to be hey, little idea of a bunch of trucker songs on an album and forget about it. I told my friend Ted Ellis who was running CMT at the time. And he said, well, we’d like to do a little reality show or documentary, I guess you’d say of behind the scenes putting this together. And I said, great. So they followed us around with cameras and next thing, you know, we’re, we’re still going.

Diane Foy 14:29
My very first guest on the podcast was Clayton Bellamy.

Jason McCoy 14:33
Oh yeah cool, right on.

Diane Foy 14:34
Yeah. So he told us all that story of how he got involved with the Road Hammers and he also said that you’re a walking encyclopedia of country music.

Jason McCoy 14:46
Oh yeah. I guess to a degree. I mean, you know, I always had country music. It’s always been the forefront of my life. I just, it’s interesting being 0n a radio now. I’ve got lots of backstories and this guy wrote that, and so once I was connected to such and such, I guess I never really talked about it that much unless I’m prompted the station’s always say make sure you tell more of those stories. And I really enjoy that. I really like that. That part of country music the backstory.

Diane Foy 15:16
Yeah, I was always the same. I was always reading the credits on the albums and getting to know these, that you see the same songwriters over and over again or you see the same producers over and over again, you start to get to know who does well.

Jason McCoy 15:29
Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of a small community in a way and and then you get to see, yeah, you get to see some producers of a certain sound. You can hear that thread through the different artists they work with, you know.

Diane Foy 15:41
What have been some of your career highlights, like what stands out to you as like big moment?

Jason McCoy 15:49
Career highlights? Well, there’s been a lot of them I mean, you know, winning a JUNO with The Hammers was obviously we all big one for all of us. As a country music artists, you know, growing up, I always felt that country music I guess in the late 70s, early 80s was underrepresented at the JUNOs so to be part of that and then actually when one was pretty awesome I remember watching the JUNOs with my folks and you know at the time we didn’t meant at all didn’t they didn’t have any country artists you know on the broadcast stuff like that. So it was really cool to be involved in that and when but that’s kind of the business side I think there’s kind of personal highs you know, like things that may not mean a lot to other people like theJUNOs but for that reason is a little bit different reason for me.

Diane Foy 16:39

Jason McCoy 16:40
You know. Hosting part of the CCMA as I did one presidents dinner there and I really enjoyed that because, you know, I’ve been to so many of them as up and coming artists, you know, and, and as an artist, it’s one thing we played the dinner and played the show many times and all that stuff. I love that but I always like posting stuff. So that was kind of a coup for me because I’m like up there in front of all these people that I’ve worked with in the industry getting a host and you kind of kind of an emcee for the front seat of the excitement of that here. I really like that. And then, I guess, you know, right, anytime you write a song, record a song and then get to hear it on the radio, and then see people’s reaction to it. That’s like the full cycle of the, you know, the music business and I having a front row seat to that is probably the ultimate highlight.

Diane Foy 17:35
Yeah, and seeing that your music is inspiring other people, and you could see the audience loving your music too.

Jason McCoy 17:44
Or even if people don’t like I mean, you know, you go on YouTube, you’ll see some, you know, like, some comment people make online.

Diane Foy 17:51
Hate that guy.

Jason McCoy 17:52
Yeah or The Hammers like, you know, we might remake a song and some people you know, they really liked the original better and stuff like that or you know why they have to do this with the guitar? Any of those things? I don’t know whether they like it or hate it, of course, we want them to like it. But as long as they’re passionate one way or the other, they don’t like it. That’s fine too. We just don’t, that whole lukewarm thing is kind of man, but you really want to make sure they have some passion about it either way, and that’s sometimes the best music you know, and it’s a, I don’t know and just get to react.

Diane Foy 18:25
Yeah. And so what advice would you have for up and coming artists that are kind of just starting to get into the industry?

Jason McCoy 18:34
You know, it’s interesting when I was starting, we didn’t have a lot of outlets like I used to say to people, you know, my advice would be to play anywhere and everywhere you can anytime. And that’s what I did. I’d play clubs and play, you know, coffee shops or anything. You had an opportunity to make a noise right? Now we’ve got social media and you can start your own channel, your YouTube channel, your Instagram, all that stuff. That’s an unbelievable opportunity that I never had. So I would say the number one thing is learn your craft first of all your songwriting or whatever your craft is going to be your singing your guitar, and then or dance or whatever it is. And then make sure that you, you learn all you can about the tools to get it out there, because the thing I’ve learned from being on anything from an independent label to a major label, you know, having mountain TV shows, all those things. Those are all great, but you still have to drive it, you know, you’re stillin charge of your brand, you’re still in charge of your direction, you’re still in charge getting getting things done. So it’s your dream. It’s nobody else’s, and maybe other people come alongside but nobody’s gonna do it for you.

Diane Foy 19:49
And I do find like a lot of artists are reluctant to kind of get to know the business part of it. I’m a publicist, and coach so I’m always trying to help them kind of embrace branding is not a bad word. It’s just bringing out who you are.

Jason McCoy 20:06
Yeah, well, I mean, you’re in charge of, you know, if you don’t like the way you’re coming across on YouTube or you know, anything like that you have to make sure that you, you learn the best techniques, the best ways to do things, the best tools to engage. And I think that people are more savvy now than ever. But, you know, when, when I was I started out in the business before we had a national video channel, we had new country network come on board when I started, and then I went into it and now you know, CMT doesn’t even play videos anymore. So that’s full cycle. You know? What a great opportunity we have with all the social medias absolutely amazing.

Diane Foy 20:48
When you’re doing The Road Hammers, what gives you that bug to go back and do a solo?

Jason McCoy 20:56
Um, man, it just depends on what you’re writing at the time. I mean, sometimes Get in a mood where I want to, you know, shoot guns and drive trucks.

Diane Foy 21:05
So that’s the Road Hammer’s end.

Jason McCoy 21:07
And then, you know, I’m really traditional. I mean, if I could be, you know, Randy Travis I, that’s all I do all day, you know, so, but radio doesn’t really play that per se. So you know, it’s it just depends on when you have that write hybrid of what works at write radio, I guess or commercially and creativity. I could make a creative record that nobody’s gonna hear and that’s fine too might do that. But I always like to kind of appeal to a little bit more than just myself and it all comes down to the songs you’re writing.

Diane Foy 21:39
Yeah. And is there anyone that you’ve always wanted to work with that you haven’t yet? Or is there been someone that you’ve been blown away that you got to work with?

Jason McCoy 21:50
Well, uh, gosh, everybody on this We are One Project was kind of a dream come true. Just because, you know, so far reaching and just put together in such a unique way that, you know, we didn’t have time to ask people to do a certain thing. They just did it their own way that there was no second guessing and it couldn’t have come together better was like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. So t that was a treat. But as far as you know, Merle Haggard I would love to work with him. I saw him many times did some shows over on the same bill but never really got to hang out. You know, but just as a music fan. I don’t know like, I mean, some of my heroes are the producers like Tony Brown who worked with MCA for years. I never worked with him but met him a few times. So people like that, but I don’t you know, I’ve just been I’ve been lucky to work with some some great people. So it whether they’re famous or not, doesn’t matter. I just there’s a lot of inspiring people I’ve had the chance to make music with and whether the writers or the engineers and the unsung heroes of the whole operation, you know? Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll just see see what the next project brings and that’ll be the next bucket list filler, you know.

Diane Foy 23:05
Right. And so what’s coming up next for you?

Jason McCoy 23:08
Well, this “We are One” is kind of all encompassing right now we’re working on some new hammer music and we have our first of Four Road Hammer called Hammer Hangs on Thursday evenings at seven Eastern on our Instagram page. So that’s a first for us. That’s gonna be pretty cool. We have some guests. Yeah, we have some guests coming on the show and stuff like that. So it’sa pretty fun. I mean, I really, I really liked the social media part of it because like I said, never had that when I started out. So it’s good to keep in touch with the fans. That’s what’s coming up for us. Of course, I do a radio show with pure country 106. And that’s in very middle in Orillia. So like to be busy. And then of course, two kids, two dogs and wife and a farm here. So lots to do here too.

Diane Foy 23:57
Yeah, for sure. Cool. Anything else you want to add?

Jason McCoy 24:03
I think that’s great. I really appreciate you taking the time. I love the focus of the podcast and just really excited to hear all these, you know, voices that maybe haven’t been heard or first time and taking a swing at the social media thing with we are one and it’s it’s really inspiring to hear what people do with the song whether it’s just simply singing along dance along or making a whole new, you know, animal out of the thing. It’s just really inspiring. So thanks, everybody, for joining us.

Diane Foy 24:32
Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time.

Jason McCoy 24:34
Well, thank you. All right, I’ll talk to very soon.

Diane Foy 24:37
It was great talking to Jason. I was wanting to have him on the show for a while now. So it was great to have him on. I hope everyone’s doing well with the crisis not being able to be out there performing. But right now it’s a great time to embrace online. Do your Facebook Lives and Instagram lives and make more effort to comment on other people’s stuff on social. Just it’s the time for, you know, being connected. If you enjoy the podcast, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes, and also join the Facebook group. If you go to, you will join our community there and get some much-needed support during this time.