The Nashville-based singer-songwriter just wanted to write something that would make him want to drive. This is the keeper that came out.
Cowboys & Indians: What’s the story behind “Money on You” and why did you choose it as the title track for your debut EP?
Jason Nix: June 25th was a year ago that I wrote “Money on You.” I’ve been writing for Sony since 2016, so I pretty much write five to six tunes a week. “Money on You” was a title that I had had in my list of titles that I keep on my phone for a while, and I was just waiting for the right room to write it in. As a writer, I have a reputation for writing more serious songs, but that day, I just wanted to write something that would make me want to drive. That’s really all it was. It’s one of those songs that I don’t have to think about, as far as lyrics go. It just makes me feel good when I hear it, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for that day before I stepped into the room.
C&I: How did this song come together? What were the sessions like? Who’s playing on it, who produced it, where was it recorded?
Nix: I wrote this with Brett Beavers and Lindsay Rimes. Once we knew we were going to write this title, Brett picked up a bass, and Lindsay and I picked up guitars and started mumbling through some words that were more or less a jumble of noises at that point just to find something that felt good. One thing I really wanted to do when we did this project was to make sure every instrument was real and we could capture a “human” performance. As a sideman for years, I always hated dealing with tracks on stage, and I wanted to make sure that whatever we put together was something that would make sure we kept musicianship in the music. The session players did a great of doing that. I had a good friend of mine, David Dorn, playing keys. We go way back. I actually had my first beer with him, so I loved that he could be there to play on it. Justin Ostrander played most all of the electric stuff besides a few parts that I played. Phil Lawson played drums. Kris Donegan played acoustic. One of my favorite bass players of all time, Mark Hill, played on this as well; it was a lot of fun for me to get to watch him work that day. We recorded six songs that day at Omni here in Nashville.
C&I: Who are some of your musical influences?
Nix: I grew up on bluegrass mostly. My dad loved bluegrass and country, so I grew up around that and really learned to admire the folks who knew their instruments so well. That’s also how I fell in love with harmonies. I remember before I could drive, he would never let me sing the melody in the car. I always had to pick a harmony to sing with whatever was on the radio. I loved Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss and Union Station. My dad introduced me to CDB, Vince Gill, Diamond Rio, Bocephus, and Keith Whitley. On the other side, my mom had a ton of Motown 45s that I would just wear out on the record player in my bedroom when I’d get home from school. That's where I discovered Stevie Wonder and the Commodores. In high school, I really dug into Nickel Creek and am still amazed by Chris Thile. It took me until my junior year to discover Boston and Aerosmith (when I became interested in electric guitar) and those greatest hits records didn’t leave my CD player for a long time. (Tonic was another one of these bands that stayed in my player for a long time.) I eventually discovered bands like the Eagles, Allman Brothers, and 38 Special, but I felt like it took forever.
My influences are pretty much all over the board, but there is a little piece of all of these artists and bands in my music. There is something that I love about them all, and I subconsciously write with those influences preaching to me in the back of my mind every day I sit down to do my job.
C&I: What’s your songwriting process like?
Nix: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 o’clock sharp.” — Somerset Maughham
It doesn’t matter if I feel like it or not. I show up to work. Some days are harder than others, but I’m there until the song is finished. I usually like to start with a title, but every day is different. Songwriting is like putting a puzzle together blindfolded — except you have to create and shape the pieces. Some days I love it. Some days I just want to run my head through a wall. It’s the best job in the world.
C&I: What have you been doing during lockdown?
Nix: I’ve spent most of my time writing, to be honest — one or two songs a day. Once the tour got canceled, I got pretty bummed out about that and did nothing for a couple weeks. I had been writing pretty hard up till that point and thought a break might be nice, but it made me feel like a total waste of skin and bones, so I got back to it. Since then I feel like I’ve written the best songs of my career. I can’t wait to put some of them out.
When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been either in or under my car it seems like. I rebuilt a ’71 Chevelle with my dad that we just put another engine in, so I’m still working out the kinks on that. I’ve also toyed with the idea of doing a YouTube vlog on songwriting from home during this. I’ve done a couple videos and I’ve really enjoyed putting those together, so I’ll probably continue posting those as time permits. Not sure if anyone finds that stuff interesting, but if I’m lucky enough to have kids, they’ll have something to go back and look at and say, “Wow, my dad really was an idiot.”
C&I: How have you kept the music going while sheltering?
Nix: I keep the music going by reading or listening to books. I don’t listen to music unless I’m making it, really. There really isn’t time. I’m either writing it or making the demos. My car doesn’t even have a radio (or AC for that matter), so the getaway is really nice. It forces me to think about things in a different light, and, for better or for worse, I feel like it helps me from doing something that sounds too close to what someone else is doing. We only have 12 notes to work with, so there will naturally be some overlap, but I feel like creating until you can’t create anymore and then shutting it off completely has been the thing that has kept me hungry to find something new — or something fun — or at this point, just anything that I enjoy. I’m at a place in my career where I’m really enjoying making things that I love and not writing for other people.
Jason Nix’s Feel Good Playlist
“Rocky Mountain Way” — Joe Walsh
“Sir Duke” — Stevie Wonder
“All Night Long” — Lionel Richie
“Rock and Roll Band” — Boston
“Amie” — Pure Prairie League
“You Wanted More” — Tonic
“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” — Aerosmith
“Atlantic City” — The Band
“Liza Jane” — Vince Gill
“Copperline” — James Taylor