Australia’s Jason McDaniel knows a thing or two about hitting the road and really living life. Since his start as a pro musician in 1995 he has perfected a “rowdy” concoction of country, rock and blues, influenced by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, ZZ Top and Dire Straits, as well as the greats of Australia’s home-grown country music like Slim Dusty and John Williamson.
A true veteran musician, Jason’s music grows out of long experience, beginning with solo pub gigs at the tender age of 18. “It wasn’t necessarily country; you pretty much played for your life—playing any requests they threw at you,” he recalls.
According to Jason, his new album, Honky Tonk Life, is about “…celebrating good times, good music, good whiskey, and living life to the full.” A long time in coming, his second album only arrived after decades of touring with the popular band Montana and writing hundreds of songs since his debut record, 1995’s Man in the Black Hat. Although he performed many of his songs live with the band, getting them down on tape was another matter: “We never got around to recording them. We were actually that busy on the road doing shows, we never had time to get back to the studio.”
But with the emergence of a world-wide pandemic, Jason finally found himself off the road, with nothing but time. “I had no excuse. I had all the time in the world to be able to sit and write, so that was when it really happened.” With the strong encouragement of his daughter, he seized the opportunity to create a new collection of songs that would be an encouragement to listeners in the midst of the challenging situation at hand. “Everyone in the world was not having fun, so I thought, well, let’s try and write some songs about having good times…”
Although the music is rooted in classic, analog sound, its actual production made use of cutting-edge technology. Jason recorded the album in Georgia, and the vocals and demos back in Australia. Studio pros in the US then transformed them into the album’s backing tracks. They used Zoom meetings in lieu of in-studio listening sessions to finalize the songs. “It was like I was there,” Jason says.
Highlighting Honky Tonk Life is the first single, “Pier Pressure Breakdown,” which tells the story of a hard-working truck driver who gives into “pier pressure,” or the allure of, as the Aussies call it, “chucking a sickie” and spending the day fishing.
Written by Dan Walsh