Jason Reeves

by Dan MacIntosh

It's very storybook: A guy from Iowa comes to Los Angeles and meets a girl the very first day he's there. They hit it off, he decides to live there, and she becomes a big star with songs they wrote together.

The guy in our story is Jason Reeves, and the girl is Colbie Caillat. They met on Jason's first day in L.A. when he came across someone who know Colbie's dad, the famous record producer Ken Caillat. Their musical partnership resulted in 10 of the 12 songs on Colbie's debut, including "Bubbly," "Realize," and "The Little Things."

It was quite a success story for Reeves and Caillat, who he describes as "like a sister," and now Jason is stepping out on his own with a solo album called The Lovesick. Jason explained to us what makes him that rare man who understands women well enough to write them relatable, sensitive songs, and he also revealed details about his inner rapper.

Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): Well, you've spent a lot of time in California, right? I was looking at Youtube at some of the videos that I think were shot in Malibu.

Jason Reeves: I've lived in L.A. or around there for about 6 years. So I spend a lot of time there, for sure.

Songfacts: The first thing I want to talk about is just your collaboration with Colbie Caillat, as far as some of the big songs that you've written with her. Can you talk me through a typical writing session, as far as how you work together?

Reeves: Well, the thing about Colbie and I writing is that it's so easy and natural. I really don't know how to describe it beyond that. But I think we're just so comfortable with each other and we're so free with what we're feeling at the moment when we're writing a song that there's not very many walls between us to get in the way. And she was the first person that I ever co-wrote songs with. I think we kind of taught each other - at least she taught me how to do it. Because it's a strange process. And I've been writing with quite a few people starting with her, and nobody's been as easy. It's just kind of a magic that we have together.

Songfacts: How did you first connect with her?

Reeves: I went out there to record with a producer that she knew and had been working with a little bit, and she introduced us when I went out there from Iowa to record. And after I met her and him, I pretty much decided not to go back to Iowa and I moved there pretty much right away.

Songfacts: And when you write songs, is one person focused on the lyrics and the other one dedicated to the music? How does that work?

Reeves: We both do melody and lyrics. For me, most of the time those two things come together. But it's different depending on which song. And for the most part it's both of us contributing a little bit of everything.

Songfacts: I want to talk about a few specific songs. I just love the title of "Bubbly." Did the title come first, or did the song come and then you thought that just the single word title was perfect?

Reeves: No, the title didn't come till after the song was written. I actually have the notebook from when we were writing that, still, and it was written under a different title. I think that after listening to the whole thing back, Colbie decided to call it "Bubbly," which is obviously a great name for it. And it's very rare to name a song immediately, at least what I've experienced.

Songfacts: Can you divulge what the original title was?

Reeves: I think it was something like "Wherever It Goes" or something along those lines. But it wasn't as good. It's her song, and she ultimately has last say in what the title's going to be. For me, whoever's going to sing the song should have that.

Songfacts: When you write with her, do you think about her voice and how her voice is going to sound on the song?

Reeves: Definitely. Especially since when we're writing, she's singing it, I can hear it happening. That makes it easier to visualize. But it is a good thing to be able to write to somebody's specific voice, because people sing in many different ways, and the way Colbie sings is very special. And it's not hard to write songs for something like that. It's pretty easy, actually.

Songfacts: Well, let's talk about the song "Realize." Is there a story behind how that one came together?

Reeves: Yeah. That one does have interesting story. I was living in the same city as her, but I wasn't with her. I wasn't living with her. So one day she was at home and she had come up with the verse for "Realize," at least the first part of it. And she sent it to me through email for some reason. I think she just may have been so excited she just wanted me to have it right away. But we didn't get together in person because this was the first time I've ever had a chunk of a song emailed to me. She was asking if I could come up with anything else. And right away when I heard it, something clicked. I had a guitar and the rest, like the pre-chorus and the chorus just came out right away. I recorded it and sent it back to her, and she loved it, fortunately. So I think it wasn't till after that happened that we got together and finished the rest of it in the studio. But I'd never mailed back and forth like that.

Songfacts: The new technology and how it affects songwriting is pretty fascinating, huh?

Reeves: Yeah, it's completely crazy. But in that situation, it was good.

Songfacts: Now, you wrote a song called "The Show," which Lenka recorded?

Reeves: Yes.

Songfacts: What can you tell me about that song and how did you get it to her and how did all that work out?

Reeves: Well, we wrote that song together in L.A., actually. We got set up by our publisher, Sony, and I never met her but I had heard a couple of her songs before we got together to write. And I just loved her voice. There's something really unique about how she sings. That was the first song we wrote, and sometimes it happens that way. But that's one of my favorite songs I've ever co-written with somebody. And I guess sometimes it doesn't work when you just meet a stranger and write a song, but sometimes it can work very well.

Songfacts: So it's almost musical love at first sight?

Reeves: It could be something like that. That's a good way to say it.

Songfacts: We've been talking a lot about your collaborations. But I wanted to talk about your solo work, because I understand you just signed a big deal.

Reeves: I did sign with Warner Brothers Records a couple of years back. And this summer I'm actually putting out my first full-length album to be recorded and everything onto the label. When they signed me, I had just put out a full-length independent release that they re-released. So this is technically the first record that I'm going to be putting out under them, and I'm really excited about it.

Songfacts: What is different about writing for Colbie and writing for yourself? Is it more personal?

Reeves: For me it's very different in some ways, and not different at all in other ways. But writing for somebody else takes a lot of stepping outside of your own feelings. And for me, when I write with somebody else, I want to try to understand where they're coming from as much as I can. You know, I might be sad that day I'm writing with somebody, but they're really happy and want to write a happy song, then I have to get to that place with them. And that's my favorite part about co-writing. And the only drawback to it, which is probably not a drawback at all, would be the fact that what I say doesn't go when I'm writing with somebody else. And when I'm writing it with myself, I have complete freedom with what to say and how to say it. And although that gets kind of taken away with co-writing, I think the fact that both of you are throwing out ideas and then making them better is probably gets better lines than I would have ever gotten by myself.

Songfacts: What can you tell me about this album? Are there any songs on it that you're especially excited about and you can't wait for people to hear?

Reeves: Well, I'm excited about two of the songs, because one of them features Colbie Caillat, and the other one features Kara DioGuardi. And they're two of my favorite women in the world by far. And I just feel really lucky to have them on this record. And just the two songs that each of them sing on are really exciting beyond that fact.

Songfacts: Have you ever written with men?

Reeves: Yeah, I have. I have a duet, actually, with Tyrone Wells on his last album called Metal and Wood.

Songfacts: Oh, I love his voice. He's a great singer.

Reeves: Yeah, he's incredible. The song we wrote is called "Give Me One Reason," and I was lucky enough to record that with him for his last album. And I also do write with a lot of other guys, actually. It's just that for some reason the songs I write with women are getting more attention. (laughing) Maybe women in general get more attention. But I'm not sure.

Songfacts: In the world we live in, Jason, yeah, women do get more attention. (laughing) Do you think maybe that you have a reputation of being a particularly sensitive male because of the successful collaborations?

Reeves: I'm sure I'm seen that way. I am - I don't want to sound like I'm overly sensitive. I can obviously relate to men, because I am one, but I think I can also go over a little bit into how women feel because I've spent a lot of time with them. And I used to live with Colbie for a long time. Living with women - there's a lot of learning involved in that.

Songfacts: I would imagine that writing with women, you would learn how they think in the writing process. It's almost like being with somebody and hearing their thoughts. Because that's what you do when you write songs, right? You try to put your thoughts on paper. And I would imagine that maybe you might see something one way and then your female collaborator is going to say no, but a women would look at it this way, right?

Reeves: Yeah. I mean, that is very true. And it is like many lessons - it's like learning for me a lot of the time, and it's one of the reasons I love it.

Songfacts: One of the things I really like about your music is it almost harkens back to the heyday of soft rock in that it's very easy going and relaxed sounding and acoustic. But I wonder, do you have a rock and roll side that maybe people don't hear as much? I mean, is there an inner AC/DC in you somewhere?

Reeves: Absolutely. There's a lot of things that people may not have seen yet inside of me, including rock. There's a bit more of that on the new album I'm about to release this year. There's a hip-hop side of me, too, that's even stronger than the rock side that I'm hoping to go explore in the near future, as well.

Songfacts: Really?

Reeves: Yeah, I started out doing that before I ever started writing songs. And I guess the way that I have been writing and recording them recently has been that way. It's not the only way I can or want to make music, but I think I'll always do it. I want to push myself outside of that and grow beyond it, as well, and there's plenty of time for that.

Songfacts: So do you go under the name MCJR? Or is it just you? (laughs)

Reeves: I would probably keep my normal name unless I come up with something better.

Songfacts: Who are some of your favorite hip-hop artists?

Reeves: Well, there's a lot. Let me see. Atmosphere, favorite group. I really love them. I've been listening to them since I was in high school. Let's see, Common, Mos Def, I love Eminem, B.o.B, you know, there's just too many amazing people out there in the world to just list a few, but those are some of them.

Songfacts: I can definitely see why you appreciate all of those people, just because they're really intelligent lyricists, they're not just bragging about themselves. Those guys really dig deeply into what they say in their music, so I can see that connection.

Reeves: Yeah. That's definitely a reason why I like those people. A lot of hip-hop music, the songs are kind of similar and about nothing, but those writers in particular are very poetic and real with their verses. And I appreciate good writing in any form.

Songfacts: What are some of the other singer/songwriters that inspired you and made you want to write songs?

Reeves: Well, the two main ones that made me want to write are Bob Dylan and James Taylor. And those two kind of opened the whole door into the '60s, which is, in my opinion, still by far the greatest decade, at least, for pop music. People like Joni Mitchell and Pink Floyd, even Jimi Hendrix were so inspiring to me when I was starting out. That's where it started.

Songfacts: Do you ever do any cover songs when you perform live?

Reeves: Not typically. I've done a couple, and it's kind of a rare thing. But I don't know, I have too many songs that I've written and people want songs that I can't even remember anymore. So I feel before I learn somebody else's songs I should learn my old ones.

Songfacts: Oh, those fans. They're just so demanding, aren't they?

Reeves: They're pretty awesome. It's just hysterical that they know the songs they do, because a lot of them I can't even remember.

Songfacts: Now, you said that you're calling from Nashville. Do you live in Nashville now?

Reeves: I do. I go back and forth between here and L.A. But at the moment I'm hanging out in the country.

Songfacts: Have you done anything with regard to the country music business?

Reeves: I have a little bit. I've written not as much as in the pop world. But I've started out a little bit here and hopefully I'll do more as time goes on. But it's a different world. It's a fun thing. But I didn't come to Nashville to write country music. I just came here because I love it. And if anything, I'm making pop music in this city now.

Songfacts: There are a lot of great songwriters there. Not just country. I would think it's a great place to meet like-minded people.

Reeves: Absolutely. It's pretty crazy, actually, how many incredible writers and players there are in this town, and clearly not just country music. Every kind. But to be a pop musician in this town is definitely more rare, but everybody's still so great that it doesn't even matter.

Songfacts: Have you had any celebrity sightings?

Reeves: Not really, actually. I haven't seen too many people out here. Which is kind of a shame.

Songfacts: So what's on your plate now?

Reeves: Well, the only plan is to put out the new album and I'm hoping to be touring behind it once it comes out. But between then and now I'm just kind of on an off-and-on radio tour to promote my single that's at radio right now.

Songfacts: What is that?

Reeves: It's a song called "Sticks and Stones."

Songfacts: Let's talk about that a little bit. Why did you choose that as a single?

Reeves: Well, I wasn't the only one that chose it. There were quite a few people involved in choosing. But it just seems like it was the right song to go with first. And I don't think it's the only single on the record. I think there's a few others that we could go with next. But it was just the right song at the right time, really, and it wasn't all my choice, I guess, is what I'm saying.

Songfacts: And what is the name of the album?

Reeves: The name of the record is The Lovesick.

Songfacts: And what's the significance to that title? Are you lovesick?

Reeves: I am, and I believe everybody is in some form. The idea is really that we are all the lovesick. Not just me, but I would absolutely include myself in that.

Songfacts: Do the songs sort of follow that theme, or is there a song on the album with that title?

Reeves: There isn't a song with the title, but every song definitely follows that theme. It's kind of a story, from song to song through the album, it pretty much follows the actual story of my life while I was writing it. And you kind of just have to listen to it to see what happens. But it's a very beautiful and tragic thing. And The Lovesick is not necessarily all bad. It sounds bad, but it's meant to mean both good and bad things.

Songfacts: You've seen a lot of the music business, the highs and the lows. Have you ever had any issues with artists taking songwriting credits that they don't deserve or anything along those lines where there's been sort of some double-dealing?

Reeves: Nothing too crazy like that. But the music industry is very… I'll just use the word strange. And an incredibly crazy game to be playing. But I don't have any definite stories like that. I've been treated very well, fortunately, and I try to treat people as well as I can, too.

May 4, 2011
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