Ever since he started out I’ve been chatting with Jason Spooner and reviewing his records, so when I discovered he was returning to Slates Restaurant and Bakery in Hallowell as part of their Monday Night Concert Series, I knew I had to find out what was happening in his life nowadays, especially with his band (Spooner on guitar and vocals, Adam Frederick on bass and vocals, Warren Mcpherson on keys and vocals, and Dan Boyden on drums and percussion). And, as always, he was more than happy to oblige.

Q: What can folks expect from your upcoming show at Slates?

Spooner: You know, it’s kind of a cool opportunity that we have because these days my focus — and my focus for the last several years — has been with a quartet. It really is kind of the magical recipe in terms of larger stages, you know, having guitar, bass, drums and keys. It’s kind of the perfect counterpoint — two rhythmic elements and two melodic elements. And all the guys in my band are just outrageously talented, right now it’s kind of like my dream set-up in terms of band mates. So it’s consequently kind of rare that we can pare it back and do something unique with a slightly smaller formation. So, we’ll be doing a trio formation at Slates, and what’s cool about that is that the arrangements have been changed pretty significantly. We’re all doing kind of different parts, we’re all kind of making up for the drummer. And with the set-up at Slates it just doesn’t make sense for a drum kit. We did it that way last year. And it was fun, and I think we’ve got it dialed, because we’ve been doing some trio gigs here and there. Last year it was a little bit of an experiment, this year we’ve really got some dialed arrangements around the trio so that’s what people can expect — tons of original material, maybe a couple choice covers and we’ve been working on all kinds of not only new originals but new covers. I’m also going to bring an electric (guitar) for half the show and an acoustic for the other half of the show — and that’s kind of a rare thing for me, too. I don’t bring the acoustic along to many shows because I bought three electric guitars recently so my electric guitar collection has grown and I’m playing a lot more electric than I used to.

Q: Does the venue you’re playing in dictate whether you go with the electric or acoustic guitar?

Spooner: Well, shows like this where it’s quiet and we can kind of do something that’s a little more subtle that’s when the acoustic material will come out. We love the chance to play that stuff because usually we’re playing at larger venues where people are expecting to dance and boogie and have a good time. At places like Slates — a listening room — are perfect for the more tentative, mellow material. … And Slates is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best listening rooms in New England and certainly the Northeast. It’s just a cool opportunity to do stuff that we don’t usually do. And it’s become a tradition of sorts playing there and even kicking off the fall series on some years — (it’s) a great way to kick off the colder months.

Q: Well, the first time I ever covered you was for a CD release party for your first solo, singer-songwriter album there in Slates.

Spooner: Really? Well, I know that was a while ago. I went to Colby in the late ’90s and we used to go down to Slates for breakfast and we’d go see concerts there. It was always kind of a dream of mine to eventually get a gig there just because I thought it was such a unique spot. I always loved the vibe, the people, the food, and the fact that you sort of feel like you’re playing in somebody’s living room. It just tends to be really conversational fun, it doesn’t feel like you’re putting on a real formal show, it just feels like friends getting together … it feels like that third wall has broken. The more and more you play out and do more touring and bigger shows, the less of that experience you have especially if you’re in a band that is doing more roots/rock-based stuff. You’re just going to play the tunes and move on, there’s not a lot of back-and-forth. And I grew up and came up in that kind of folk tradition of telling stories in between songs and making people laugh — if there’s any audience banter then that’s a bonus, you know?

Q: I certainly do. And Slates is perfect for that kind of atmosphere and experience, that’s for sure.

Spooner: Yeah, I love all that stuff, and it’s easy to get away from it if you don’t do listening rooms every once in a while, so it’s a fun thing to do.

Q: Earlier you mentioned that you were doing more electric gigs, and I was wondering if your approach to what you have done in the past, your earlier songs, has changed drastically with your use of the electric guitars.

Spooner: I think so. I mean, when I started out I just considered myself kind of a strummer. I worked on my acoustic guitar technique and always aspired to people like Neil Young and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but then I got into guys like Willy Porter and Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke and all the real technician acoustic guys, they just opened up all kinds of new worlds for me. But getting back to your question, it is cool to re-imagine your songs, do songs acoustically that you wrote on electric and do songs you wrote on acoustic electrically. It broadens the spectrum of what you can do with a song if you’re transitioning your core instrument, for sure. I think for me it’s been a very positive thing to widen my palette of colors on guitar — it’s been fun.

Q: Are you working on something new CD-wise?

Spooner: Well, the short answer is yes. We are currently working on new material in our brand new studio which has just been a God send creatively. It’s what we’ve always needed, and it’s just completely changed my approach to writing.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Spooner: Well, this will be a little bit of a brief farewell show — we’re going to be going out to the West Coast touring around California a little bit at the end of October, so the Slates show will probably be one of our last Maine shows for a little bit.

Lucky Clark has spent 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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