words by Jonathan Hooper
*editorial correction* photo by Chelsea Hooper of A and C Photography
Enjoy live music.
Respect the performer.
Listen to their story.
Tell your own story.
And finally: Buy their records!
Did you know? Both Eady and Patton have had albums on Billboard, iTunes, and numerous Texas Music charts.
Carving out a life worth living is a daunting task. From the outside, most of us appear to be stable, secure, and sometimes a bit gifted. On the other hand, on the inside, we suffer silently, question our decisions, and cry alone in the dark. If we are fortunate, we might have someone with which to share those good times, and to lead us through the dark places in our lives. However, few of us commit those experiences to paper, set them to music, and sing about it for anyone and everyone within the range of fairly well-struck sand wedge.
A few brave souls do it for a career, with no promise of a salary, a paycheck, and certainly no 401(k) looming in the future. Some nights you work hard but won’t get paid. Some nights you might make rent or even gas money. Sometimes, it all comes together for a few weeks, and you get to enjoy a few benefits of your mentally exhausting work when at the same time, an audience discovers you.
Jason Eady and Courtney Patton, married partners in life–and occasionally partners on stage—have been travelling the highways and back roads from Texas to Switzerland, sharing their lives and losses with an ever-expanding fan base. Granbury was their home for three years. Courtney explains:
“We moved to Granbury to be halfway between our kids’ schools in Fort Worth and Stephenville. We really loved Granbury, but that daily drive to schools in different directions was too taxing—especially after a late-night gig. Once Jason’s daughter graduated, we moved back to Stephenville.”
Each started writing and performing songs while still in their teens. Like many songwriters, Eady hails from the birthplace of most of our American music: the Deep South, specifically from Jackson, Mississippi. Surrounded by the Blues, Soul, R&B and Country styles of the region, he was energized by the songwriters more than the performers. Once he discovered a songwriter he admired, he chased down more songs from that writer. At age 14, he started writing and performing his own songs in local bars. After a stint in the United States Air Force, Eady moved to Fort Worth, Texas and continued to play his songs at open mic nights.
Meanwhile, Patton had studied piano off and on as a younger child growing up in Weatherford, Texas, but preferred to play by ear. She had been writing words, but had never put them to music until she received the guitar. She played handbells and sang in the church choir, and performed often in her church musicals. But the guitar she received as a gift from her parents gave her something to do with her hands while she sang, and helped to calm her nerves and stage jitters. Courtney laughs when she says, “I taught myself how to play and could stand a lesson, I am sure!”
After high school she enrolled in college at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, she jumped into the late-night dorm room writing sessions, and jumped up on the local bar stages with her new songs. Like her husband, Courtney is attracted more to the songwriters than to the artists who sing the songs. While she lists Don Williams, James Taylor, and Carole King as significant influences, Jason was inspired by country music legends Merle Haggard and Guy Clark. Not surprisingly, they both share an affinity for the songs of Texas legend Willie Nelson. Honesty and having something to say has been the hallmark of all of these gifted songwriters, and the same honest reflections of life are also found in the songs penned by Eady and Patton.
Road Signs and Dirty Dishes
Both musicians have been working on new albums: Courtney is currently on the road promoting her newly released album, “What It’s Like to Fly Alone.” Jason is still wrapping up his newest collection of songs on his seventh album.
“We don’t get to spend much time together on the road. Jason has a band, and I still do mostly solo acoustic gigs. We go different directions most weeks. I don’t think I would be much fun in the van with his band every day. It’s good to miss each other. He does what he loves, I take the gigs I want, and I make him do the dishes when he gets home!”
Maintaining a steady home life is a constant undertaking. Living out of a suitcase is a struggle even for the most seasoned traveler. For Courtney, the biggest challenge is “making sure to take time off to just be a mom. And keeping the house clean!”
Travelling from one venue to the next by yourself or in a van with band members is an exhausting way to make a living, but that is the job description. They both cite the occasional bad apple in the audience that forgets that this is a place for live music. Each negative experience gets added to the list of “never again’ venues. Courtney explains, “Almost everyone comes to listen to stories and songs. But some seem to forget that it is a concert, and they are supposed to listen. We’re too old for that nonsense! We have reached a point where we can say ‘no.’ This may be my favorite part of aging—saying no!”
Life on the road also entails performing with friends. Everyone in their circle of musical friends is busy going different directions with their own performances. It becomes a precious gift to catch up and share new music written since the last time the played together. It might be as formal as opening a show for each other, or singing together in a booked performance, but it is just as rewarding to sit on the bus or a back room trading songs.
Plenty of performances entail a bleary-eyed, late-night drive down a two-lane road in a stinky van. But other performances involve first-class international travel to exotic vacation destinations. In September, both of them will be performing on their first music cruise, the Texas Country Music Cruise. Immediately following the cruise, they will fly to Switzerland with 40 fans, all together on one tour bus for an incredible and exciting week of sightseeing and music performances.
Telling a good story from the heart about struggles of everyday life that means something to the people listening to it accompanied by an acoustic instrument has been a popular vehicle since sometime late in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, bad songs and bad stories started about the same time. Good songwriting is very much like good story-telling. The writer must have something to say, and must find the audience that wants to hear the stories.
Since both Eady and Patton have had albums on Billboard charts, iTunes charts, and numerous Texas Music charts, they know a thing or two about telling a good story through a good song. Both dig deeply into the real-life struggles of aging, divorce, kids growing up, and those toils of life the try to break us. Eady says, “It is important to embrace the messy parts of life instead of trying to get to the point where you have somehow fixed all your problems.”
Courtney is enjoying promoting her brand new album that she wrote and self-produced, without a label, manager, booking agent, or any help from the music industry. The album debuted at #4 on iTunes, and made four Billboard charts. “Seeing this exhausting work payoff in a pretty cool way is something I don’t take lightly. It makes the heartache of being an artist for a living worth the struggle.”
Jason’s seventh album, “I Travel On,” is another episode in his ongoing journey exploring American music genres. At the time this article was written, he was finishing up an East Coast swing through New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. He is expecting to release the new collection of songs on the album this summer.
This musical storytelling activity has been around for 800 years. It is a life worth living. Let’s not allow it to go the way of the rotary phone.