Classically trained within the prestigious halls of Princeton University, Jason Sager has evolved from a songwriter into an artist with his first, six track EP called Panoramic View, which depicts Sager’s tact for deep lyrics and every bit of his music theory training to form. MEB Writer/Photographer M.J. Rawls caught up with the artist to discuss the new EP, the writing process, and his plans for the rest of the year and beyond.
MEB: Describe the process from turning from into a songwriter to an artist. With Panoramic View, you made that transition – was it easier than you thought/harder?
JS: I went into this project with the mindset that it would be a slow road with a lot of bumps and detours, and that is exactly what has happened thus far. It has been hard, maybe even a little harder than I thought it would be, and I think that’s a good thing because it has given me the resolve to stand behind what I’m creating. That’s something I haven’t been the best at in the past, and it feels good to own myself as an artist after spending a lot of time writing for other singers and artists. This process has been full of questions I didn’t yet know the answers to, about time, about what I want, about music, and about my voice. The hardest part is in crossing that gap from songwriter to artist is figuring out your voice and creating cohesive work that reflects that, and I think this EP is a great first stop in developing that.
I always wondered how it feels for an artist to release their first body of work to the world. It has to feel vulnerable, but also empowering. Your first EP will be live a day from now, how does it feel to have a dream realized?
It absolutely feels vulnerable and empowering, and a host of other emotions as well. Creating a recording like this has been a dream of mine for a long time, and it is amazing and surreal that it’s now a concrete thing that I can hear and see and share with everyone. I’m both terrified and excited to see how people react to the songs. I’ve been living with them for so long now that I’ve got my set perspective on them, and I know that is about to be completely turned upside down by the way listeners relate to them, for better or for worse. Mostly, I’m just hopeful that people will listen.
With your experiences at Princeton University, you drew your experiences being classically trained with music theory. Today it seems that some music is whittled down simplistically. When I listened to PV, it’s not only catchy, but very intelligent. Do you feel that those elements will make you stand out from the pack?
Thank you for those kind adjectives! I want my music to be melodic and interesting and thoughtful, and I hope that it will stand out on those merits. I have a ton of respect for good songs that are written simply. I think it takes just as much craft to write a great song that is simple as it does something very complex. My hope is to write songs that are unique while still being accessible enough to hook people on different levels.
I want to talk about one of your songs, “Singularity”. “Until it’s time to go where the lights are blinding, let’s stay here on the dark side”. I like that the lyrics of the EP really paint a visual picture. As a songwriter, you do you strive to create an audio and visual experience?
I approach most of my lyrics in a sense-driven way. I love to write in images or sounds or feelings because they are a special way to resonate and direct emotion very specifically. It’s stronger to show somebody something than it is to tell it to them directly. For instance, I enjoy those two lines you quoted much more than if I’d written something like “Even though we don’t know where our love is headed, let’s just stay in this moment.” It evokes more, it leaves room to interpret, and it allows the listener to relate the image to one in their own life. I want it to hold a slightly different significance to everyone that hears it. I think I do approach a song as a visual experience as well as an auditory one, because it adds another dimension to what the listener is hearing. When that visual element works together with a melody of the right character, to me that’s a special feeling.
Most of the EPs songs are surrounded by the theme of love. Either being in love or falling into the state of love. Was that emotion predominant in your songwriting and do you see it factoring in your upcoming music videos for the EP?
That’s definitely a big part of it. I didn’t set out to write an EP about love, but it clearly plays a part in every song. I feel like the big emotions running through all of the songs are ones of uncertainty and possibility. For me, the title “Panoramic View” reflects how life can feel like trying to take in a picture that is wide open and complex, and how that can be confusing and hopeful at the same time. I think all of the songs ended up touching on love because it contains all of those feelings in itself. That’s sort of where I was coming from in writing all of these. When it comes to the videos, I’m hoping to attempt to interpret the relationships in interesting ways, not as on-the-nose love stories. I’m very excited about the directions they are taking.
You have a EP released show at Rockwood Hall in NY on the 20th. Are there any plans for a larger tour rolling into 2016?
I am working on getting out of the city with the band in early 2016, probably a northeastern tour. Stay tuned for more on that! In the meantime, I hope everyone in NYC will come out to the show at Rockwood Music Hall on 11/20 at 8PM. It’s going to be a very good time.
Stream Jason’s new EP, Panoramic View below on Soundcloud below.