Interview with a Songwriter: Jason Consolacion

Jason Consolacion is a Vancouver-born, Houston-raised, New York-based singer/songwriter. He's also a dear friend of mine and the guitarist for my band, the iLL harmonic. Jason was good enough to take time out of his busy schedule to discuss his creative process and offer some advice for aspiring songwriters. 

Do you have a songwriting method, or is it different every time?

I prefer to write music first, but it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes music and lyrics are created simultaneously. The reason I prefer music first is I usually feel more inspired to write lyrics when I have a great melody to put them to. Only a few times have I had lyrics first before a single note was written. And to be honest, it's a lot easier to write music that way (lyrics first). But I prefer birthing songs into rich harmonic progressions and inspired melodies before writing lyrics.

Any advice for aspiring songwriters?

Throw the pasta to the wall repeatedly. Don't be afraid of songs with only three or four chords. In fact, challenge yourself to write a song with only three chords, and discover how much it sets you free. For most of my songwriting career, I was pushing myself to be more complex, mainly musically (as opposed to lyrically), because I thought it would make me a better musician/songwriter. But to be able to do more with less I've discovered is much more gangsta. But again, throw the pasta to the wall. Again and again. Don't be afraid of rewrites and see what sticks.

What are your feelings on collaborations?

I love collaborations, but I prefer them with musicians and songwriters from different styles of music. As a fingerpicking guitarist in the style of Paul Simon and a melody-driven songwriter in the styles of The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, I prefer to play with jazz musicians because they unlock the secret code to levels of my songs I didn't know existed. I also prefer to write with songwriters with a more modern approach stylistically than mine. I still feel I'm locked in the box of my parents' music (shamelessly, of course), but I welcome exposure to what's new out there.

What’s your favorite song? Favorite Album? Why?

(Jason answered this question both about his own catalog and about music in general. I've decided to include his Favorite Song that he wrote and his Favorite Album(s) of all time)

Song (that he wrote): My favorite song that I've written is "Here Comes the Fall", but mainly because of its production, thanks in large part to my producer MD Thompson of Ivory Tower Realizations in Houston, TX. It was simply an acoustic tune written on my Gibson Blues King, but he transformed it into a sonic landscape masterpiece. I remember recording every note of that track, but had no idea it was going to turn out the way it did. When I first heard the song after it was assembled, I remember crying in my apartment because it was so good, then I took a walk around Midtown Manhattan and up through Central Park, listening to it on repeat. It was an amazing experience.

Album(s) (all-time): My favorite album(s) is a tie: First, 'Abbey Road' by The Beatles. To me, hands-down the best rock album ever recorded, with the best B-side of any album ever pressed. Sad that it was an album assembled as The Beatles themselves were disassembling, but maybe it was the inspiration to "go out with a bang" that produced such rich contributions from the Fab Four. John's "Come Together" was the funkiest track he'd ever written, Ringo's "Octopus's Garden" showed the drummer's blossoming into a decent songwriter in his own right, George's "Something" may be the best love song ever written, and Paul's medleys on the B-side are recordings of epic proportion, and songwriting lessons in and of themselves. Second, 'Bookends' by Simon & Garfunkel. This is the third in what I consider the Trifecta of original concept albums (the others being the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' and The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper'). But since Paul Simon is my musical god, I favor it most. My favorite Simon & Garfunkel tune "America" is included, as well as the poignant "Overs", playful "Punky's Dilemma", popular "Mrs. Robinson" and peaceful "Bookends Theme". Based on themes of aging and time, it's a playful commentary on Simon & Garfunkel's friendship (at the time, anyway) and an interesting, albeit naive, take on getting old (perhaps the true charm in it).

What’s your latest project/wanna shill anything?

I'm currently riding high on a successful new release, my self-titled EP, released online last summer and on disc with a standing-room-only release show at Rockwood Music Hall in September. The album has received recognition from several outlets, including the Recording Academy, which accepted the EP and two of its songs for Grammy consideration. I'm also recording a new video series on YouTube I call the "Days Off Series", made up of one-song performances I record during my days off from work. For the series, I'm performing some original tunes and my favorite remakes, including my renditions of songs by Michael Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Weezer and The Beatles. I'm also collaborating with an incredible emcee who I call hip-hop's best-kept secret. Playing guitar as a proud member of the iLL Harmonic is one of my truest joys. And BRBRCK is well ahead of his time. 

BRBRCK is a rapper and producer (and blogger, obviously) based in Brooklyn, NY. Check out his musical stylings here.