News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Mason Brothers: Thanks, ’16 And Pregnant’
BY ANDREW LEAHEY
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Jason Mason was hanging out on the couch one night when he received a text message from his cousin.
“He was going through this weird period where he’d watch a lot of bad reality TV,” Mason said of his relative, “and he wanted to let me know that he’d just heard one of my songs during an episode of MTV’s ‘16 and Pregnant.’”
The song was “Silver Spades,” a soft ballad decorated with webs of acoustic guitar chords and hushed melodies. Mason had written the song in his bedroom and released it on his first solo album, “Carnival Sky.” It was one the darkest tunes he’d ever produced, which may explain why it felt so jarring to hear on “16 and Pregnant,” running beneath the episode’s climatic birth sequence.
“That was one of the more surreal things that’s ever happened to me,” he said, laughing. “You don’t always get to control what kind of visual images are attached to your music.”
Mason is lead singer of Mason Brothers, a Richmond-based folk band whose lineup also includes his brother, Christian Mason, and pianist Ben Willson. Together, the three songwriters make lush, acoustic-based music that recalls an American Nick Drake one minute and a pastoral Pink Floyd the next. It’s a sound that’s been steadily evolving for years, ever since James first picked up the guitar in grade school.
Until recently, Mason Brothers was only the two Mason siblings. Adding an outsider to the duo was a big change, but Jason insists that Mason Brothers has remained a family band.
“I added Ben as a brother on Facebook and he accepted the request,” he explained, “so that’s probably the best way to describe the relationship. We’re a trio now, but this is still a band of brothers.”
“I really care about heart and emotion in a person’s music,” he said, “and after meeting James, I could immediately sense everything he was going through. That’ll push some people away, but it can also bring people in. We have this symbiotic relationship, where he just utterly places his support in me and I do the same with him, and it makes for some really moving music.”
There’s been a flurry of recent activity in the Orange Grove, the home studio where James Mason lives and records his band’s music. A third album has recently been completed, and the guys are already hard at work on a follow-up. After landing a partnership with a music publishing company called Round Hill, Mason Brothers are looking to score more placements in movies and TV shows, too.
“We had a song in the film ‘Don’t Fade Away,’” Mason said, “which was released overseas three years ago. Ryan Adams and Alexi Murdoch, two of my total heroes, were also on the soundtrack. I don’t know how well the movie did, but just to be in the company of those two musicians was good enough for us.”
Andrew Leahey is working on a new album in Richmond.