[00:00:28] Speaker A: Thank you here for joining us on following the Gong. We are not at Doggies, we are not a cafe, we are not at the saloon, but we're in fact here in the Grandfather Clock Lounge in Atherton Hall for our first ever live recording with a studio audience. And we are joined by none other than highly accomplished musician and band leader for Penn State Legends, My Hero Zero, Jason Alsey. Jason, thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:54] Speaker B: Sean thank you so much for having me.
[00:01:02] Speaker A: Jason Alsey, class of 2006, is the band leader of My Hero Zero in State College, PA, where he performs as a musician, writes and records in the studio and manages equipment and practice space to keep everything running smoothly. Before joining the band in 2010, Jason performed as a solo musician under the artist named Jason O. He earned his BS in psychology with honors in music from Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts. In 2006, Jason joined the show, complete with a live studio audience in the Grandfather Clock Lounge to share his story. Jason is a lifelong musician and learner, providing insights on crafting your skills in college, including through a gap semester and studying abroad. He also shares his perspectives on being a solo entertainer, band member, songwriter, producer and coach through his other project, Happy Valley Song Lab. The episode includes two live performances, including one song from his thesis project. Any current scholar or scholar alum can get something out of this episode and especially if they are not sure of what path to take or major to choose are interested in a career in entertainment, writing their own music, or simply hearing about playing at Thawn or which is Jason's favorite Taylor Swift era. Jason's links and a more detailed breakdown on the topics discussed are available in the show notes on your podcast app. With that, let's get back to our conversation and performances following the Gong.
I'm glad that we were able to put this jason, you know, I usually start off by asking how you came to Penn State and the Honors College if you've heard previous episodes, but in your case, I want to start a little bit further back. So you and your bandmates in My Hero Zero shared some of your backstory with Onward State on their podcast last spring and if you haven't heard that, you all can check it out once you're done listening to our episode. But can you share how you first got into playing music? What was K Twelve? Jason like?
[00:02:48] Speaker B: Oh, well, so I kind of tripped and fell into music.
My parents were both music teachers, and so, like many young boys, I had a lot of energy. And when the doctors recommended, perhaps, medication to calm me down, my parents got me a drum set instead.
Which I have a lot of friends with kids now, and that seems like an insane choice, but, yeah, they got me a drum set and I took to it. And so I fell in love with the drums whenever I was five. And then along the way, I got to play any instrument that I was interested in. They would give me at least a couple of lessons. And I haven't always been super dedicated in terms of practicing in a structured kind of way, but I love playing. I love music, and I keep coming back to it. So it sort of became my life.
[00:03:43] Speaker A: Well, and I'm very glad that they did. I'm a parent. I agree with you. I can't imagine just being like, here's.
[00:03:48] Speaker B: A drum set, electronic drum set. That's the key. You give them a pair of headphones.
[00:03:54] Speaker A: That'S a game changer. Yeah, that so, you know, hopefully the whole point of this podcast is life and career advice for scholars, but I just got some as a parent, so thank you, Jason. Now I want to you know, you're a musician through and through, but how did you decide to come to Penn State and Schreyer?
[00:04:10] Speaker B: So it was actually kind of as I was preparing for this podcast, I was thinking about this. I don't have a really, I think, inspiring story as far as that's okay. Scholarly ambitions goes.
School was always easy for me, and so I had good grades, I had good test scores, and when I went to apply to college, I mostly applied to places that girls that I was interested in were applying to. That's about as far as my planning went. But I had a guidance counselor who, you know, you should probably just apply to Shriers to see what happens. You're good at writing. I've read some of your work. I think that this might be a good fit. So I applied and I got accepted. And when it came down to it, I ended up choosing Penn State because it's a large school and I came from the middle of nowhere. So one of the most frustrating things for me growing up, wanting to play music with other people, was that the bands that I was in when I was young, it was me saying to my friend, you play bass now you play bass, and I think you're going to sing. And I think me on the drums being like, I'm trying to manufacture this situation. And so I thought of all the places that I've applied, penn State has the largest pool of people, and I think that I'm probably going to be able to meet people to play music there. And it turns out I did.
[00:05:31] Speaker A: Well, I think that's a good choice, but even to your previous point, I think that's how Paul McCartney ended up playing the bass was I think they told him, I'm not going to even try and do a Liverpool accident. But you're drawing the short straw. You're playing bass.
[00:05:43] Speaker B: Yeah.
[00:05:43] Speaker A: I mean, this is a huge campus here at University Park, but did you find that shire helped shrink that at all for you, or did you really.
[00:05:50] Speaker B: Branch out on campus big time? The Schreyer experience for me was, if I'm being honest, the only thing that made Penn State feel worth it for me. Like I mentioned, school wasn't hard for me, and that doesn't mean that I was learning well. It just means that I happened to have a skill set in the classroom where I could knock out tests, I could intake, and then regurgitate information very, very well. So large classes. I don't think I really got a lot out of them. But the Shriers experience helped me to have enough small class experiences that I got kind of the liberal arts arts school experience that I maybe would have had someplace else like some of the other places I was applying but also still have the this is a really big school experience as well.
[00:06:42] Speaker A: Awesome. And speaking of liberal arts, this might be a surprise to some of you in the audience, but you didn't major in music or art or anything related to that, like some of our past guests who have a musical bend to them, rather, you majored in psychology. So what drew you to that major?
[00:07:00] Speaker B: Well, when I came to school here, I was accepted as a physics major, so I came to be plot twist.
I came here to study physics initially, and I got, you know, how you do, like the know, the intake weekend. And because I was in Shriers, my mom got to speak with a dean of a college she happened to speak with. I think her name was Barbara Wade in the School of Agriculture. And Barbara Wade looked at my test scores and my major, and she goes, he's an Eagle Scout, and what is he doing in to? She told my mom, he's going to get swallowed up, and he's going to get swallowed up and forgotten. Why don't you send him over to the School of Agriculture? And on the spot said, we'll give him a scholarship to come over to the Egg School. And I was like, I have literally zero interest in agriculture.
And she was like, that's okay, you come over anyways. And the deal is I'll give you the scholarship, but you have to come to my office once a month to talk. And so I would go to this woman's office, and she gave me assignments. And one of the most impactful pieces of my college career was she would send me out to talk to professionals and professors, people who had been successful in their field, and she gave me assignments to go speak to them to help me figure out what I wanted to study. She said, for now, just take a couple of AG classes and we'll circle back around. But I got the opportunity to speak with people, and the big takeaway for me was nobody knew what they wanted to do. They all had an idea of a thing they wanted, and then they went really hard at that thing, and they tripped and fell into this next phase of their life and then the next phase of their life, and then they're like, now, and this is how I'm here. And I really came to believe that by working hard at what you're doing, you can't go wrong.
So I went from physics, then I went to the school of engineering and focused there for a little while, and then I actually dropped out of school for a semester. I met a kid at an open mic. This is a terrible story, but I met a kid at an open mic, and it was over in West Halls. And we were talking outside after the set, and I told him we were just talking about life. I told him what I've always wanted to do. He said the same thing. We decided in that moment, like 30 minutes after meeting each other, that we were going to drop out of school together. And I called the bass player from high school, and I said, hey, you want to drop out of school? And he said, yeah, I don't like school at all.
We thought we were done. We thought we were done, done with school. But, yeah, we took the semester off is how that story ends. And we bought an RV.
We bought an RV, and we recorded an album under the name Body Clock. That was the last band I played drums in.
And we ended up moving. We were going to move to California. That was the plan. We were going to take the RV, go to California. And the singer's parents were like, why don't you come to Martha's Vineyard? They lived on Martha's Vineyard. Why don't you come there for the summer and just work and write and stuff? So we went up there, and we spent the summer doing the Martha's Vineyard thing, and it was phenomenal summer. And at the end of the summer, the singer, he goes so my parents and I were talking, and it turns out I'm either gong to have to get a job or go back to.
So I was thinking we would go back to, you know, got in touch with this school, and I came back the following semester, actually. So while I was out of school for that semester, I ended up becoming a full time snowboarding instructor before I moved to Martha's Vineyard. So while I was snowboarding, I was reading. Like, I would teach lessons, and then I would come inside to the ski lodge, and I would read books. And as I read more outside of the classroom, I found I was very interested in psychology. So I think know was initially pulled in by the self help genre, and I was like, oh, yeah, I'm going to fix my life for sure. But as I got involved, I found myself reading more textbook style stuff. And I'm like, I want to know more about people and about myself. And ultimately this maybe sounds like a fool of myself, artist kind of thing to say, but my goal was to be a songwriter and a musician. And I thought if I study psychology, I'll know more about people and I'll know more about myself, and then I'll be able to write from a place of knowing about the human experience. So that's, I think, largely why I wanted to come back to school and study psychology, learn more about what being this is.
[00:11:49] Speaker A: Well, having seen you on stage several times over the years, I think you really know how to work a crowd and we'll dive into that. But maybe that does kind of go into my next question. And this is kind of blending where we are in your story at Penn State or coming back to Penn State because obviously, Jason, you are a scholar. Grad, you came back. You ride in the gong that's sitting about 6ft from us right now as we record. What sort of classes did you take that really helped inform your experience and in your career today, both as a musician and a producer?
[00:12:18] Speaker B: My favorite class that I took in college was I did a semester in New Zealand and I got to take a class on memory. And I worked worked with a professor who had written the textbook. And that class differed very much from the experience I had here at main campus in that we started historically with the beginning of how they studied memory and went through the entire the scientific exploration of that specific topic. And at the end of it, I really felt like I understood memory, but also the learning process and more about how to be a student in life. So that class was huge for me. I took a history class here. It was an American history class, which was an honors course, and it was like eight or nine people. A lot of the coursework was studying documents from around the American Revolution time and diving in and really being like, okay, they say all men created are created equal, but what's that really mean, getting into the nitty gritty of the written language? So I think for me, starting to dive into what do these words really mean, it really impacted me as a songwriter and thinking about not just like, what's the surface message here, but what's going on contextually in the life of the people who wrote these things. Yeah. And math, 140.
I took the honors section of 140 and 141.
[00:13:40] Speaker A: Those are calculus, right?
[00:13:42] Speaker B: Yeah, it's calculus, but I love math. This is going to sound super nerdy, but most kids are like, oh, I want to be like an astronaut or firefighter or whatever. And I literally was like, I want to be a fourth grade math teacher.
That was my dream when I was a kid because I loved math. So I was taking calculus and fell in love with the idea of a proof once I understood what it was and that you could make it up and that it wasn't just like an answer that you spit back out, but that you could come up with your own version of that proof. I got really excited about math even more than I already was. And then by the end of this class, I realized that in order to be great at math, I had to practice. And so in the back of the book, they would have math questions, and I could learn the answer to I could learn formulas and the answer to any particular kind of question. But to get an intuition in math, I had to practice. Once I realized that I had to practice, I was like, oh, can I swear on here?
[00:14:42] Speaker A: I might bleep it out.
[00:14:44] Speaker B: But I was like, oh, I'm wasting my time.
I should be practicing music instead. So I think that was the last 141 was the last math class I took, and it was part of me deciding to switch into another field that would support music.
[00:15:01] Speaker A: Well, and I think from everything I've heard from a lot of musicians and math people over there, there's a lot more in common between the two than you think. But we talked about inside the class, inside the classroom, but what was life outside of the classroom like for you? Were you in any musical groups, or how did you find avenues to perform and hone your talents and equally important to your career today? How developing your approach to style and stage presence?
[00:15:26] Speaker B: Well, so the drums was my main instrument growing up. I didn't start playing guitar until I was 17, and I heard music in my head and had this sense that songs were trying to come out, and I would sort of try to sing these songs to people I was in bands with, and they'd be like, I don't get what you're doing at all. That's not helpful for me. So I learned enough guitar that I could communicate what was happening inside my head. And once I started doing that, they were like, yeah, we don't really like these songs.
You just play the drums. But yeah. So I came to school, and I had written, I want to say, like, seven songs, and I knew how to play about seven gong. And so starting my freshman year, I lived in Simmons. I lived in the corner. Yeah, it's exactly we've got some fans.
[00:16:13] Speaker A: Here in the GFC of Simmons.
[00:16:16] Speaker B: Yeah. In the great debate, I have an answer.
It's not atherton, but hey, I'm just saying, but, yeah, I was in the dorm room specifically. That was the corner of the building down here. So I would walk well, at that time, I would leave through the screen window because I was on the ground floor. Leave through the screen window, walk down to College Avenue and I would play every song that I knew how to play. And then I would buy the friends that had come with me, I would take the money I'd made and I'd buy them pizza, and then I'd put the rest in my pocket and I did that every weekend that I could. And I was also in.
[00:16:57] Speaker A: So when you say weekend, was this like we're talking Friday, Saturday night downtown?
[00:17:03] Speaker B: Exactly.
[00:17:03] Speaker A: This is a Penn State podcast. Let's be real.
[00:17:05] Speaker B: Yeah, right on College Avenue. It's where Yellow Taco is now. There was a clothing store and there was a little like a triangle that I could sit on that was just off of the side of the sidewalk. I could sit on that and people could kind of gather around me and it didn't ruin the sidewalk too badly if I got a crowd. Yeah, so I did that. And then I played drums in the Inner Dimensions Jazz Band, which I loved.
[00:17:32] Speaker A: That's awesome. So you were able to find some experiences with kind of registered student groups through the performing groups, but then also gong out and practicing your skills. I love it. Now, I'm sure some of the scholars in here, I think we've got a lot of third year students, so they're starting to think about their thesis, hopefully. And obviously the ones if you're listening after the fact on your favorite podcast app, after you've hit follow or subscribe, you're also at some stage of your thesis as well. Jason, can you walk us through your thesis experience from finding your topic and your advisor to submitting the finished work and bringing the namesake gone of this podcast?
[00:18:10] Speaker B: Well, I had a sense the entire time I was working on this degree that I wanted to marry music and psychology, so I ended up on my diploma. It says BS. In psychology and then honors with honors in music. I had been in and out of the music school. I took some music classes. I was not much of an 08:00 A.m. Person and a lot of the early music classes are 08:00 A.m.. So those were rough for me. But I took enough that I kind of got a sense of what the education there was like. And I was always involved in the jazz band or in some kind of something happening up there. So I was pretty familiar with the building. I went into the office and I sat down with a secretary. And I just said I kind of said, hey, I have interest in combining music and psychology, and I'd like to speak with someone about it who? And she pointed me in a couple of different directions, sent emails. Actually, I meant to look up who I worked with, and I didn't. I'm so sorry. But I found a professor who was willing to take me on. And we sat down and talked out a couple of different ideas. And the one that we landed on is that I wrote and recorded an album and then wrote my thesis on how principles that I learned in studying psychology applied to the music that I was writing or how it informed the music that I was.
[00:19:33] Speaker A: Awesome. So obviously there's always a written component, but you can do these creative works. Jason, is there any chance that your album is available?
[00:19:41] Speaker B: Yeah, it is. Under my old artist name, Jason O. Yeah, it's available everywhere. But, yeah, I actually pulled it out and I listened to some of it this morning. I know you'd said that you were going to circle back around and have me play some music later on, but I learned the song that I named the album after to maybe be able to pull out here today.
[00:20:01] Speaker A: Do you want to do a quick while? We're on the topic of your theme?
[00:20:04] Speaker B: Yeah.
[00:20:05] Speaker A: Do you want some music right now?
[00:20:08] Speaker B: Perfect. Let's sprinkle it in. Awesome.
[00:20:11] Speaker A: Let's do it.
[00:20:11] Speaker B: Cool. Yes. The album, I released it in 2006, which is when I graduated. The song I'm going to play is called Back to the Beat, and as I'm playing it, I'm like, oh, man. I was like, get your bleeper on. I was so up my own as far as HALLAG, I was thinking about my songs, and it's a song, and it sounds like a guy writing about his relationship with a woman. But really what I'm writing about is my relationship with songwriting, because I talked about going down and playing music on College Avenue. But a lot of what my music life looked like was sitting in laundry rooms by myself until 506:00 in the morning and going to bed when people started to get up. Kind of like the very quintessentially, tortured artist life. It was very, very hard for me. But yes, this is a song called Back to the Beat blast from the Past for me because I haven't heard this in very many years.
[00:21:11] Speaker C: Um, well, it goes like this. A little diddy begins and at first there is nothing but a beat. And it starts down at my feet and my toes, and it goes to my leg, start moving. And before I know, the group just shoots up straight through my body. And I am yearning for the bumped, bumped, bump, bumped, bump bump shutting boot then I add some words about my baby I need to make you understand the difficult situation that I'm facing what I got on my hands she demands, demands, demands she demands, demands why don't I leave this woman?
Ask myself that question time and time and time again why don't I leave this woman?
Well, I'll ask myself that question. But if I did that, I'd be.
[00:22:29] Speaker B: Back to the beat.
[00:22:34] Speaker C: Back to the beat.
Then I sneak through the door about a quarter of four and she's there. And she knows where I have been. And she tells me I send it that I'm a bad boy and I say, well, I've been writing a song about you and it's true I say but I've been writing a song about how you are cruel oh, so cruel so why don't I leave this a woman?
I've asked myself that question time and time and time again why don't I leave this a woman?
And I've asked myself that question. But if I did that I'd be back to the boot.
I'll be back to the boot. Well, I love my life together. It's so much better than I think. At least that's what she tells me when she's around oh, yeah. But I will get it when she's down.
I will get it when she's down and I will get it when she's a dead and I will get it when she is down.
No, Giddy. When she is a dead and dead and let it down. Why don't I leave this obsession?
Why don't I put it down? Why don't I leave these songs in my head? Why don't I leave this?
Because if I did that now and if I did that I'll be back.
[00:24:27] Speaker B: To the bumped.
[00:24:31] Speaker C: I'd be back to the beat I'd be back to the oh, no we be back to the boom boots I'll be back to the.
[00:24:56] Speaker A: Well, it's not every day that you get to hear the thesis live, so thank you for that, Jason. That was really cool.
[00:25:02] Speaker B: Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah, thanks for providing a moment in my life where I could reflect on it.
[00:25:08] Speaker A: Perfect. So we're going to move into your career now. So you've graduated from Penn State, so there's a few careers. Like if you go into medicine, right, it can be a little prescriptive start. You take the MCAT, you go to med school, residency, yada, yada. But with music, kind of the antithesis of that. And we have a future doctor too in the room, so they're not in their heads in agreement there. So music there's just about any direction you can go in. So how did you on top of your we just got a sample of your thesis project. How did you go about figuring out what was next for you during your last year in the honors college?
[00:25:41] Speaker B: Well, so the band that I played drums in, I really did want that to work out, but the singer of that band ended up going to prison.
I was a little bit naive and I didn't understand the scope of the drugs that were being sold, and yet he unfortunately happened to live within a circle around an elementary school that was small enough to classify what he was doing as a federal crime. So he went to prison and it ended that band very abruptly. And so at that moment, I decided that's actually a big part of why I think I switched gears away from being a drummer to being a guitar player. It broke my heart, it surprised me. And I was like, I come preloaded with fear of abandonment issues, as any good musician is. I was like, I can't trust anybody again. I'm going to have to do this myself from now on. So I committed to the solo career, and then I started booking gigs. So I started playing at Allen Street Grill. I played there every Sunday, and I started playing at Cafe 210 on Tuesdays. This is while I was a senior and had gotten very good at playing on college avenues. I was treating it like my job. I would go down and I would play music on the weekends to pay my bills, groceries and some of my the power bill and things, the things that I was responsible for taking care of. Then I started booking gigs at other colleges. So my last semester of school was actually really frustrating for me because I was already operating in the capacity of a full time musician. There was a month that I had 17 shows, and I was like, very much senioritis sets in when you're like, okay, I've done the thing. I'm going to go do the next thing. I was already doing the next thing. So, yeah, I kind of transitioned straight out of getting my degree into playing shows, and I moved to New York City for a little bit. And what I learned was I bought a book. How to have a Successful Music career. And I had already signed a lease for an apartment in New York City. And I'm reading the book and it says the last thing you want to do is go to a major city because you think you're going to make it.
If you want to be successful, be a big fish in a small pond, not a small fish in a big pond. And so I went to New York, and what I found was artistically. It was phenomenal for me. I went to a lot of open mics, and I spent a lot of time workshopping the artistic side of my life. But I didn't play a lot of shows in New York, and I found that I was always traveling to go work outside of New York and a lot of traffic that I didn't enjoy. And then I was sleeping on people's couches at Penn State because I kept getting work here. So I was coming back to State College on a regular basis and kind of getting tired of couch surfing. And I was like, I'm gong to travel to New York once a month instead of playing in New York once a month and traveling everywhere else all the time. So I ended up moving back to State College and at some point I met a booking agent.
I played a television show for a public radio like WVIA. NPR and booking agent happened to be in the audience, and she's like, if you want work, I can get you work. So. She started really putting me to work, and when My Hero Zero, I got a call from her, and she said, there's a band, there's a local band called My Hero Zero. They haven't been around long, but they're really nice guys, and their lead singer just left. He met some guys who were successful on, I think, The Voice, philip Phillips, that era. He went to go play with them, and she was like, why don't you give it a shot this time? I had dreadlocks and wore pajamas on stage.
My fit was very different, but, yeah, I sat down for an interview with the band, and they were like, two conditions. You have to give us a year, one year minimum, and you can't wear pajamas on stage.
I said, okay, and then that was the next phase. And we've been doing that for I've been doing that for 13 years now. Yeah. Crazy. It's been a journey.
[00:30:03] Speaker A: So I do want to ask you a little bit about My Hero Zero in a minute. But first, on a personal level, how did you respond to people early on when you're first trying to make it, when you said, hey, I'm going to be a professional musician, and maybe you have some doubters or haters. That's such a hard industry to break into. How did you respond to people?
[00:30:25] Speaker B: For the most part, I was thinking about this this morning. For the most part, I was met with a lot of support. There weren't very many people who were like, hey, that's not going to go well for you. There were some people who said that life's going to get hard, and they weren't wrong. But I think really a lot of people recognized that I did have talent early on. I took to music.
I've spoken the language of music. Naturally, I'm native in it. And so for a lot of people, I think they were like, that makes sense.
I think you should probably give that a shot. My dad said in 2006, I found a piece of paper that I had done a pros and cons list for what I'd like to do with my life. And I was pretty deep into applying for PhD programs in psychology, love science, love math, and I think that would have been a good fit. It still may be at some point in my life, not a now thing, but yeah, I had applied to programs, and I was getting close to a point where I had to make a decision, and I was listing out the pros and cons. And at the bottom I said, I think I can positively impact more people through a life in music than I could from studying psychology. And I circled that one, and that was kind of just it was the decision that I made and I stuck to. And the truth is, most of the time when people hear back then and today when they hear what I'm doing with my life. They're like good. Good for you. Don't ever stop. Please don't ever stop. Because I think a lot of people out there end up doing things that they're not inspired to be doing. And so when they see somebody chasing down a dream, choosing a path that might not be the easy or the prescribed one, I think they get a little bit of the juice from that. So? Yeah. I don't know. I think the short answer is I felt pretty supported.
[00:32:12] Speaker A: That's awesome. You talked about my hero? Zero. And for those listening, this is a podcast mainly aimed at Schreyer scholars, so they're probably familiar with you from Thawn from playing outside of Beaver Stadium before some of the bigger games. We just had the helmet stripe and the whiteout. I think you guys played there. I saw you at Blue and White Weekend back in the spring in your onward state interview. You guys said you were founded in 2010. And I was like, wow, you guys have been around longer than the Beatles, so that's a cool accomplishment right there.
But obviously you do a lot of touring. You play in State College quite a bit, but you go all around, especially the East Coast. What is it like being in a touring band? Can you pull back the curtain on what life on the road is like?
[00:32:54] Speaker B: Yeah, I mean, for us, the journey started in booking agent putting us at places where she's like, hey, we got a last minute opening for you. Why don't you go try out this random place in wherever? I'm thinking of a place called Shuckers in Virginia. But we would load all our stuff into a CRV, and we'd all kind of sit there and just get it done. But I happened to luck out. We had some really successful gigs around here. Penn State kind of infused our show with the kind of energy that has defined My Hero Zero. It's people who are in the phase of their life where they're just discovering the bar scene, and they're really actively interested in expanding their social circle. And so when young people are showing up to our shows, they want to go nuts. And that's not what the whole world is like, but it's what My Hero Zero had to become to be part of this market here in State College. So when we went on the road, we found I don't want to say instant success, because that's not true, but we were always well received, and we kind of pretty naturally developed into a band that required a band van quickly and then a trailer. And we were, for a period of time out on the road four or five days a week. And it was hard. It was a really hard life. And I want to be partially transparent about the fact that we partied a lot. We went hard and we showed up and we matched the energy of the places that we were performing at, and I'd say we were fueled by the party, and we made the party happen, and it was a vicious and beautiful cycle. But, yeah, as we all got older, some of us got burned up by it, and some of us decided we wanted to focus more on the music. And the band members have shifted a little bit, and we've landed in a place where I feel like we've tapped into being able to provide the party without being the party, if that makes sense. Yeah. Behind the scenes, it's a lot of hours in a van.
[00:34:54] Speaker A: Yeah, I bet. And I wanted to ask in that same vein on the business side, so you have to be pretty entrepreneurial, especially as kind of a smaller band as you're getting started. You talked about booking gigs and you've got to promote those gigs and setting your performance rates. How much are you getting paid for a show and figuring that out? But then you've got the artistic side, you want to put on a good show. So how have you and the rest of the band developed your skills in that space, both on the business and the artistic side?
[00:35:22] Speaker B: Well, it's an area that nobody I don't think anybody who gets into music really lands in that direction because they're also feeling they love executing day to day functional tasks. So I studied I recognized that we had reached a point in our career where things weren't going to get better without the business side of things improving. And I started reading books about leadership and about business, and I actually audited some classes at the School of Business. I reached out to professors to see if they would let know come in. I audited a class called how to Manage a Startup, and that was phenomenal for me. And then I audited a class called I think it was just called Negotiating and studied negotiations and then also studied there's a system of productivity created by David Allen called Getting Things Done. I got really hyper focused on studying productivity and how to increase it, and I bought a bunch of highly recommended books on productivity and then found for me the one that really resonated and invested a lot of time into working on those systems myself. But then my wife and I hired one of their coaches and got personal one on one business coaching to help us learn how to create better systems and how to organize our projects in a way that's not just going to be us getting everything done ourselves, if that makes sense, and learned how to delegate. So, yeah, I went from being an artist to being I fell in love with the art of business. And it was a period of my life that involved a lot of struggle because I don't want to oversimplify it and say it's different sides of the brain, but I think I had to put down the artist part of myself for a while to learn how to take on the responsibility of managing a business. My wife, she started kind of helping behind the scenes by answering emails and picking up some of the slack on being, say, consistent. About a year into that, I was like, hey, do you want to just do this? Do you want to just manage?
And she was like, not really, maybe I could try it. So she did that for a year and then we made it more formal, sat down and really talked about it with the band. And I think we were maybe two years into really starting to flesh those systems out. We started an internship through the School of Communications and have had we counted, I think it's 39 Penn State interns now who have come through our program to help us with things like social media and marketing, but also artist management and video work. So we really started to flesh out a program where we had kind of a back end office for the band that was working to market and promote. And then the pandemic happened and things got crazy.
[00:38:20] Speaker A: I bet. And we'll get to the pandemic in a minute here. But Sean of on the vein of, you know, that internship program sounds really cool for students who are interested in that. But a Penn State question you might not get from another podcast outside of the sphere, but what's it like playing at Thon versus the downtown bars versus the other events and venues that you go out and do outside of Happy Valley?
[00:38:44] Speaker B: Well, the beautiful thing about music is that it's the same language no matter where you speak it, right? So there's a lot that overlaps, but the underlying feeling is totally different in the bars here at Penn State, it's very much entertainment focused in terms of my job description specifically is to get and maintain attention, period. That's the entire entertainment industry in my vein of that. I also happen to have a requirement of performing music, right? But downtown it's just attention, attention, attention. How do I get it? How do I keep it? How do we drive the energy upwards so that people have an experience that is impactful enough for them to remember and want to repeat? And at Thawn, the experience for me is what can I give it's? What can I pour into this moment that is gong to lift people up who have spent the entire year working on this, but just in that weekend who are giving everything they have.
Can I make that a little bit easier for an hour? Dawn's one of my favorite shows of the year. And I think for us, being on that big stage is beautiful. And the first time I was up there, not going to lie, it felt like it was all about me because I was playing for 16,000 people and there was an incredible, overwhelming experience for me. But as I've done it year after year now, it's really hit home how much is not about me. And one of the ways that I think I've gotten there is we typically, on a Thawn weekend, will also do an event where we work with three or four thon families, and they come in and we do a private show for them. And that's actually I think I connect with that experience more so than being on stage in front of all the people at BJC.
[00:40:27] Speaker A: That is really cool. Is that, like, kind of in the same vein of the Ford Diamonds families going to hang out with the football team or the field hockey team or something like that?
[00:40:35] Speaker B: Same program.
[00:40:37] Speaker A: That's really cool. I didn't know you guys were a part of that.
[00:40:39] Speaker B: Yeah, it's awesome.
[00:40:40] Speaker A: Well, thank you for doing that for the kids. We've talked a lot about the entertainment industry, and a question I have for you is what is something that's, like, dead on accurate to how a general audience member here would perceive life in a band? And what's a myth about life in a band that you want to bust? Maybe something that is actually more glamorous than it seems or something that's not nearly as glamorous as it seems?
[00:41:03] Speaker B: Well, the thing I'd say that's dead on is it's awesome.
I wasn't a particularly socially adept person growing up. And when I came here to school, I mean, my school district had about 90 kids in the graduating class, and it took an hour to drive across. It was rural, rural, rural.
So when I got to State College, I felt like this was a big city. I was very, very overwhelmed by the environment. I remember leaning very heavily into feeling sad because where I came from, I knew everybody, and everybody looked each other in the eyes. Whenever I got here, I was like, people just go around looking at the sidewalk and they don't interact. And I moved to New York, so I got a much bigger sense of the scale of how closed off people can be in a space where there's a lot more humans. But yeah, state College was not what I would consider. Like, I didn't bust on the scene as a freshman, like, feeling like the life of the party. Let's say I was really trying to figure out who I was and how to be around people. And so when I first joined the band and I was walking through an audience and people were stopping me and being like, yo, you're like, dude, you're the man.
I didn't believe it. It took me, I think, many, many years to start to step into that space. But, yeah, I mean, the way that that lifted me up was exactly what you would imagine. I think whenever you see a person on stage, the myth busting. Everybody thinks that when you travel, you get to see things, but you don't. We end up going places. It's logistics and it's setting up and getting the job done, and then it's closing out. Maintaining our relationships with venues so they see us as professional and then getting home so that people can live their lives and have families and have other priorities that aren't just being out there with the guys.
[00:42:57] Speaker A: So we've talked about you're in the entertainment business and you kind of reference you have a job description, right? And going back to you referenced COVID. So probably outside of healthcare, I imagine entertainment along with maybe teaching, were some of the most impacted professions. Like, you can't just work from home. Right. In your line of work, can you share how you navigated that experience as a performer and a musician and kind of the lessons that you've learned and grown from?
[00:43:25] Speaker B: Yeah, well, the exciting front page version of my life is that I started playing on College Avenue and just had a series of elevated experiences. And that's true. That's definitely been the truth. But also one of the ways I accomplished that was by being single minded and career oriented in a way that really wasn't balanced. So most of how I lived my life was just obsessed with success and obsessed with it. Sounds great when I'm talking about productivity systems. I mean, that's like entrepreneurial gold, right? I figured out how to turn the whole thing up another notch. But it's just when you play every weekend, you miss everything. You miss everything that everybody does. Family, events. Eventually eventually your friends stop calling you because why? They know you're going to say, no, sorry, I have to work. You can come see me at my job.
I think my entire experience of myself was on stage, on stage or doing things to support my life on stage. And the pandemic happened and it felt like the House of Cards came down quick, the bottom dropped out, and I realized that I had no foundation in my life and I had to figure out who I was without an audience. A lot of ways, I was still the kid who came here as a freshman who was overwhelmed by people and had no idea what I wanted out of my life and had been just bolstered up and blustering my way through the experience trying to fake it, which I think is what we all do on some level. But yeah, in order to survive that experience, I had to really turn all of that energy that was going outwards, inwards and focus on how do I figure out who I am and then go forth from there. So it was a really big experience for me. And as the shows have come back almost a little jarring, I finally got used to not playing on playing all the time. And then our agent called one day. It was just one day that he was like, It's on, you're back, and we were back to playing, like, three or four days a week, and I was, like, thrown back into the mix. I'm like, this is what I've been doing with my life. So I've spent the last two years trying to reorient and figure out how to I think the best way that I've come to understand is I achieved a lot of success without a lot of consciousness on the kind of life I wanted to live. And now I'm trying to come from a place of being conscious about the way I want to create my life and then designing my career around that, if that makes sense.
[00:46:01] Speaker A: Yeah, that absolutely does. Really figuring out your why, right?
[00:46:04] Speaker B: I bought a set of paint markers, and I write quotes that are meaningful to me on mirrors around my house and the one in my bedroom, I just got rid of it, but for a long time, it just said, why across where my head is. Because that's the best question if you're trying to navigate what you're doing with your life. Every day I try to get up and go, well, why do I want to go do a podcast?
[00:46:31] Speaker A: Well, I'm not sure what you told yourself, but I'm glad that you did because obviously I think we're having a great time here.
Why did you say yes to this? Well, gong off script here.
[00:46:41] Speaker B: No? Yeah, for sure.
The Shrier's experience for me was really meaningful, and the short answer is my wife scheduled it for me, and I'll do just about whatever she puts on my calendar. But for me personally, I was excited to come here after I spoke with you on the phone and I understood the energy you were bringing to this project. For me, I was like, I get to go hang out with Sean for an hour and a half. Awesome. Cool.
[00:47:09] Speaker A: Well, the feeling's mutual, Jason. I appreciate it. So we talked about kind of that sense of self. Right. And obviously there's a lot more psychology that you could bring to the conversation than I can. But question for you, what is it like being a solo artist and a band member at the same time as a songwriter? How do you decide where this piece is something I'm going to keep for myself, or this piece is something I'm going to take to my hero zero?
[00:47:32] Speaker B: Well, balancing those two parts of myself has been difficult over the years, but I have found that my solo career is a place where I get to work out all the things that I don't get to work out on stage with the band. So when I'm on stage with the band, I get to have this big explosion of energy. And when I play by myself, I get to express all of the other pieces of me that don't really have a place on a stage where it's go go the entire time. Recently, the band we finally decided to do a full length album together, and it was kind of like a big surrender moment for me. I took about 30 songs. Many of them I had been committed in my mind that were going to be solo songs for a long time, and I brought them to the group and we made a big whiteboard spreadsheet of all the songs, and we took votes Yeses, No's, and Maybes. And we ended up finding eleven songs that had four yeses. And some of them were solo songs where the intention had been for it to be solo songs, and some of them were songs I had really no interest in at all. I've really enjoyed the process of kind of like, taking the group pulse and letting the average of how people feel be the thing that creates as opposed to just my own. My vision brought to life, if you will. Yeah. So recently this angel changed for me all the time, but recently I've been going, if I can find a group of people who want to play a song and want to know, attach themselves to a song that I've written, it's theirs. That's how I feel about it right now. My solo career is for everything else that doesn't fit into that box. That's a now answer.
[00:49:10] Speaker A: Well, I think that sounds like a pretty good answer to me, Jason. So going back, you talked about your internship program, and you're not just a performer, but you're an entrepreneur, right? And you've used that word earlier in our conversation. Can you explain kind of that other side of your career as a producer and as a coach? How is that different or similar to the role? We all know you as the frontman for my Hero Zero maybe talk about there's some stickers here that say Happy Valley Song Lab. Maybe you can tell us about that.
[00:49:40] Speaker B: Yeah, well, so as I mentioned earlier, my parents were both music teachers, and they got me that drum set when I was five, and when I was eight years old, they started turning some students over to me.
[00:49:51] Speaker A: Did you say eight?
[00:49:52] Speaker B: Yes. So I started teaching when I was eight years old, and I fell in love with teaching.
I experienced the joy of passing on something that I had already taken on for myself and I think was very good at it. I had a knack for it since I was a kid. So in my career, I've always found ways to help people who were interested in my help and taught a lot of drum lessons, taught a lot of vocal and guitar lessons over the pandemic. I didn't know what to do with my life, and I announced that we were opening this studio. So the College of Communications reached out to angel and said, hey, would you guys do an internship? And we were like, we're all wearing masks, and classes aren't even happening really, in person. But I guess. And so we put an internship program together for this semester and brought the interns together. And we're like, we don't have any shows, and we don't really know what we're going to do. What do you guys want to do? And they're like, well, why don't we brand this studio space that you have? And so we said, sure, let's make that the project for the semester. So we workshopped the space with them. And Penn State students helped us come up with the name for the business and develop logos and then also do an initial marketing push. And when I announced that the studio was opening, I expected people to come to get recording services. I thought maybe that's what would happen. But people were reaching out to me saying, like, hey, can I just come over and talk about music? And so people would come over and they would sit down to do two or three hour sessions, and we would talk the entire time about why they wanted to play music and what was coming up for them, and more specifically, what was getting in the way of their creativity, like, where were the blocks? And so after working with a lot of artists, I realized that artists of all levels, I was hearing the exact same kinds of things being said, whether it's someone who never played really at all, but thought maybe they could, or someone who had written and recorded a bunch of songs and was just trying to write more. People were all feeling the same way. So I put together some tools that helped me describe the process as I see it. I initially called it the creativity conveyor belt, and could I help them by drawing a picture of what I saw as the creative process, identify where they were getting bogged down, and that work kind of grew out into it got sort of really nonspecific.
At first. I was like, okay, well, I guess I'm going to be coaching. And then that kind of morphed into, well, I guess coaching also means lessons for anything that comes up for a person. So because of my experience, I can teach drums, guitar, piano, bass, vocals, recording, song, and songwriting. I also am pretty well versed at taking people earlier on in the business part of their career through a lot of the pitfalls that take people years to kind of figure out. So kind of also coaching the business side of people's music businesses. And after doing that for a little while, I was like, I want coaching too. So I went out and found and hired two coaches and really started to develop that side of myself as well. It's been an unexpected avenue for me. I've loved it.
[00:53:17] Speaker A: That is really cool. I'm guessing if a student listening wants to book time, pay for the services, there's something that you can do on your website.
[00:53:25] Speaker B: Yeah, you can do it on the website. You could also email or DM, my Hero zero. Or Happy Valley Song lab.
[00:53:33] Speaker A: Perfect.
[00:53:33] Speaker B: Well, yeah, the website works too.
[00:53:35] Speaker A: Awesome. Well, make sure there's details in the show notes you can check out as you're listening to this on Apple or Spotify. If you haven't hit that follow button yet, make sure you're doing that if you're listening, like and subscribe. Yep.
[00:53:45] Speaker B: Smash that.
[00:53:45] Speaker A: Like so, you know, going back to the branding thing here, omar State did a great interview with you all back in the spring, and one of the things that kind of jumped out of me was that you had mentioned that at one point the band was sponsored by a notable alcohol you. How can scholars in this age of nil the name, image, likeness seek out sponsorships if you think you're in a position where you're in a band or just as a student influencer can work those things to benefit yourself or your.
[00:54:16] Speaker B: Organization, being aware of the space that you're in. So for us, we spent a lot of time in the partying space, so that partnership made a lot of sense, and we had connections with people who were repping those brands. But for student influencers, it's a big, bold new world out there, seeing what other people who are kind of in the same vein as you are, what kind of connections they're making and following up there.
[00:54:40] Speaker A: Awesome. Now, going back to something you said a little bit earlier. You talked about kind of the challenges of profession is that you have a lot of nights and weekends and you sacrifice a lot of family things. And a lot of our students go into roles that are going to be eight to five or let's be real, sometimes eight to eight or something. It's not always 40 hours, but how. For students who take professions that have atypical hours, what would you suggest that they figure out early to help them deal with that? When the world operates one way and their careers might kind of function on a different clock.
[00:55:11] Speaker B: Master their calendars. Make sure that they're using calendar based tools so that they can plan their life out. When I show my calendar to people, they start to have panic responses.
[00:55:28] Speaker A: I think any Schreyer scholar can probably relate to that for sure.
[00:55:31] Speaker B: Yeah. So really getting in touch with how to get a handle on your time and then working on routines. I've done a lot of work on how to build routines into my life so that when my life is in moments that are super atypical, I have some foundational grounded things to lean on.
It's going to sound maybe oversimplistic, but when I wake up in the morning, I have a morning routine that is in the same order every morning. When I go to bed, I have the same things that I do in the same order. So it doesn't matter if I'm in a hotel or staying with friends or on. The road for five nights in a row. I know I have at least these little pieces of my life that I can lean into that provide me with stability.
[00:56:21] Speaker A: Awesome. And we've heard similar advice from people who work in finance and wear suits to work, so I think it's a pretty good piece of advice there. Hope you all over there taking notes on that one. So, Jason, obviously My Hero Zero performs a mix of covers, but you're starting to get more and more into original music. You said you're developing an album, thinking about your concerts, your performances. How do you all approach building your set lists and where do you hope to see the band get to over time?
[00:56:47] Speaker B: We build our set lists to be dependent on the venue and the crowd that we are expecting to have there. So a lot of what we've done, especially as a cover band, is we've crafted and honed the show over time in a way where we throw out 20 seconds of any song that's not working. So when you end up seeing us play, we don't play entire songs. We'll play a verse or a chorus or sometimes like two choruses and a verse of something, and then we'll take those songs and eventually after we kind of whittle down what's not holding people's attention, we'll go, oh, this song would work really well with this one over here. And then we end up having these five or six song pieces that work everywhere and every time. So we've kind of already done a lot of the work up front to be ready for any environment. And then in show environments where people are like if you're in more of a listening room, we get into playing more original music. But, yeah, this is very venue specific.
[00:57:51] Speaker A: In a business sense. You essentially know your customers, you know your market segment. Right. Thawn is going to be a little bit different than Doggies versus a wedding.
[00:57:59] Speaker B: Well, yeah, and it's complicated because you would think that our customers are the people in the audience, and they are, but a lot of times our customers are also buyers. So the people that we're directly working with at a business level, we need to make sure that we're providing the kind of product that they're going to want to bring back. So there's a lot of factors to juggle.
[00:58:21] Speaker A: Yeah, definitely. So, Jason, obviously you brought us in at the beginning of this episode with the piano, and when we talked on the phone ahead of time, you said that you actually remembered coming in here quite a bit as a student and playing it. Do you want to either break out the guitar again or sit at the piano and play some of your original new music? Either your solo work, something from My Hero Zero that you're shopping, that you want to share with us?
[00:58:47] Speaker B: Yeah, I'd love to play. Want one or two songs do one. Let's do one.
[00:58:51] Speaker A: Yeah. We got a thesis song. We'll take a modern gong.
[00:58:54] Speaker B: Piano or guitar?
[00:58:59] Speaker C: Okay.
[00:59:00] Speaker A: The room is spoken. It was piano.
[00:59:11] Speaker B: This is a song called Mountain. This was the first song that I ever released as my full name. That kind of like stepping outside of the Jason O artist name. And on the next, my Hero Zero album, I want to turn this song into a full band rock piece. But, yeah, this is under Jason Olsey.
[00:59:30] Speaker C: That's Olcese.
[00:59:32] Speaker B: And I wrote this song about not needing to do it yourself.
[00:59:41] Speaker C: Yeah.
I've been feeling all alone lately. I've been thinking that's just me never wanted anyone to see who I am.
I've been sinking like a storm crashing into everyone who cares wondering why no one's ever there who I am.
I've been looking at love thinking for everyone for me.
Open Sunday. I might stop struggling find a little peace. I've been trying to climb a mountain.
The only truth about it is that I built it myself and I didn't want help.
I've been holding up and laughing thinking that might be there if I could do it myself.
That never worked.
I haven't let someone careful. When I was a young boy, I thought that I was broken.
That's just what they told me I believe.
Because if you take a human, tell them that they're broken and they don't know anything else yet.
I've been looking at hope, thinking it could only let me down. Thought of jumping out.
That never stopped me from wanting out. I've been trying to climb a mountain.
The only truth about it is that I built it myself.
And I didn't want help.
And I've been holding up and laughing, thinking that might be there if I could do it myself.
That's not how it works.
How to let someone monkey bona climb a mountain?
The only truth about it said I built it myself and I didn't want I've been holding up and been thinking that my name I had a lesson one day that never words.
I had a lesson. King.
[01:04:12] Speaker B: Thank you.
Feels weird to be back on that piano because I used to simmons had a piano. That's the only thing Atherton has on Simmons is atherton's got the better piano.
[01:04:27] Speaker A: That was awesome, Jason. Thank you so much for that. I'm musically illiterate, so I'm so impressed. The fact that you just wrote that and composed that whole thing is just.
[01:04:36] Speaker B: So impressive to so that song came from I was working with an artist and one of my favorite exercises to give artists who are struggling or feeling, like blocked up is I say write a bad song. And so I ask them to write a bad gong. And the way I described that, I say write a song about pizza or your dog or make it 30 seconds long or make it bad on purpose. Shoot for that. As your goal. Don't fall into the trap of now. I'm going to make it good. And after he left the studio, I was like, I love that exercise. I'm going to write a bad song. And I sat down and I wrote that in like, 20 minutes.
[01:05:15] Speaker A: Well, I think you nailed it but also failed it because that was a great song. So I think you failed the write a bad song part.
[01:05:23] Speaker B: Nice. Nail it, but fail it. I love that.
[01:05:25] Speaker A: All right, so this is in terms of participation. So we've got some scholars who've joined us here today. Does anybody want to hop up here on the green mic and ask a question of Jason? So why don't you, as you sit down, give us your name, what your year is and what you're studying.
[01:05:41] Speaker D: Hi. My name is Samantha Powell. I am a junior, and I'm majoring in economics and minoring in English and women's studies.
I have three questions.
[01:05:51] Speaker B: Awesome.
[01:05:52] Speaker D: When you are performing either cover or original music, do you originally compose or when it's already a song that's already been made, do you use, like, music notes or musecore? Do you riff off of things that you found online or are you totally creative in the process?
[01:06:11] Speaker B: You're saying in the writing process or in the performing?
[01:06:14] Speaker D: In the writing.
[01:06:15] Speaker B: In the writing process. So I've always kind of written from a place of inspiration where I'll hear something in my head or I find a sound that I get really into. So I've written a lot with the guitar, so if I find something that gives me a feeling and I get connected to that feeling, then I dig more into that music. Same thing with the piano.
The writing of that started with the melody that I played on the piano in the beginning. One of the really cool tools that I've worked with clients on is YouTube now has typebeats. So if there's any kind of music that people want to write, you can type in artists that you like and then put in typebeat and then start with pre produced tracks that have chord progressions that are interesting and in the style of the artist that you're trying to emulate. So I have written from that place, kind of using pre composed music to get started with, but for the most part, it's sounds or musical compositions that give me a feeling I'm looking for and want to explore.
[01:07:25] Speaker D: My next question is obviously books have played a major role in landing you where you are right now, whether it's the self help psychology books that you read at the start of your career or something you read. Now, if you had to compose a list like Oprah does at the end of the year, of your top three favorite, most helpful books, they can be for enjoyment or one of the self help books you read, what would be your top three?
[01:07:50] Speaker B: Okay, well, I already talked about getting things done by David Allen. I would recommend that to everyone for all time. And spoiler alert, it's not really so much about getting things done and being more productive, but about trying to arrange the way you interact with the stuff in your life so that you have more comfort and ease as you go about choosing how to spend your time. The next thing that I would recommend is a fantasy series by Robert Jordan called Wheel of Time. After college, I had a pretty strict rule that if it didn't have dragons or wizards in it, I wasn't allowed to read it for years. And so I dove really heavily into the fantasy genre. Wheel of Time ended up being my favorite, kind of like Tolkien esque in the Discovery journey element of it. But it's one of my favorites, and I would recommend that. And third book that I want to recommend. Know the most recent one I've read just Cuz Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, which is really cool exploration of his life and his schreyer and has been inspiring to me because he talked about the way that he kind of tripped through his life and into the major success that he's had, but also talking about the conviction that he brought to the choices, how to act and what parts to take, what roles to take on. And he really dug into a spiritual take on how he's approached his life, and that's something that I've turned to more, especially as I've walked down the path of being alive. So for me, it was really nice to see someone that I feel like I know and can relate to because of I've felt his personality on screen through a bunch of different characters, talk about how he has experienced his existence and connects to God.
[01:09:51] Speaker D: And then my last question is obviously you've had a lot of twists and turns throughout your life and career. What would be your piece of advice? Either that you told yourself when you entered college or for any of us, we're going to be graduating undergrad soon. We'll be going to med school, law school, getting our PhDs, and if we enter, like, a fork in the road that we don't enjoy what we're doing anymore, or we're scared that the road that we're taking is unconventional. Or it could be one of the favorite quotes that you've written down, like, is there something you live by or wish that you knew?
[01:10:22] Speaker B: If you want to do something, do it and apologize later. The world will readjust around the thing that you've chosen to do.
[01:10:30] Speaker D: Thank you.
[01:10:30] Speaker B: Yeah, thank you for asking.
[01:10:32] Speaker A: Awesome. Thanks, Sam. Are there any other scholars that want to hop up here?
[01:10:36] Speaker D: All right. Hi, I'm Ashley. I am a third year scholar on the pre med track and minoring in psychology. So hyped about that. Okay, I have one conventional and one unconventional question.
[01:10:48] Speaker B: Awesome.
[01:10:49] Speaker D: Okay, the first one is who are your biggest songwriting and performing influences right.
[01:10:54] Speaker B: Now, would you say? Right now. I love that. Okay, listen, straight up truth. Taylor Swift.
[01:11:01] Speaker C: Good option.
[01:11:02] Speaker D: That's a great choice.
[01:11:05] Speaker B: That's a good choice.
I love Taylor Swift. I originally wasn't drawn to her music, and then it was her business choices that really pulled me in. Whenever I saw how she crossed genres and how she was connecting with her fans, I was like, oh, I freaking love her as a person. And then I started getting into her music and that was many years ago. Now I'm just big, big fan. I joke about my next music project being an all guy Taylor Swift cover band that was awesome, called Tyler Swift.
[01:11:41] Speaker D: You should do that. I would listen.
[01:11:44] Speaker B: I'm tyler.
[01:11:46] Speaker A: Can I interject?
[01:11:47] Speaker B: Yes.
[01:11:48] Speaker A: She's on her Eras tour right now.
Which era is your favorite? Taylor Swift era?
[01:11:53] Speaker B: Red album.
[01:11:54] Speaker D: I agree wholeheartedly.
[01:11:57] Speaker B: Yeah.
[01:11:58] Speaker C: Such a good choice.
[01:11:59] Speaker D: Okay, this other one. I also have a background in music. I've been singing and playing oboe since I was ten.
[01:12:04] Speaker C: Awesome.
[01:12:05] Speaker D: So the most random music theory question I have is do you have a favorite chord progression you like to use or any funky things that other people don't use?
[01:12:16] Speaker A: This is why you're here, Ashley, because that is never a question I would have thought to ask.
[01:12:20] Speaker D: I made it on music theory TikTok before.
[01:12:23] Speaker B: Nice.
[01:12:24] Speaker C: Yeah.
[01:12:24] Speaker D: Like Jacob Collier kind of oh, he's.
[01:12:27] Speaker B: A well, that guy is like he's okay. Jacob Collier. I really appreciate him as an artist because he's so freakishly good at music theory that it helped me to finally put to rest this idea that I need to attain some level of mastery over music in order to be relevant or consider myself arrived as an artist.
It's like if I enjoyed playing basketball and then I saw Michael Jordan play and I was like, oh, I'm never going to be that. Specifically, I like music theory, the nerdy side of things, but for me it's more like fun stuff. But I'd say my favorite chord progression is just four, five, two, jazz. Love it because I like to sit down and improvise and play and it gives me the feels. Love it. How about you?
[01:13:24] Speaker D: I don't know if I specifically have one because I didn't delve too much into music theory at my time. Listen, I could say 1451, but that's boring and basic.
[01:13:34] Speaker B: Yeah.
[01:13:35] Speaker C: Boo excess.
[01:13:36] Speaker B: Like so many songs use.
[01:13:37] Speaker D: We love 1451, but it's been done before, so I don't really have one. But I was just curious because you know more music theory than I definitely do music.
[01:13:46] Speaker B: It's just twelve notes in rhythm. Unless Jake Collier is playing it and.
[01:13:51] Speaker D: Then he's like microtonese.
[01:13:53] Speaker B: Yeah, and then it's microtones and stuff that only the real nerds appreciate. Yeah, it's notes between the notes is what we're talking about. Which is like I was like, when I watch content with him, I'm like, I geek out so hard and then I'm like, there are a lot of people out here who don't care at all about what he's saying and it's not relevant to the way they experience music.
So, yeah, it's like a bit of a head twist for me to try to wrap my brain around how excited I get about that, but then also how irrelevant that way of relating to music is for a lot of people.
But yeah, 1451 is pretty cool.
[01:14:34] Speaker D: 1451.
[01:14:35] Speaker B: Yeah, we love it. Yeah, it's a great way to start songs. I have so many 1451s.
[01:14:40] Speaker D: It always works every time.
[01:14:41] Speaker B: Yeah. Catchy. Exactly. Yeah. Sorry, Taylor Swift would agree.
[01:14:45] Speaker D: Taylor Swift would agree. That's so true.
[01:14:50] Speaker B: But thanks for asking questions.
[01:14:52] Speaker D: Yeah, thank you.
[01:14:53] Speaker A: Any other takers?
Well, all right. Thank you scholars for hopping up here. We're going to do our wrap up questions here with Jason. So I'd like to hear what would you say is your biggest success to date, at least before you start your Taylor Swift cover band?
[01:15:09] Speaker B: Yeah, and I answered this differently in writing, but I'm going to answer truthfully for today, for me, is coming into a close here on creating a full band album. Okay, so, like, true story. My wife and I continue to explore the idea of having a family and I've always envisioned my life, including a chapter where I'm a father. And I brought this up to her six months ago again, and she was like, how do you expect to be a father? You can't even get an album done with your van.
Yeah, this is this is an audio podcast, so you can't see it, but my wife is sitting over there in the corner being like, yeah, truth. But she was right. I've done a lot of work as a solo artist and we've done recordings as a band, but it hasn't been like a super big focus of what we've done because we have a functioning business as an entertainment mean. Like one of my all time goals has been to play Red Rocks. I love that venue.
I've set it high on my list. And because we've played cover music and we've connected with Penn State students the way we have, we're gong to play next September. We're going to play at Red Rocks for a wedding of Penn State alumni. So I'm going to get to play my dream venue, not exactly in the capacity that I imagined in this dream, but I'm checking that one off the big bucket list because of the way we've interacted with just entertainment, period. So it's always easy to kick the original music can down the road. She hit me with the challenge and I stepped up to the plate. The original idea was a four or five song album and we're going to be releasing an eleven song album and have the vehicle in motion here to actually take the music from streaming services and bring it onto a stage and we have a team put together that can back that experience up for people. So I'm really excited for that and I do feel like it's my biggest success to date.
[01:17:11] Speaker A: That's awesome. So not even just stopping in an EP, you're going full yeah. That's tremendous. That's really cool. And also great that you're getting to play Red Rocks and hopefully just the.
[01:17:20] Speaker B: First of many know. I think so, actually.
[01:17:23] Speaker A: So that's really great, Jason. But on the flip side, what would you say is the biggest transformational learning moment or mistake that you've had in your schreyer and what you learned from it and presented in a way that can be helpful for the scholars both in the room and those listening later on?
[01:17:37] Speaker B: Well, the band had had a vertical booking, which means every particular day of the week. So like every Thursday or every Friday or every Saturday, that's considered vertical if you look down a calendar. We had a vertical booking at a local establishment and had been playing there for years with a mutually beneficial relationship. I got in my head that it was going to be a good idea. I said, I want to start working with TikTok influencers. And so we had a TikTok influencer approach us and say, like, hey, I'd like to do something with you. And we brought him into the studio and we engineered a moment where his TikTok thing was that he would go kind of, like, play his guitar in public. He'd bring his guitar into Home Depot and play it there or kind of surprise people on the street. And so we put together a moment where he would come on, sneak onto stage and pick up our guitar and play the guitar solo for Jesse's Girl. And we worked it out with the venue, and I got permission from the management and worked with the security team to practice this moment that we were hoping to create that would maybe go viral. And he came in and he kind of like snuck up behind the security team, which had moved forward specifically to allow us to create this moment. He came up on stage, he grabbed the guitar, and then our guitar player started playing harmony with him. It was like super cool. But the video I've never been part of a viral moment, but watching it, once it got posted, the numbers started flying and I think it landed on like eleven or 12 million views on TikTok and then it had many, many more views on YouTube and Instagram and stuff. But yeah, truly viral moment. Incredible. The timing of it happened to be right after the Travis Scott tragedy. And so one of the top comments was basically kind of like poking fun at the security team for letting this happen.
The security dropped the ball on this one and the owner, who had not approved this video, fired us. That was the last time we ever played there and it was ultimately a good thing. It was time, it was time for a different chapter of our lives, but yet kind of like the greatest viral like I was saying earlier, attention is the name of the game that I'm playing and so we had made this pretty ballsy move to create a moment that could get attention. We got a ton of attention and it ended up being, on the surface level, the best and worst thing I ever did at the same time. And it taught me a lot about sensitivity to other people's brands when I'm considering doing big attention things and also just making sure that my communication is 110% and not thinking I probably communicated this thoroughly enough to people. Since then, I've always over communicated and made sure that everybody who's involved in some kind of like a marketing I don't want to say stunt, but anyone who's involved in marketing understands what's happening and is consented.
[01:20:41] Speaker A: I think that's a really powerful story to take something from having been on the other side of the venue and the security in my previous life, I can know that it's a challenging situation for everybody involved there.
[01:20:52] Speaker B: Yeah.
[01:20:53] Speaker A: So Jason, we've talked a lot about people, how you interact with them, being in a band, being a solo artist, but thinking back to your days here on campus. And thank you again for being with us in person here in Atherton Hall. But are there any professors or friends that you want to give a shout out to from your days on campus?
[01:21:09] Speaker B: Yeah.
So a former dean of Shriers, Dean Christian Brady, he was here with the college for a long time, actually. You remind me a lot of him in the way that you're relating to and diving into the experience of talking to people about this college. And also Donna Meyer who is in the office over here. Yeah, Donna Meyer. While I was in school here and then in the years following being in school, she's always made me feel like Shriers wasn't just a school that I went to and then moved on from and forgot about. She's always made me feel, know, a piece of Shriers appreciated me and still thinks about and remembers that I was part of it. So her. Yeah. Big shout out to Donna.
[01:21:51] Speaker A: Good choice. Good choice. It is not four years, it is for life. When you're a Shire scholar.
[01:21:55] Speaker B: I like that.
[01:21:56] Speaker A: So as we're wrapping up our time, is there a final piece of advice that you want to leave for not only the scholars who are in the room with us, but for those listening on Spotify, Apple Music, Apple podcasts later.
[01:22:06] Speaker B: On, stay out of the steam vents.
I'm not going to tell a story.
[01:22:13] Speaker A: No, we won't get you in trouble on that one. So if scholars want to reach out, connect with you, learn more, pick your brain, or if they want to see you perform or listen to your music, what are the different ways that they can engage with you in a digital space?
[01:22:27] Speaker B: Yeah, every social media platform that anybody uses, really, we're active on, and then our music is available on Spotify and Apple Music and YouTube. And anywhere that people typically listen to music, it's available, and you can find it under my Hero Zero, or my original solo artist named Jason O, or my new solo artist named Jason Olsey. The O-L-C-E-S-E-O-J-E-Z if you're Italian.
And then very briefly, my solo pop artist named J O. That's J-A-O-H I'm gong to be retiring that artist project and absorbing it into the band as I move forward. So, yeah, lots of music all over the place. Awesome.
[01:23:11] Speaker A: And then hopefully someday we'll also see you physically in some record stores, maybe once that album's completed.
[01:23:17] Speaker B: Are there still record stores?
[01:23:18] Speaker A: Oh, yeah, there definitely are. I know there's some in Belfast that you can check out.
[01:23:22] Speaker B: Yeah, I would love to do a record store signing.
[01:23:24] Speaker A: Awesome. Well, hopefully we can get you tracked down to those folks over there.
[01:23:28] Speaker B: Count me in.
[01:23:29] Speaker A: All right, so last question. As is tradition here on following the Gone, and some of the scholars are giving me look like this is the most ridiculous question, but here we go. If you were a flavor of berkey creamery, ice cream, Jason, which would you be? And as a scholar, Alum, most importantly, why would you be that flavor?
[01:23:49] Speaker B: Well, I'm a psychology major, and so I'm going to say part of my exploration into studying being a human is to try to understand our emotions and how I think being an artist, I have a bit more of a roller coastery ride than I think other people have experienced or expressed to me is their experience of being a person. So I'm going to say not just because it's the best flavor or my favorite flavor. I'm going to say bittersweet mint.
[01:24:18] Speaker A: Oh, good choice.
[01:24:19] Speaker B: Yeah, because it's a little bitter and a little bit sweet. That's me.
[01:24:24] Speaker A: That is good.
What do you mean? That's a hot take.
[01:24:33] Speaker B: I'll fight them all. That's okay.
[01:24:36] Speaker A: Yeah, Jason and I will debate that one with them all day.
[01:24:41] Speaker B: It's the chips. It's the chips. And it's not just chips.
[01:24:45] Speaker A: Those are like giant chunks of chocolate.
[01:24:47] Speaker B: That's what I'm saying. And also because it's my favorite flavor at this creamery, I've tried to have that bittersweet mint experience with all of the other mint chocolate chip, which is normally what it's called, and it just bittersweet mint.
[01:25:01] Speaker A: This one hits different.
[01:25:02] Speaker B: It wrecks all the other mint chocolate chip like that's. I think, again, another reason why it's the best flavor is because anybody can make a combo flavor that hits, like Ben and Jerry, but this is the best bittersweet mint out there.
[01:25:16] Speaker A: Amen to that.
[01:25:17] Speaker B: Case closed. What?
Oh, cone, of course. Yeah, it's the crunch at the end.
I am a both person. Yeah. I go bowl with the cone on top.
[01:25:30] Speaker A: Yes. That is the way to do it. So that's your final piece of advice here how to approach getting your ice.
[01:25:36] Speaker B: Cream at the bowl with the cone on top.
[01:25:38] Speaker A: Yeah. Or even just skip the line and buy the half gallon, I think.
[01:25:42] Speaker B: Genius.
[01:25:43] Speaker A: Life hack. There you go. All right. Well, scholars who are here, scholars listening on your favorite podcast app, thank you so much for listening. Jason Aussie. Thank you for being our first ever live in person event guest here on following the Gone. I laughed a lot. We heard some great music and some great stories and advice from your amazing career in the entertainment industry. Thank you for giving us very good amount of your time today before we're recording this on a Friday. So I believe you're probably heading off to Doggies later, is that right?
[01:26:15] Speaker B: I'm going to go pick the band up right after this.
[01:26:17] Speaker A: Yeah, perfect. Well, we'll let you get to that. Thank you so much.
[01:26:20] Speaker B: Thanks for having me, Sean. I appreciate it.
[01:26:29] Speaker A: Thank you, scholars, for listening and learning with us today. We hope you will take something with you that will contribute to how you shape the world. This show proudly supports the Shrier Honors College Emergency Fund benefiting scholars experiencing unexpected financial hardship. You can make a difference at raise. psu.edu forward slash schreyer. Please be sure to hit the relevant subscribe like or Follow button on whichever platform you are engaging with us on today. You can follow the college on Instagram and LinkedIn to stay up to date on news, events and deadlines. If you have questions about the show or a stall or alum who'd like to join us as a guest here on Following The Gone, please connect with me at stall alumni at psu.edu. Until next time, please stay well. And we are.