Just Google Jason Marsden and see what you come up with… About the only thing he isn’t is a musician, but that is not stopping him from trying to find his place in good ole Music City USA. We all know him, we have all seen and heard him and now he is letting us get to really know him and what he is up to these days. Currently living in Nashville, Jason Marsden, a.k.a. Mars, has fallen hard for this city, its energy and it’s passion for music. He just might be an answer of sorts for underground music here in Nashville, and even though he may roll his eyes at that statement he can’t really argue with it. He has this dream, this vision if you will of putting these artists who are really, extremely talented on stage and giving them a platform to be heard, seen and to gain fans and support in their own community. A community of not only musicians, but artist of all kinds and a platform that they may have not had a chance to stand on just yet. If you haven’t been to a “Mars Presents” show yet, please do yourself a favor and head out to The High Watt this Thursday, June 30th and check it out.
My first “Mars Presents” show was back in February. I had met him a few weeks before and he told me he was putting together a show and that I should come by and check it out. It was a BMI event for “8 off 8th”, which would feature eight different artists performing for about eight minutes each. I didn’t really expect much, except the chance to check out some new artists and get to take some cool pictures of some very cool people. I got there just as the first band was taking their place on stage, and the place was packed. It was held at The High Watt and as I worked my way up to the front I noticed things were set up a bit differently. The band was People on The Porch and they sounded so good, to the right of the stage was someone set up with a mic stand and a chair. I noticed Mars walking around talking to everyone, filming the stage with his phone and having just a great time. As the first band ended, Mars introduced Joel Meeks to the crowd and he began to sing to the right of the stage as the main stage emptied and the next artist got set up. When Meeks finished his song (that had everyone laughing and loving him), Mars would walk through the crowd wearing his headset mic and introduce the next band. I was kind of in awe of everything happening around me. There was always some form of entertainment happening and I was constantly engaged with the artist. It was pretty special.
I have been to a couple of “Mars Presents” since and I have seen so many bands and artists that I would have never have met, a visual artist who painted a picture of Daphne from Daphne and the Mystery Machines while she was onstage, and let us not forget- a girl dance with a snake. So I wanted to share this experience and get more people going to these special shows, supporting these amazing artists. I met up with Mars, we had some coffee and he told me about what he was trying to do with his shows and why.
Mars moved here after visiting with his wife to see her family. He says he just kept wanting to come back and the trips would eventually get longer and longer with shorter periods in between. He became close with a lot of people in the music scene. So for his 40th birthday last January, he threw himself a variety show party, like Dean Martin show meets Hee-Haw. “I found a building in East Nashville and filled it with live music, a comedian, burlesque, live art and just everything. I wanted a seamless, theatrical-like experience. There’s a show over here, it ends, lights down, lights up over here there is another show and so on. I walked around hosting with my wireless mic and worked the crowd, they were my friends but I had a blast. I had so much fun I decided to do three more shows, each with a different theme. That building closed down but I knew I wanted to keep doing this, but maybe a little different variation and I could call it Mars Presents.”
I asked him what kept drawing him back to this city and he said, “Moving here from L.A., I noticed there is just something different about the musicians and artists here. There is no show-boating, no glitz, no look-at-me attitude here, the artists are authentic and pouring their guts out onstage– and not only that, they’re authentic in a room full of six people. It floored me. As a performer, you want that reaction, you want to please as many people as possible, but the artists here tap into the most vulnerable parts of themselves and they share it with you. I was hooked. I have become close to these musicians and I get to be a small part of that, part of these moments before they are big. Being a fan, I can see that tiny glimmer of what is to be and it is exciting.”
I couldn’t wait for him to tell me about this show coming up with Brandy Zdan. I had listened to her on the way there and her voice is incredible. I was excited to find out what this show would include. He said he saw her perform at The Basement. “I awkwardly introduced myself and told her what I was doing and after exchanging some emails and getting Mercy Lounge who loves Brandy and was thrilled to have her perform, gave us the date of June 30. She picked her openers, Dovetail and Ben Ballinger . We are trying to give a “Mars Presents” kind of feel. She has a following so she doesn’t need all the extra stuff.” I won’t give away all his secrets, but I will tell you he did try to get a live tattoo artists that would do $5 tattoos, but sadly that won’t happen. I am excited for this though, the talent is definitely enough to get me through the door.
If I had ever truly wanted to host a podcast it would be now… This interview would have been so much fun to just listen to and I should know, I have been listening to it over and over to get the writing correct and everything in its place. The energy that Jason Marsden puts into everything he does is contagious. My first impression when we met, I was kind of like “Oh you’re that guy from that show.” Getting to know him, his energy is infectious and the things he is doing for the artists is inspiring. He is giving them a sense of community and giving them a place to shine. I hope that you will join me tomorrow night, if you can and come watch a great show at The High Watt, with Brand Zdan, Dovetail and Ben Ballinger.