Guitarist Joel Mason grew up in a musical environment. Influenced by a great diversity of musicians and artists, he started learning the guitar at a very young age.
His drive and talent led him to share the stage with major artists like Bruce Springsteen, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club; and had opportunity to play major UK and European festivals like Reading, Leeds and Download festival.
After being part of the band Lonely The Brave, Joel Mason decided to focus on some new solo projects as well as playing for several established English artists.
I am Joel Mason and I am from Cambridge, UK.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started learning from the age of 6 and had lessons classically for a year. After that I stopped and carried on playing until now which brings me to 20 years of playing!
Do you remember the first song you ever learned to play?
Yes! It was a finger style song called “Bobby Shafto” and I played quite a simple version back then. Now I can play a very nice rag time version of the same song!
Do you play any other instrument?
Indeed I do! I play bass, drums, a little piano and keyboard, Harmonica and a little bagpipes! I’m sure I have left something odd and wonderful out but that should cover it!
What did you grow up listening to?
Well, my Dad had and still has a great selection of music from Clapton unplugged to Guns and Roses live in Japan (both of which I watched on VHS)
I had a lot of Led Zeppelin and Blues from the UK & USA. I listened and mostly still do listen to a lot of American forms of music now though.
What do you like the most about playing guitar?
Being in the music industry for the amount of time I have, I would say my answer to this has changed over the years. I guess most people start out thinking it is cool which it is, but when you finally get playing with people and you feel that feeling that you only get in a room with other musicians playing music together, it’s like nothing else. This is something that becomes addictive and because of that it shows in your playing live, and then the crowd feels it too and when you get fans singing back your songs in the hundreds and thousands, you really get a tingling feeling through your spine hearing and seeing that. It’s a pretty special moment and I’m very grateful for ever having that feeling and being around some amazing musicians in my years so far so share it with and the crowds. So the short answer may be cliche but it is definitely the feeling playing a cool guitar and hearing that sound putting hairs on yours and everybody else’s necks and arms!
What are your musical influences?
Wow now you’re asking! Hmm I am a very big fan of American Football, Owen, Brand New, Blake Mills, Neil Young, Jose Gonzalez, Frightened Rabbit, Ryan Adams, Union Station & Alison Krauss. This list could go on but as you can tell it’s quite varied and does get more diverse!
You played with different bands and went on tour in different parts of the world. Do you have a favourite memory?
Hmm. I have had quite a lot of favourite memories stashed away in my brain but the one that stands out the most would have to be between a smaller gig or supporting the mighty Bruce Springsteen! Two very opposites but the same amazing feeling! The first one was at our local venue in Cambridge called The Portland Arms, and it was our first big sell out show. We were playing one of our songs and the place was so electrifying as they were locals that knew us personally and grew up watching the band and listening to the music. Towards the end of this song the crowd started singing so loud it drowned our singer out and we all looked at each other in tears. We just kept playing the ending of the song round and round until we couldn’t play anymore!
What appeals you the most when performing on stage?
Plain and simple. Connecting with the crowds of people who are there just like me. Everybody has a reason to listen to music good or bad, so as long as there’s a connection then that will always come first.
You were part of a band yourself. What did you learn from this experience?
Now this is a difficult question to answer as there are so many things you learn. You learn to get on with the people you’re on tour with, you learn how to deal with each other when times are tough which also teaches you a lot about yourself too. You also learn how to run on empty as sometimes you can play a show, get in the van/bus very late and only sleep at a hotel or somewhere for a few hours before hitting the road again. You learn how to look after yourself because of this and when you get into a rhythm, tour life gets easier. It’s all very humbling with meeting different people and walks of life. Not having an ego off stage helps too! You also tighten up once you have a good structured set list too and you end up getting on stage with your “brothers” as I would say, knowing you all have the confidence to nail the set list and give the crowd an amazing experience.
In your opinion, what makes a good band?
Honesty and loyalty. These are my two biggest currencies in a band! I’m human and have made my own mistakes along the way but from that I’ve learned and it’s given me such great times being in a band with musicians who have that very same mindset!
You all need to be realistic and know your weaknesses and strengths, so if you are wanting to try something new out, do it maybe once there’s something that the band can work on instead of playing away at a rehearsal. Knowing when to rehearse and actually rehearse vs showing up and not getting anything done for an hour etc is key too. Time and spending it wisely is important so make sure you know the difference. Getting on with each other is obvious but needs to be a key feature and making sure most of all you are all having fun!!!
Any favourite guitarists/musicians you look up to? Why?
There are so many famous ones I could list which would be very safe option but I do like people like Blake Mills as he is pushing boundaries across the pond. Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II are favourites of mine too. My good friend Rob Harris, Lee Russel and Tony Rawson deserve a mention too as they have showed me different sides to my playing and also the mentality to approach certain styles.
Any advice for anyone who’d like to become a professional musician?
Simple but effective answers: Be on time, know you’re good enough, know you’re of a certain quality compared to what genre of music you want to play and be around too. Be humble and a decent human as word can spread if you aren’t. I would say never be naive to learn new things too. Don’t pretend either!!! The list may go on but I would say them things.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to learn a new instrument?
Take enough time in your day to spend learning the basics of the instrument you’re wanting to play. It is frustrating at times for sure, but if you don’t give yourself enough time and get the right foundations in learning it first you may end up chasing your tail and getting nowhere fast!
How would you define music?
Music is supposed to bring out beauty, emotion and feelings that you attach your memories to forever. That’s the reason why music never gets old.
How would you describe the UK music scene? Which artists would you recommend?
Very vibrant, alive and kicking! We have a lot of R&B at the moment mixing grime, rap, old school R&B all together and it’s producing some amazing artists. Kyla is nailing it currently at the moment as is James Robb, both of whom are good friends of mine! The UK seems to have a lot of heavy rock and metal all the way down to black metal too, so a very different end of the spectrum to R&B. But it is very much alive and kicking.
What projects are you working on now?
I have a small acoustic project named So. that I am slowly working on in-between playing with other people and living! I am also as it happens playing for James Robb as a duo and sometimes in a small band which is worth checking out! I have two rock bands I’m in the process of getting together but that is still under wraps!
Could you tell us a little bit about your solo projects?
Well the project I have with So. is a bit of an experiment. I want to eventually book shows and get a following going, but this is something I don’t feel rushed to get done. People always say you can spend your life on your first record so thats what I’m almost doing! I just want it to be the right sound and vibe when Im ready and If I end up going out on my own that is fine! But if I accumulate some band members along the way if they like the sound, even better!!
What is your dream?
To eat fried chicken with waffles and maple syrup! Joking! But I would love that every day. But seriously I would say to stay healthy, happy and enjoying the right people that surround me playing music and enjoying new things.
Within the music industry I have always wanted to be known as a musician so fame isn’t really at the top of my list. I just want to be a reliable good musician that people talk about knowing that they’ll have a great person playing guitar behind them while they do they’re thing.
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