Talking with The Roosevelts

The Roosevelts, a duo composed by the talents of Jason Kloess and James Mason, is a positive testament to the ever-growing music scene in Music City, U.S.A.. If you’re wondering how they got their name, Jason says it best:

“It was President’s Day. It was our first day in the studio. We had the songs, but we didn’t have a name. There were two of them, and two of us. – I like to think they would have been fans of our music.”

Their songs are just as simplistically balanced and harmoniously quirky as their chats and it took me only one email exchange with the pair, trying to land on a time to meet “across the table,” to realize it. Another thing that’s easy to realize, is that The Roosevelts are almost always on the road. This is evident by the tour section on their website, or the fact that their Instagram has them in a new city almost every day. From Austin to Washington, their Fall schedule is no different and setting a tone that leads me to believe this duo won’t be slowing down any time soon; especially following the release of their 2016 album, The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn. 

Even with how busy their schedule keeps them, Jason and James made time to chat with me last about their formation as a duo, the pinnacle of their careers thus far and what it’s like to hear one of their songs on ABC’s, Nashville.

We met in Austin, TX through a mutual friend. We both played, sang and fancied ourselves as songwriters. There was no formal training, we just started taking steps towards the stage. We were offered our very first gig on 6th street by a hip-hop artist who saw us performing at a house party. We formed a band, and for 5 years we played bars, fraternity parties, corporate events and focused on songwriting. Once we realized the songs we were writing were better, and different, than the band we were currently in, Jason and I decided to start from scratch and form The Roosevelts,” James was as passionate about telling their story as the two are performing on stage.

“The formality of forming a duo was never really a labored decision,” he reiterated my initial question. “To survive in the music business requires way more involvement from the artists than it ever has in the past. It’s not just about making the art, you have to learn how to run a business, and we knew we didn’t want to go it alone. We had watched too many of our friends try their hand at solo careers with such frustration. Jason and I wanted to be part of a team, and we knew we had the strengths for each other’s weaknesses.” 

It was funny that James pointed out the many attributes artists must have in the business today, because from the moment I was put in contact with him and Jason, I picked up on the fact that they were so much more than talented musicians. They answered their own inquiries and quickly too. Even in the midst of their hectic touring, they gave thoughtful and well-rounded responses to my questions and I know I’m not the only journalist they’ve been corresponding with, because on top of it all, they’re pretty stellar about upholding their brand and letting their music be heard.

If you thought by listening to their music, that it was magic at first chord, well, you were kind of right.

We bonded over covers, and influences. We were two boys raised in the south who went to universities in the south. We knew a lot of the same songs and had been to a lot of the same concerts, but still we had different tastes. Jason had more affinity for country and uptempo, feel good music while I had more affinity for indie, folk, mid-low tempo introspective music. What brought those two styles together was our producer Dwight Baker. He saw these sides in both of us and helped us find a way to meld them into something special that we both could love.” 

As for the pinnacle of their melded personalities and musical abilities?

Undeniably… hearing people singing our songs in the crowd,” James said without hesitation. “Especially in a new market where we aren’t sure if people know who we are. These songs are innately meaningful to us, but that’s how we know they’ve become meaningful to others as well. That’s the greatest joy in this business. Having our debut album hit #5 on iTunes was pretty special too!” He added. 

The Roosevelts have had a lot of “greats” together. One of which, being a plug on the hit ABC show, Nashville, possibly set to return to air on CMT next year. James explained that feeling of what it’s like watching a well-known show, only to hear your song play in the background, better than anyone I’ve talked to about such a feat.

It’s like having your favorite teacher or your parent pat you on the back. It was certainly affirmation that we were doing something right! It was our first real sync, so we were pretty excited when we found out they were using it. Beside that, it’s just really fun to sit alongside your friends and family while you wait for it to come on! We’ve had a few other placements since then, but Nashville was special as we now live here and it was our first one.” 

It was easy for me to tell that both James and Jason are very involved with their music from start to finish, but I wondered how that translated with their connection to their always-evolving fan base.

We’re super active on social media and our email list, but we mostly connect with our fans at the shows,” which I guess shouldn’t have been a surprised, but I almost wondered how such evolved travelers (while looking out their route sheet) have time to chill in cities after they perform. “We always come out and hang after a performance. That’s a crucial part of why we make this music and travel all these miles. If it’s not about building a community, than I’m not sure Jason or I would want to stay in this business.” 

As authentic as their music, you couldn’t ask for a response more candid and real as that.

As for the rest of this year-in-a-making, James says,

We’re working on a bunch of shows for the fall and winter, writing a lot for the next record, and playing at Austin City Limits Fest! Living in Austin so long and attending the festival year after year, we couldn’t be more excited to share the stage with so many incredible acts.” 

You can check out those Fall tour dates here. And pretty much go to any city this Fall/Winter to see The Roosevelts share a stage with none other than Green River Ordinance.

This duo is a dynamic force to be reckoned with, pushing their way to the top of all musical mediums with grace and distinction. They believe in themselves as much as their music and true authenticity like that is a welcomed breath of fresh air.

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