It’s one year since the River You Cry EP, and Perth songwriter Jason Ayres is about to release another five song EP, Got My Heart. It’s his third consecutive EP of originals, and this one sees him venturing into the province of alt-country.
“I think the EP format makes me feel like it's less definitive, so I'm able to explore musical ideas and songs with less fear of being pigeonholed,” Ayres says. “And it's enabled me to gently creep into alt-country and folk in my own time.”
Rather than persisting with the solo acoustic mode of his previous few releases, Ayres worked with a full band ensemble on Got My Heart. Increased confidence in his abilities as a bandleader triggered this move.
“I feel like I’m more able now to guide other musicians to the sounds and feels that I’m after,” he says. “And I’ve also learnt when to back off and let them bring their own personality to the music too. And perhaps a desire to never go stale in the studio [made me want to work with the band].”
Ayres’ expansive collection of vintage guitars is widely envied. The new EP was made exclusively with vintage Gibson acoustics – and there are some rare beauties in his collection.
“The main guns used to hold this record together include a 1950 Gibson Southern Jumbo, which brought the old oaky warmth to the rhythm sections; a 1957 J-45, which has been beaten to within an inch of it’s life, but she sings with deep throaty bottoms; and a 1941 Gibson J-55, which comes to life when you use your fingers so she got a couple of feature spots too.
“The old guitars certainly bring an unmistakable depth to the recording. Like an old voice which has lived a thousand lives, and none of which have been easy.”
This isn’t nearly the extent of Ayres’ guitar collection, which has partially come together thanks a zealous spending habit. Though, it’s more aptly viewed as a historical archive.
“It started off impulsively as I wasn’t yet sure of what I was after,” he says. “So I pulled the trigger a few times and lived to regret it. Like fine whiskey or wine, there’s a lot to learn before you become an aficionado.
“I also have a number guitars that I’ve bought because they are so rich in history. The Gibson Banners from the World War II era are certainly amongst my favourites. They were built during a time when mainly women worked in the Gibson factory as the men were off at war and supplies were scarce. So they made do with what they had. Fantastic sounding instruments came out of this era. At this point though, I’ve stopped searching for more and I’m just letting the good guitars find me.”
While Ayres’ many classic guitars all offer different individual characteristics, he does highlight some favourites from the collection.
“Some like to be tickled, others like to wrestle, and each one inspires me to write differently,” Ayres says. “I let the guitar guide me on that. Some standouts would include a 1940 Gibson J-35, the predecessor of the ever lasting workhorse the J-45. Not only is it a piece of history, but it has a giant open voice like Pavarotti.
“Another favourite is the 1951 Gibson SJ-200 – the king of the flat tops and the top of the hill in those days. Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline may have influenced this purchase a little bit, but it just oozes tone.”
Ayres speaks of Bob Dylan as a life changing influence. Dylan’s long refused to be pinned down, constantly changing his artistic manner and eluding definition. This aspect of Dylan’s personality is greatly appealing to Ayres.
“Dylan has been, and forever will be an enigma, for sure. The ever-elusive personality is certainly something that will keep me listening to his records and appreciating what he has done over the years as a performer and a writer. It’s not in my nature to be mysterious and intentionally elusive so I wouldn’t seek to emulate this. I’m more of a heart on the sleeve kind of guy, but I will forever be evolving and improving my craft. And the day that I think I know it all, is the day that I’ll hang up my guitar and retire, because the end of my road would have arrived.”
Ayres has supported all sorts of big names from home and abroad in recent years, including Hot Chocolate and Anastacia, Kasey Chambers and James Reyne. Witnessing the adoration of these artists’ fans motivates him to seek out a similar sort of following.
“There is certainly magic in the air when a renowned artist starts playing the opening lines to their well known songs. It’s electric. The connection with the audience is real, and something that any artist at any stage desires. Being in front of thousands of people and performing my own songs and being able to capture their hearts and minds is a feeling like no other, and certainly what I will continue to work towards.”
For more information head to jasonayres.com. Got My Heart is out now.