I’ve spent the last week trying to figure out how to put eloquent words together to do my friend, Mason Hays, and his new single, “Baptized in Whiskey,” justice. I’m not sure how successful I’ll be with those eloquent words, but we’re sure gonna give it a shot.
One of the things I fail to realize too often, is the opportunity afforded to us to watch an artist and their songs grow. I can only imagine what that experience is like for an artist to take their thoughts and develop it into a song, and then learn how to make it work with other people getting involved. Collaboration can be intimidating. Imagine taking something you believe in, convincing others to believe in it, and then offer their personal opinion to help form your vision. Anyone in a creative position feels that tension right now just imagining it. It’s amazing to me how many times an artist’s creativity dies right there! The cream that rises is the artist that can navigate and thrive in collaboration and community. So is the case with Mason Hays and his first solo debut - “Baptized in Whiskey.”
From the first greasy note of this “time-for-a-change-in-life” anthem, to the final faded tone, you can’t help but be caught up in the foot tapping pace of Mason’s smooth and haunting delivery. Mason is slow to announce that he played almost all the instrumental parts himself. Strike up a conversation with Mason and find out how humble he is about it. His own personal contributions are the last thing he’ll tell you about. So, I wanted it to be the first thing I told you.
With Aaron Westerman setting the pace on drums, Mason had the platform to build the rest of this rich and flavorful assembly. With friend and accomplished bassist Cliff Smith standing not too far away offering support, guidance, and encouragement, Mason picked up Cliff’s bass and went to work. With Cliff and Aaron’s help and experience, the rhythm was laid down. Mason was able to start recording the lyrics that he and co-writer Chris Wommack penned, giving perfect context to complement the grimey guitar licks. JR Pershall made all the local mixing and engineering happen before being sent to acclaimed Nashville engineer Dylan Seals for final polishing and mastering, with results that any national artist would be proud to have released.
The time had come. On January 8th, Mason made his live debut of the single in his hometown of Waco, Texas, at the Freight Bar. With the bar offering up $4 whiskeys and a warm and electric atmosphere, the stage was set. Front and center was Mason’s biggest fan, his wife Caroline. Not far away was Mason’s mom, dad and grandfather. Members of his church, family, friends, industry professionals, and a generous helping of fans were all there to show support.
I have to admit, I’ve attended release parties before. They’re always exciting. It’s always a “who’s-who” of the industry and sometimes that “who’s-who” can cause the magic of the moment to be overshadowed. It is simply as a result of the posturing that naturally happens when that much talent fills a room. Not so this time however. Maybe it’s because I got the opportunity to watch this song mature from lyric, to work-tape, into a finished release and just didn’t notice it. Maybe it’s because the song isn’t overshadowed by egos of the people who participated in it’s growth. I don’t know exactly what it is...
What I do know is this is an incredible first release from an artist that’s clearly got the instincts to navigate a long musical career. Get this song added to your daily rotation playlist. And pay attention to the name Mason Hays because you’re going to see it coming up a lot.