NASHVILLE SINCE 1999
Jason Eskridge didn’t start his career in music. But the calling was so strong that he left an incredible job he loved to pursue it full time.
Jason grew up in east Tennessee, and attended Tennessee Tech for college. “I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember,” he says. He sang in church choir, and traveled with his grandfather, who toured in a gospel quartet. “I grew up in this really small town and music was something that people did as a hobby,” he says. “The idea of being a musician for a living was just really foreign to me until I got to college and I met people from Nashville.”
After graduating from Tennessee Tech, he landed a job at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, doing software development for an organization within the defense department. “I once proofed a document that went from my desk to Congress, which was super cool,” Jason recalls. “It was a cool job, it was just I would stay up really late doing music and then have to be at work at seven, and those two things did not coexist well. So I eventually got the nerve up and came on up to Nashville.”
“It was hard,” he continues. “Definitely the hardest part was giving up the security part of it, the consistency and the benefits. But I worked through it and found some good peace with it.”
He hit the ground running. He packed up the rest of his apartment in the back of his truck, drove to his mom’s house to put things in the attic, and went straight to a studio in Nashville, where he was scheduled for his first session, singing vocals on Nicole C. Mullin’s record.
“I sang on Nicole’s record and subsequently she invited me to be a part of her touring band,” he shares. He was then hired to sing on Lyle Lovett’s record, and toured with him on and off for 10 years. During that time, he sang on Johnny Lang’s record, and was hired to tour with him sporadically for six years. “All the while, I was working on my own solo stuff and doing hundreds of sessions for other people, and then forming my band that plays shows,” he says. In 2015 and 2016, he hit the road again, singing in Zac Brown’s touring band. Some of his favorite moments include opening for Johnny Lang at the hallowed, hometown Ryman Auditorium while he was touring with him as a vocalist.
Both to satisfy the mechanical engineer in him and to have something to do during down times between touring and singing on artists’ records, Jason started building furniture. “The building stuff out of wood hustle became my okay, no music stuff happening right now, let’s pull the tools out and get to work,” he says. “So it’s not as glamorous as, I got here and I started doing music and that’s all I ever did, but there’s definitely been a trend of music becoming the main thing. Happily, I haven’t pulled my tools out in a long time.”
Four years ago, he started cooking up an incredible project of his own: Sunday Night Soul, a bi-monthly Sunday night live soul music showcase at the 5 Spot. They host a more structured soul offering from seven to nine or so, then take a break, and play a more raucous late night set for the Nashville crowd that’s just come off the road from touring for the weekend and want to have their own weekend and party. “I’m always a proponent of being the music by which people live their life,” he says, “just being the soundtrack of someone’s real life moment.”
“I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘Sunday Night Soul has become my church,’” he continues. “That was never our intention, but I’m glad that it has become something for people to find things that aren’t readily available in their every day life.”
Follow him @jasoneskridge