Whether it’s Bing and Bowie, or Johnny and June, nothing rings in the holidays quite like a great duet.
Luckily for us, Canadian country stars Jojo Mason and Kristin Carter seem to agree — with their team-up offering, The Gift, hitting streaming platforms just in time for Christmas.
We caught up with Jojo to talk about all things merry and bright, as well as what he got up to in 2020 (Hint: it’s a lot), and what the future (hopefully) holds in the New Year.
Well Mr. Mason, Merry Christmas! Word on the street is you’re a pretty big fan of the holiday season. Tell us, what was it like to work on The Gift with Kristin Carter?
How awesome is that right? I’m so happy I got a chance to finally sing with her. She’s so rad. I love working with great people, so when the opportunity to collab came up, I had to jump at it.
All of a sudden, a bunch of artists have treated us to all to so much new Christmas goodness even before Dec. 1. When does the process start for a holiday single?
We got rolling in early fall, but some people go as far as recording in the summertime. I was seeing all these post from friends hitting the recording studio in July and August — but I get that because, as of next year I’m going to start celebrating half Christmases, as well. I feel like we deserve that after what we’ve all gone through this year. Christmas in July and Christmas in December. It really doesn’t take much for me to get in any kind of Christmas spirit. If it was socially acceptable, I would probably celebrate all year round. I mean, why wouldn’t you?
So, what is Christmastime usually like with your family?
Well, like everyone else, we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to look like this year. I’m lucky enough to be in a relationship with somebody who gets two different Christmas, so now in total I get three Christmases with family every year. That means I get three batches of presents and I get to spoil three batches of family, and I love every second of it. For me, Christmas is all about taking the time to unload all of the BS that you deal with all throughout the year and focus strictly on the important things — which is family. The love that you have in your household with your loved ones and your animals and the time you get to spend is just so important. Those are the biggest moments for me that I cherish so deeply.
Important question for you: real or artificial tree?
I think a lot of people really dig the artificial ones, and that’s totally cool — and my lady wants to get one of those really big trees that you can just put up and take down every year. But I kind of want to get a real one. You know what I’m saying? And you do it up right — visit a sustainable tree farm. There’s just something about the smell of a pine tree when you wake up in the morning that really means its Christmas.
That would also give your cat Mayonnaise a better grip for something to climb…
Oh man. This is his first Christmas, so maybe I should be a little nervous about that.
Tell us about your new single The Gift, and a little bit about why it appealed to you.
I just love the old school feel of song. It feels like a 90s pop ballad Christmas song from back in the day. The minute I heard it, it felt so familiar. It also represented my chance to finally sing with Kristin. I pitched it to our producer Scott Cooke and asked him what he thought the chances were that Kristin would be down for it. We asked her and apparently it was an immediate yes as well. So, I think it was a match made in heaven. The song itself is just so refreshing and new. I love the classics, don’t get me wrong, but this one just felt so good. I felt like Kristin and I would blend together to sound really great, and I think we did a pretty good job. It’s all about the feel of the music for me. If it doesn’t make me feel anything, I’m doing it wrong.
Do you have any favourite all time duets? Christmas or otherwise?
One of my favourite duets of all time is Mariah Carey and Boys II Men — One Sweet Day. That’s my jam. Whiskey Lullaby, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, also amazing.
This is where we get a little philosophical. Since the name of the single is The Gift, is Christmas all about giving people the coolest and most popular presents? Or is it about getting people things that have a lot of meaning?
I’m a very practical shopper. I think gifts and presents are very, very important — but it doesn’t matter how much you spend. It matters, you know, how much thought you put into it. I think it’s important to show people that you that you care and that you love them, whether it be making them a card or making them a gift. To be totally honest, I hate when people buy me presents. I like spoiling other people. That’s my thing.
What would you say is the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
The best gift I’ve ever gotten, ever, was from my fiancé. This was a couple of years ago when I was getting ready to start traveling with the James Barker Band tour. It was starting up right in January, and it was the first time we were going to be away from each other for a long period of time. She made me cards for every emotion that I could possibly be feeling while I was gone. Like, if I was happy, I’d open one up and she’d have some pictures of us and a note or a little funny story about us. Or if I was sad, or if I missed home, she had some pictures of her and the dog and a note that would say how much she missed me too. I was blown away. I almost started tearing up — it really was incredible. Those are the kinds of things that mean the most, right?
That’s pretty amazing. And a pretty high bar to set. Is there any way to even compete with that?
No. Absolutely not. But I’ll spend the rest of my life trying.
It’s been kind of, let’s say, an interesting year. But you’ve really accomplished a lot. A cross-country tour in an RV, your new EP Changes, and presenting and performing on the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Awards broadcast. Fact is, you’ve done more than most. What was your favourite memory of 2020?
Honestly all of those things were amazing, but the best thing to come out of 2020 was the time I got to spend with my fiancé. I would consider that a massive win. We’ve all been going through so much, and I feel like we really got to spend so much time learning from each other and supporting each other. I feel so lucky to be with somebody like her. Professionally, I would say getting to travel across Canada in the RV. It was 30 distanced and safe shows in 30 days, and it was amazing. I look back on that experience and just smile. We got to go spread joy across the country during the pandemic. For a musician, it doesn’t get any better than that.
I know for a fact you brought a lot of happiness and uplifted a lot of fans over that time. It is safe to say that’s something you’d do again?
In a heartbeat. There’s no question about, I would. One of my favourite things to do is to play music, and to play music for people. So, if I get a chance to go out and play, even in the middle of a pandemic, I’m going to do it. Safety was so important, of course, and we made sure the protocols were in place — but man, we really felt like we were doing something so special. I felt so uplifted and so hopeful, and it was an experience that really helped keep my mind strong.
It’s no secret mental health is an important topic for you, and you’ve been putting something out there this year to help reach out to friends and fans. Can you tell us a little bit about your Instagram streaming project, Mental Health Mondays?
Back in March when the pandemic first hit — it was a big shock for me, mentally, physically, and emotionally. If it was that big of a deal to me, I knew it would be to everyone else as well. I was one of many people who were going through a lot and didn’t feel like they had an avenue to talk or have anyone to just listen. Friends in the music business, my parents, my fiancé and one of my best buddies, Joe, were all going through the same thing. And I felt like if I need to talk to somebody, I’m sure somebody else did too. So, I wanted to give everyone a safe space — one where they would know they’re not alone, because the worst thing in the world is to have to do it all by yourself. I wanted to give people an outlet to set some goals and start the week off right, every week. And hopefully it’s as good for them as it is for me. If somebody relates to it, that’s more than I could ask for.
Lastly, what’s your biggest wish for 2021?
Give us a vaccine so we can get back to normal life. One of the things I miss the most is getting to see people smile. Walking around and not being able to smile at people is one of the hardest things. So next year, when everything gets back to normal, we’re not going to be wearing masks and we’re going to be playing shows. We’ll be able to get together with all our friends, and I’ll be able to see my dad. I just want to be able to spend some real time with my family — and I want to hug everybody.