Jason Sturgeon is the very definition of today’s Renaissance Man. His story doesn’t start anywhere near the typical “I moved to Nashville with a guitar and a dream” cliché because like the man, his story is more complicated and worthy of telling. An all American boy who grew up in the heartland, his family of Coal Miners, Oil Men, and Farmers lived off the land in Indiana’s natural resources rich coal country. Working hard for a living was the norm and doing it yourself was the only option. Sturgeon grew up working. The scars on his hands are the proof of years of work and determination, and his songs are his life stories, written honestly from his blue-collar point of view. He started performing at an early age, singing Kenny Rogers songs for quarters paid to him from his family to encourage the youngster to sing more. Jason has always had the burning dreams of being a singer on the big stage. From the ages of 14-19, he farmed and worked as a Roustabout for a small oil company. His days in the oil patch taught him a great deal about his own drive and work ethic and set the tone for his years after. His father made him learn a trade instead of running off to Nashville at 19, explaining that “once you’ve got a degree, you can do anything you want”…and he did.
After working full-time through college, Jason earned degrees in Injection Mold Tooling and Industrial Drafting & Design with a specialty in plastics. He was soon hired by Cook Medical in Bloomington, IN as a Product Development Engineer, a white-collar dream job for any redneck farm kid. He didn’t have the fancy engineering degrees from the well-to-do colleges like most everyone else, but he did have real world experience and a blue-collar work ethic, and that’s just what was needed. Jason worked as he had learned and began his climb up the corporate ladder, finding success at each rung but… that dream of being a singer on stage lingered.
During his first years at Cook Medical, Jason’s love for music and that constant dream continued to push him to start a band. In 2003 he started Red Eye Max (named after best friend Max, a Jack Russell Terrier). The band toured every weekend around Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, usually after Jason’s 60 hour work week. They wrote and recorded their first full length album, with Jason as the primary writer on the effort. At the same time the record released, he was also named inventor on 2 US patents for Drug Eluting Stents, and built his first house by himself. After 6 years of juggling a more than full-time career and his band, Jason wanted more in music. In the spring of 2009 Jason was introduced to Dane Clark, Drummer of 20 years for Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp. As a world renowned drummer and songwriter himself, Clark took interest in Sturgeon’s songs and his desire to succeed as a song writer and the music business. The two started writing together throughout the year and recorded those songs for Jason’s first solo album, “That’s Me”. Clark produced the record and brought in fellow Mellencamp long-time band members including Troye Kinnett and bassist Jon E. Gee for the recording collaboration. The record was completed in the fall of 2009 and the experience, so positive, that it changed Sturgeon’s course forever.
After the completion of “That’s Me, Sturgeon made the biggest gamble of his life. After 9 successful and thankful years at Cook he said goodbye to start his own record label, Toolpusher Records. He explains: “I wanted my labels name to reflect my past, what I’m about, and have meaning…like everything else that I do. I pulled the name from my days in the oil field. A toolpusher on an oil rig is the boss, but he started at the bottom and busted his ass, and worked his way to the top. It’s what I’ve done my whole life and it’s what I’m doing in the music biz”.
In the fall of 2010 Sturgeon’s first single, “Simple Life” hit the airwaves and he embarked on a 34 state radio tour to promote the song. Sturgeon recalls “I’m not sure I really slept for those first 4 months.” The song, written by Sturgeon and Clark an autobiographical song about his hometown of Petersburg, IN was being played on hundreds of radio stations all over the country and the video being seen on national networks like CMT and GAC. It eventually ended up charting at 52 on the Mediabase Country Chart and 41 on the Billboard Indicator chart.
Touring a full schedule, Sturgeon made time on the stops to write his second record, “Cornfields & Coal”. After the success of the first album he recognized the importance of the sophomore record’s impact.
With the release of Cornfields & Coal in 2013 it marked a new start and new beginning finding Jason in Nashville full-time. The first single off the new record was the hard rocking adrenaline anthem “Timebomb” written solely by Sturgeon. The song worked it’s way into the 40’s and the video featuring World of Outlaws Winged Sprint car racer and 20 time series champion Steve Kinser, debuted in the top 5 on CMT.com and held the #1 video spot for nearly a week with tough competition from debut videos of Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, and Jason Aldean. The second single, “Angel Eyes” hit the airwaves just in time for summer love. The song is the only song that Jason has released that was not self-written. Written by Jason’s friend and co-writer Fred Koller and John Hiatt, the song had been released to the pop charts by Jeff Healey back in 1990 with #1 success making it a perfect song to release to the country masses. The song found good airplay at radio and the videos success landed it back in the top 5 on CMT.com.
In 2014, Sturgeon’s career and life continues it’s blistering pace but has changed in a few ways. Over the past 5 years, Jason’s songwriting skills have been noticed by many in the songwriting community and with that he started writing heavily in Nashville, pursuing a publishing contract. Always writing, Jason reconnected with Dane Clark and the two are writing Jason’s next full length record slated for release in 2015. Although they are both on tour, Dane with Mellencamp and Jason continuing his touring schedule, they write using Skype on a weekly basis from the road. And if the story of late nights, endless show dates, writing and recording for yourself and others is not enough, Jason decided to create his own brand called BackRoad. BackRoad is a lifestyle brand with a varied product line. BackRoad Beef Jerky is one of the most popular items among the products offered, but Sturgeon, an avid hunter and shooter, has also created a very special and beautiful line of handmade jewelry made from expired shell casings, which he personally designs.
To quote his song, “My Friends Call Me Jay”, “This dreams a hard one, man, it’ll take it’s toll, but as long as I’m breathing air I’ll be out here on this road”. The dream never stops for Sturgeon. It’s apart of him. And with all of the experiences, changes, ups and downs, it never ceases. Jason is always booking dates, currently finishing his new album, and is writing new songs every day.