New Jersey singer-songwriter Jason Erie returns with a scorching and fun music video for his new single, ‘Amazon’. The tune is the latest cut from his forthcoming album, Tiny Fires (25 March). The song succeeds the LP’s titular single, itself a touching reflection on time spent in quarantine. Now, Erie is shifting gears; his newest tune has another powerful message—this time about the toxicities of capitalism and consumer culture—but it’s packaged in ironic comedy as well as the smile on an Amazon box. Its music video leans into a trademark line (‘God’s been shopping on Amazon’) and really leans into it, producing a critique on consumerism without the sternness usually associated with protest tunes. The folk singer lets loose and has fun, rocking and rolling in a way not to dissimilar to Springsteen.
The line “Even God’s been shopping on Amazon” is both funny and heavy. Explain where this idea came from.
I wrote this song with my friends and fellow songwriters John Dennis and Irakli Gabriel. We were sitting on my porch one evening exchanging ideas while contemplating our existence in the “new normal,” when an Amazon delivery man pulled up and delivered a well-timed box that seemed to be mocking us with its smile. Our conversation turned into pointed opinions on religion and consumerism, and I am not quite sure which one of us self-prescribed prophets said the line, but we knew we had a song. It’s really about the thought of Jesus coming back and no one believing him, so he just turns into a fellow hypnotised consumer, drunk on the idea of capitalism that he will never achieve.
You are from NJ, what was it like growing up musically in NJ? What drew you to Americana folk songwriting styles?
I am proudly from Bergen County, NJ — Dumont, New Jersey, to be exact. It is a one-square-mile blue-collar town filled with lots hardworking people and almost just as many bars. While I was young I failed to appreciate my roots, always writing songs about “getting out” of there. But now I can appreciate what coming to age in my two-bedroom childhood apartment taught me. I started writing music in a punk band playing the NJ scene with Darrin Bradury (another songwriter who relocated to Nashville). We grew up together and even convinced his mom to move into the same apartment building as mine. Really, I credit Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco, they kind of set our eyes to folk music. We started playing the open mics at the local coffeehouse, ‘Coolbeans Cafe’, and honestly I was hooked to the art of telling the truth. It all started in a small coffee shop, where (I think) all the best northern Americana/folk music is born.
How did you stay creative during lock-down?
To be honest, I struggled to be creative in the beginning of the lockdown. Though, I found other ways to cope. Like many other people, I found joy in spending quality time with my family. I created blanket forts with my six-year-old son, baked bagels, read too many news articles, and perfected the art of living for the day. When I finally was ready to sit down and write, it came pouring out, especially the songs you will hear on my new record. Some songs felt like stories yearning to be told, some songs just felt like therapy—either way it was wonderful. With the help of a few close-knit friends and my porch, I was able to keep sane sitting outside, through rain, sleet, and snow.
What do you view your role as a songwriter to be during times of unrest?
Really I think it’s our responsibility as songwriters to document what’s happening, whether it be times of struggle, or times to celebrate, I think what draws people to folk and Americana music is honesty. I think what resonates with the listener is the small stories of the common man in the first-person point of view. I think it’s our duty to just to be honest even if it hurts. People all over the world at this moment, I believe, crave honest and sincere songwriting. My role in all of it is to tell my side of the stories, or be the voice for someone who can’t.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm