Timothy Rawles, January 2020 Issue.
For the past 15 years Jason Walker has been belting out dance anthems for the masses. His soaring voice and up-tempo beats are a perfect fit for a gay club’s twirling laser light choreography and maelstrom of fog. People just want something to dance to that makes them feel good, and he always delivers. Just take a listen to his cover of Taylor Dayne’s “Tell it to My Heart.”
A native of Pittsburgh, Walker first came onto the scene with his albums This Is My Life and Flexible, with the help of iconic record producer and DJ, Junior Vasquez. Together they produced five Billboard Dance chart-toppers.
Then Walker met another legendary producer, Tony Moran, through Vasquez and another hit-making music team was born.
In 2017, this new partnership released their first collaboration with “So Happy,” a rousing upbeat club smash that continues to charm hearts. Their follow-up was “Say Yes.”
In 2018 “I’m in Love With You” became a club hit, and then in September 2019 they released “Perfect Bitch” which lands at #43 on Billboard’s 2019 Year-End Dance Chart.
Walker took some time away from his busy schedule to talk to me about music, the importance of social media and the one decision he’s having trouble with about his next release.
Over the phone, Walker’s voice is distinctive, and his personality is so energetic it must have added an extra bar to my T-Mobile signal. We say our salutations and I immediately tell him how much I love “So Happy” and its video.
“It’s one of my favorite records that I’ve done,” he says. “The video is one of my proudest moments. Karl Giant is a genius.”
I express what I love about “So Happy” and that it harkens back to the club anthems so popular in the ‘90s. These songs were not only over-played on the dancefloor but made their way up the pop charts thanks to heavy rotation on the radio. Walker says everything is relative and there isn’t a formula for anything.
“It makes no sense,” he says. “It really doesn’t. What’s hot today may not be in an hour.” We discuss the popularity of hip-hop and its current reign on Billboard. “I’m a hip-hop fan. I don’t like all rap music just because it’s something that I don’t like, but there’s a lot that I do. I don’t know, it all comes back around. It really does. And I know friends of mine who are singers, we just keep it movin’.”
Lizzo is one of his favorites mainly because she exudes confidence. “And I mean honestly, I give it up for Lizzo, honey, she’s doing her thing and she’s a big girl and she don’t give a fuck. And I think honestly that’s the attitude you have to have. You just don’t have to give a fuck. So, my hat goes off to her and what she does, so kudos, kudos.”
In this technological age where everything is app-based, Billboard may not be the place that makes or breaks an artist anymore. Services such as Apple Music and Spotify have served artists well and they keep their own tally of popular music.
Walker says he doesn’t think Billboard is any less relevant. He knows people who say the publication’s dance chart doesn’t mean anything anymore and they swear by Spotify, but, “trust me, when you’re on it, it does. Until you’re on it, it does and if you’ve never been on it and you’re saying that then the problem lies with you.”
He explains how Billboard gives independent artists a platform to showcase themselves, It did a lot for him when he first started making records with Vasquez.
“And listen, Madonna reigns,” he adds. ”No one has more number one records on that chart than her. It’s a calling card. Major label artists who maybe didn’t get a hit on the pop charts, this was a number one dance record. It means something. And it means just as much to somebody who isn’t Katy Perry — it means the same as it does to Katy Perry. So yes, it matters.”
One thing that Spotify can do is pinpoint exactly where his fanbase lies, who is listening to his songs. Most of his listeners are from the United States, but he gets a lot of hits from Brazil, Mexico, and Australia.
Those fans won’t have to wait long for a new album, he’s been working on it for two years. It’s going to drop in 2020 and it’s a doozy. Not only will it contain “So Happy,” “Say Yes,” “I’m in Love With you,” and “Perfect Bitch” it’s loaded with unreleased stuff.
But there’s a problem; he doesn’t know if he’s going to release it as three EPs over time or one big album. He’s getting advice from a living legend and one of his biggest inspirations.
“Ultra Naté told me you should do three EPs because you’re going to get more ‘legs,’ and she’s right,” he says. “But there’s something about being able to do a whole album so I’m not sure. But everything is done. I can say that. Everything is finished.”
Not that I know anything about the record business, but I suggest that if he releases it as three separate records they could be like chapters of his life, or if he goes with just one it might read like a giant timeline.
“Well that’s the thing,” he says then pauses before continuing. “I like and respect both of those schools of thought. I’m just not exactly sure which one I want to do yet. But you know what? It’s nice to have options. But there are a couple of songs on there that I want to get to some larger labels. Even if they were to say you know, we’ll just do a singles deal. Because I do feel like they’re of such good quality. There’s a handful that are, I think, some of the best stuff I’ve ever done. And I want to try and give it the best home that I can.”
We then talk a little bit about social media and it seems to be a bane of his. As a promotional tool, he calls it a “blessing and a curse” and that it has changed the way people do things. He likes the ability to reach countless numbers of people but at the same time, he says you have to stop living because you’re always in front of a computer or phone creating posts.
“I really don’t like that, I’ll be honest with you I really don’t like that. People tell me all the time you gotta have a better social media presence. And yes, I do and I try to do the best that I can, but there’s just sometimes where I don’t fucking don’t want to do this. I mean I just want to have a beer and I wanna chill for a minute.”
His might not chill for long. The first single off this next album is going to be released next year. It’s called “Now or Never.” He’s already shot the video, working again with Karl. “I haven’t seen the finished product for it yet but it was a really fun shoot and that’ll be next year.”
As for 2020, even though he has an album ready to go, Walker is not slowing down. He lives with his husband and their Great Dane in Brooklyn and when I ask if he has kids, he’s quick to answer, “Oh, hell no!”
I ask him if he has any New Year’s resolutions. Or if he even believes in them.
“No,” he laughs. ”I’m going to do what I always do — I’m going to try and matter.”