In the just under five years since Milford, Ontario’s Jade Eagleson, 27, decided to trade in his tractor for tune-smithing, the country music world has welcomed him with open arms.
Eagleson has accomplished quite a bit in a short time. He’s released two albums, including Honkytonk Revival in November of 2021. He’s also landed six Top 10 Canadian country singles, including three No. 1s – for “Lucky,” “All Night To Figure It Out,” and “More Drinkin’ Than Fishin'” (a duet with Dean Brody). Eagleson has received platinum certification (80,000 sold) for 2018’s “Got Your Name On It,” and earned two gold records (40,000 sold) for “Count The Ways” and “Close.” In 2019, he won the Canadian Country Music Rising Star Award, and he’s received two JUNO Award nominations so far. He’s garnered nearly 200 million cumulative global streams, and 78 million-plus views on YouTube. (On a personal note, he met Maria Paquin on the set of the video for “Got Your Name On it,” and married her within a year.)
The whole kit-and-kaboodle kicked off in 2017, when Eagleson played a life-changing Emerging Artist Showcase at the Boots and Hearts Festival (following a pattern set by the equally-rural-Ontario, and hugely successful James Barker Band).
“Boots and Hearts was an experience I couldn’t compare to anything else,” recalls the now-Nashville transplant. “It was pretty awesome – getting up there and singing the songs I wrote – and hearing people react in a big way for the first time. I played a lot of hometown shows and the honky-tonk at home (in Millford, Ontario), and it’s pretty big, but you can only fit a couple of hundred people in there. Boots and Hearts – you’re talking thousands of people – and it was, ‘Ho-Lee!’ The Fear of God was put into me the first time I stepped onstage. It was some type of adrenaline rush that confirmed, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'”
Blessed with a ten-gallon baritone, Eagleson initially made his mark with a 2018 self-titled EP, and his eponymous 2020 album, with the help of a core stable of SOCAN collaborators – Beaverton, Ontario’s Travis Wood. and from Toronto, Gavin Slate and Todd Clark (all three of whom have had great success co-writing with James Barker as well) – that supplied six of the album’s 10 songs.
Eagleson has an amusing anecdote about writing “A Little Less Lonely” the first time he met Slate and Wood in Toronto.
“I met Gavin and Travis just when I started getting into the country world,” Eagleson recalls. ” And I had no idea about how those writing sessions were supposed to be structured. Pick away at it for a couple of days and have a few beers? I had no clue. I was still farming back then, and so we began writing the song and four hours in, that’s all the time I had. So, I told them, ‘You know what? I have to go home and feed the pigs.'”
Apparently Wood and Slate didn’t take Eagleson so literally, and thought it was an “Eagleson-ism” for “going out to have a cigarette or grab a coffee.” Two hours after he arrived home in Milford, he received a call from the buddy who had introduced him to the duo. “He says, ‘Why did you leave?'” Eagleson recalls. “To this day, I get teased about it: when we have a break, they tell me, ‘Just don’t go out and feed the pigs.'”
For his current album, HonkyTonk Revival, Eagleson contributes two of the eight songs – “Whiskey Thinks I Am” with Daryl Scott and “I Don’t Drink” with Scott and Kyle Renton – and says part of the reason was the pandemic.
“It was difficult to get into (writing) rooms,” Eagleson admits. “Obviously, there’s technology around it, but I feel like you lose some of the authenticity in your writing when you do it over Zoom. I did have some times where I came up with something great while using that method, but it’s hard to write when you’re not reading or feeling the emotions of the room. I wrote a lot over the pandemic but there was nothing that said, ‘This is going to give the fans what they want to hear.’ So, we started sourcing out different songs, and if there’s something better than a song I wrote, that’s what we’re going to use.”
Eagleson says his most useful device for capturing ideas is the iPhone. “A lot of the time, I’ll be doing something random and I don’t have time to get right to a guitar,” he explains. ” A lot of times, I’ll be going to sleep – and my wife has yet to complain about this – but I’ll take my iPhone and record a voice memo, humming a song. That’s my go-to right now. I’ll put in a melody here or an idea there and try and massage it later.
“Then I’ll bring it in and see what [the core writers] think of it,” he continues, “and I’ll have something on guitar, and show them what I’m thinking. Sometimes it works really great and we get some awesome ideas of it. Other times, this may not have been my best idea. It’s always good to try.”
While Eagleson takes the time to write by himself, he also loves the art of collaboration, and would one day love to write with Shania Twain. “It’s always good to have someone else’s opinion,” he says. “I know a lot of people that think it’s not as creative to co-write, but I strongly disagree. The more people you have, the more angles of life you attack. You could have your situation out there on paper, and you could have a couple of other guys that are also going through something similar, but may be a bit different, so your audience is going to be that much bigger.
“You also don’t realize how much room for improvement there is until you write with someone else that’s been in the game longer,” he admits. “You write with them and you’re like, ‘Man, I never would have thought of that!’ I wouldn’t have put that chord structure in there. I wouldn’t have twisted the words like that. It really levels your game up.”