Gord Bamford is the headliner tonight at Heartbreakers, but he is not on the stage alone. The country music star has a couple of rising talents, both with their own growing list of hits.
One of those names is Jojo Mason, the uprising young Victoria singer who has popped out hits like Good Kinda Love, Red Dress, It's All Good, Something To Wrap My Heart Around and others.
"Jojo was my first pick to be on tour with me because of what he brings to the table - the music and the kind of person he is," Bamford told The Citizen. "He's just a positive person, a great guy, and his music is really good, so to have him is exciting."
He's the kind of guy who blushes when he finds out that Bamford has been saying such things. Mason said he was enthused to be out on tour with one of the most awarded country artists in Canadian history (they are also sharing tonight's stage in Prince George with buzz-artist Jade Eagleson), he felt he could learn a lot from Bamford, and he expected wild audiences.
"Dreams, man, I'm telling you," said Mason, figuratively pinching himself over the good fortune.
But it is only partially attributable to luck. Mason has been earning abundant industry praise for his easygoing musical atmosphere, his catchy singles, and the progressive energy that can only show up in his songs if it's real in his life.
However, yes, kismet indeed played some cards in the game. He recalled one fateful night most of all, after a patch of luck most people would consider very bad. He did, too, at the time, until he woke up in the party clothes he'd been wearing the night before and managed to brush off the hangover fog just enough to remember a life-changing offer from a stranger.
"Let me give you the short backstory on it," Mason said. "So, I was playing hockey in Victoria (a blue-liner for the Saanich Jr. Braves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League). I herniated a disc in my back that cut my playing career very short - I was about 17 or 18. I went down a kind of slippery slope, battled all kinds of depression, and once I was able to get myself out of my own little rock bottom I'd created for myself, I started bartending in Vancouver. I did eight or nine months of really tough rehab for my back to get my health better, and I got invited to a Christmas party by a friend of mine. I showed up with a jar of moonshine."
That moonshine had a splash of stardust in it. A music industry professional was at the same party and spotted Mason's liquor receptacle. That stranger told Mason he and some songwriters had just been discussing a particular line in a song they were writing. The line mentioned drinking booze out of a jar. Some in the group were convinced that was just a redneck caricature, while he was of the opinion that people did indeed still really use jars as their preferred cup. He wanted to snap some selfies with Mason to show them it was true.
The stranger and Mason started chatting about other related things. His new acquaintance told Mason that there was something about him, a charisma if anything, that suggested he should be on stage himself. He gave Mason the offer of a lifetime: come to the office and sing for me.
Despite having no formal training in music, Mason screwed up the hangover courage to make that call. One rendition of the Zac Brown hit Chicken Fried convinced the music man that Mason had something more than what was in his jar. Mason was an unearthed strike of gold.
"From there we had four Top 10s together, a Top 15 and a Top 20," Mason said. "I never sang in front of anybody. I had no confidence. My dream was to sing for my high school talent show, and I never did it. I never did it."
The school that never heard Mason sing was Reynolds Secondary School. It's also the alma mater of actor Chad Willett, who also counts Prince George as a hometown, and there is another local connection, one that has Mason practically dancing in the streets with anticipation.
"What's cool about the Prince George show is, my best friend from high school now lives in P.G.," said Mason. "I am so excited to come up and play there because she hasn't seen me play in a long time. I can't wait to see her. I texted her as soon as I found out we were booked there. I'm really, really happy this show got added. She's been my best friend since Grade 9."
Her name is Liz Wass. She moved to Prince George about four years ago for the outdoors and the university. All of Mason's country fame has come since she's been here, and this is the first time in that burgeoning career that he's been scheduled to perform here.
He is bringing along his brand new single, the smooth and peppy tune Future. It's so new there isn't even a video out for it, yet, but it is scoring at radio on its first shift.
Scoring was something Mason used to strive for on the ice, and he sniped another for the video of his song Edge Of The Night, a little tune movie he and his crew filmed in Kamloops on a day off while touring. It's a quintessentially Canadian homage, with its trees and rivers and real snow. He even planted a little Easter egg in the part where he walks down a suburban street, grabs a stick and snaps a forehand into a street-hockey net as he saunters along singing. The tiny detail was the left-shot curve on his right-hand shot. Only a real hockey fan, he said, would ever spot that detail.
"There's nothing I wouldn't give to play some competitive puck again," he said. "That was a time for me, I'm tellin' ya. I miss it all the time. However, I would not give this up at all."
He likens his record contract with 604 Records (the same label as Marianas Trench, Carly Rae Jepson, Dallas Smith, Dani & Lizzy, etc.) to getting called up to play pro hockey.
"I wake up every day and I count 'em all, every day," he said of his blessings. He counts Prince George among them for the first time, tonight at Heartbreakers Nightclub.