Jason Webley comes in from the street
Aspen Times Weekly
After graduating from the University of Washington, Jason Webley took a spirit-numbing job in a crummy, commercial recording studio. Webley says he “went crazy” from the experience, and it’s not clear whether his next career venture was a cure for the craziness or a confirmation of it. Webley took to the streets of Seattle to earn a living as an accordion-playing busker.
To his surprise, he actually did make a living. The plan was to play his accordion on the streets “till I ran out of money,” he said. “It’s been nine years, and I still haven’t run out of money.”
The 33-year-old Webley has turned a few corners in his career. His music is mostly made indoors these days; in Aspen, he isn’t playing on the mall, but at Belly Up Aspen, opening for Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band. When he headlines a show, his act includes more guitar than accordion. But it is the accordion that always makes the impression on listeners.
“There are a lot of accordion players,” he said. “There are not a lot of young men, jumping around and screaming at you while playing the accordion.”
Playing accordion ” left-handed ” with the ferocity of a punk ranks maybe a distant third on the list of Webley’s eccentricities. (Even when he’s playing a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”) There is his percussion instrument of choice ” a plastic vodka bottle filled with coins from around the world.
This one, Webley hardly counts as an oddity. As a street performer, he used a tambourine to keep the beat. He wound up with a sore hand and insufficient volume, so he tried something else. The bottle did not let him down. “It makes a huge, thunderous sound,” he said.
Even Webley admits that his thing for the number 11 is strange. A few years ago, when he began making friends in music circles, he decided to begin a series of collaborative recording projects. There would be 11 such projects, he decreed. (He is currently recording Nos. 5 and 6; No. 3, released last year, was “Two Bottles of Wine,” with Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band.) Each would be a limited edition of 1,111 copies. His label is 11 Records. The current tour runs for 11 dates.
“Obviously I’ve got some weird attachment to the number 11,” he said.
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