Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Supernatural' Saturdays: Inside the Jensen Ackles/Steve Carlson Jam Session!...

Made Possible by Pop Culture has still yet to personally be able to attend one of Creation Entertainment's special jam sessions featuring Jensen Ackles and the musician friend of his choosing, but I have my friends within the fandom, and during the convention held in Nashville (or Nash-Vegas, as it were) over the first weekend in June, one in particular not only got to attend the unique part of the afternoon but also agreed to guest contribute her experience for a very special "Supernatural Saturdays" column.

Read on for Vinnie Chaffee's amazing account of Ackles' second (but potentially final) jam session. Even though no photos or videos were allowed in the session, she will make you feel like you are there, witnessing the musical magic first-hand! It certainly sounds like it was genius to watch live, and personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed he can somehow be persuaded to do it again!


Photo (c) Jason Manns, 2011

Jensen Ackles and Steve Carlson Rock Nashville - by Vinnie Chaffee

I’ll start this off by stating that the musical aspect of this particular "Salute to Supernatural" Creation Convention went a long way in cementing my decision to attend. Four performances in the Music City, by three talented musicians was far too much to resist. I say three musicians because one of the first things Jensen Ackles is quick to tell you is that he in no way sees himself as a musician; he’s not looking to branch out or score a record deal, he’s just a guy who enjoys music wholeheartedly and happens to be friends with artists who allow him to sit around and jam with them.

It’s known fact, but it won’t hurt to reiterate, that absolutely no audio or visual recording or photography by fans was allowed during the jam session. While I’m sure this was disappointing for not only some of the fans that attended, but obviously for the ones that didn’t, I have to say that even as my memory is fading, I’m glad this rule was in place because seeing cameras up and watching flashes going off would have thrown off the vibe.

Bags abandoned at the door and numbered ticket stubs in hand, we were ushered into a small, mirrored ballroom and seated. Armed with Jason Manns’ guitar, Jensen began the jam session by welcoming the crowd and informing us that most of the proceeds from the ticket auction were being donated to the Red Cross Tornado Relief Fund. While an exact percentage was not specified, Jensen heavily implied that it was a majority of the money.

Steve and Jensen told a brief story about meeting, becoming friends and discovering that Jensen had a knack for harmonizing vocals before jumping right into ‘Wasted Jamie’, a song that is a staple for just about any Steve Carlson show. Once the last chord was strung, Jensen remarked that he was surprised we didn’t sing along, to which Steve replied that he figured we were there to listen, not to perform.

As I said, my memory is becoming hazy, however some standout moments were Jensen telling the story of ‘If I Had a Million’ being the first song he ever learned all the way through and that there was in fact a recording of him performing it, but alas, that it’s a story for only him and Steve to know. Steve said the recording is lost forever; Jensen claims he may still have it on an ancient hard drive, but he refuses to check.

Often there was some quick scrolling and debating over who needed to see the iPad screen more. Jensen also took it upon himself to tease one of the bodyguards throughout the session. Various songs were played, but it was the stories between the songs that made it the experience unique.

Amongst their stories of living and spending time together came out Steve’s habit of modifying shacks and woodsheds into poorly ventilated makeshift recording studios, their eclectic tastes that lead to coffee tables with Hitchcock and Beatles books adorning them-- though apparently the Beatles book was ruined by melted wax and Jensen copped to owing Steve forever for that. Jensen also praised Steve for his culinary skills, saying that with most roommates you get offered a sandwich during the game and expect bologna between white bread, but with Steve you get an amazing pesto Panini.

In Jensen’s words, Steve Carlson is a Renaissance man.

With that they went into the first song they co-wrote, ‘Love You or Leave You’. Steve praised Jensen’s songwriting skills to which Jensen admitted that it’d been so long since he’d played the song he wasn’t sure he’d remember the lyrics. In fact, he remembered them just fine.

Interestingly enough, Jensen noted that two songs performed during this Jam Session were repeats from his first Jam Session with Jason Manns at the Los Angeles "Salute to Supernatural" convention less than three months ago and apologized to anyone that had attended the first session and was maybe feeling like this was redundant. In the midst of Jensen’s apology, Steve said he had to interrupt Jensen and let him know that musicians can’t apologize for playing songs multiple times, because it’s what they do and what’s expected. He then jokingly said, “Do you think I want to play ‘Wasted Jamie’ and ‘Pinata Novia’ at every single show?”

That said, Jensen launched into his rendition of Ray Lamontagne’s 'Like Rock & Roll and Radio', a song Jensen said is very therapeutic for him, one he brings out his guitar and belts out while sitting alone in his steel and concrete apartment after a long day of filming. Judging by the way he sung it, you have to believe him.

For the record, few songs later, they played ‘Pinata Novia’. For the record, I would have been disappointed if they hadn’t.

Prior to their performance of ‘Pinata Novia’, Jensen admitted it was probably his favorite song by Steve and that he simply fell in love with the it the very first time he heard it. After they were done, Jensen looked up and said, “I mean, c’mon, right?”

One of my favorite stories began with Steve saying that just how Jensen doesn’t have any professional musical aspirations, he has no desire to be an actor; however a few years ago Jensen excitedly approached him with a script for a series he was eager to read for. Steve said Jensen rattled off names like McG and David Nutter, names that meant nothing to him, but he agreed to read the part of Dean Winchester so Jensen could rehearse for his audition as Sam Winchester.

Jensen admitted to being jealous of the lines Steve was getting to read.

After the audition, Steve said Jensen came back to him with the classic good news/bad news scenario. Good news was they liked him for the show; bad news was they wanted him to play the other brother, so Jensen needed Steve to be the Sam to Jensen’s Dean. As a result, when the pilot aired Steve knew all the Winchesters' lines word for word and mouthed them along with the show.

Jensen also spoke about the ragtag cluster of Supernatural crew up in Vancouver that make up the band known affectionately as The Impalas and how he was roped into performing a certain song with them for the 100th Episode Party because it was completely apropos for the show. Jensen said he and Steve talked it over and felt it was also perfect for this performance and with that, and no vocal help from Steve, Jensen eased smoothly into, “Company, always on the run. Destiny, is the rising sun. I was born six-gun in my hand, behind a gun I'll make my final stand…” Jensen’s vocals, accompanied by Steve’s guitar playing, grew throughout the song to a strong finish.

The jam session was scheduled for 35 minutes, yet it ran for nearly an hour, with Jensen and Steve cutting out a song. What song? We’ll possibly never know because they didn’t say. Agreeing to play two more, Steve began a story about feeling jaded by music and the direction it’s taken when someone played an, at the time, brand new song for him. Steve said he was so moved he asked them to play it again and without hesitation texted five people he knows really care about music, Jensen being one of them.

Jensen then, a bit shamefaced, said he downloaded it, listened to it, but kind of blew it off, explaining that some songs require a certain head space. He claims he found that head space some time later while cleaning up his apartment before heading to LA for the weekend and when the song finally caught his ear he literally stopped everything and sat down to listen to it. Then played it again. And again. Then he said he listened to it on repeat the entire plane ride the next morning and texted Steve about how amazing it was.

Steve’s reaction was, “Oh really, asshole?”

They continued to speak about this song and the artist at length until finally Jensen jokingly proclaimed that the build up had been too great and he didn’t even want to play it anymore. Needless to say, they didn’t skip it and instead went into a clean, heartfelt version of the Zac Brown Band’s ‘Colder Weather’.

They finished up by playing the first song they ever recorded together, ‘Come Around More Alabama’, a song that Jensen unexpectedly harmonized with while Steve was playing, which lead to Steve dragging him into one of those previously mentioned sweatshop “recording studios” and putting him to work. Steve humbly stated that it is his most requested songs on iTunes due to “Mr. Ackles popularity” to which Jensen shot back with a shake of his head, “or your genius writing skills.” Clearly, these two friends have a lot of love and respect for one another.

Multiple times throughout the jam session Jensen mentioned that singing for groups was not something he does easily or often and usually with several, several more drinks in him, but that he honestly feels like his fans are part of an extended family, which provides him with the comfort level to perform like this in an intimate setting. With genuine thanks to us, and repeated statements in an awed voice of how he has the best fans in the world, Jensen Ackles and Steve Carlson left the room.

I’m going to end this write-up the way Jensen Ackles began the jam session. He’s glad this was something he could do with now two of his best friends, but this is, most likely, the last time he will perform in this manner.

It’s kind of sad to know that.

Was it a perfect set? No. Were chords missed, were notes pitchy? One or two, yeah, but it was a jam session, not a concert. Was it great? Most definitely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.


bettina said...

Thank you for this report! I hope Jensen will sing again! Even if he thinks that he isn't a musician, he's a great singer and doesn't he know what his voice does to his audience? If he can be persuaded, I'll be there and I will listen with tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my skin.

donna said...

l"fangasm" 1st reported the jam session which i happily blasted! they failed to mention the no more music from jensen. tears in my eyes! it's hard to imagine no more music when we want so much to hear!