If you spend time listening to local radio, you have probably heard Jason Barry’s voice. The catchy jingle for Dan’s Discount Windows and Doors in Kitchener was crafted, played and sung by Barry, a St. Clements resident whose list of credits goes far beyond that commercial.
“A lot of the guys around here are in construction and they laugh when they hear that song come on the radio,” he said with a smile.
When he is not singing about local furnishing companies, Barry spends his time mixing and producing records for some of the biggest names in Canadian country music. On Wednesday, for instance, Barry was heading into Fergus to play alongside Shane Yellowbird, whose current hit “Bare feet on the black top” is quickly climbing the country charts.
Barry’s career in music production started as a stroke of luck, he said, and it was a long road to get to where he is now. He was born deaf, and for the first six years of his life, he was believed to have had a learning disability. His mother didn’t want to accept that answer from the doctors and took him to see a hearing specialist who was able to restore his hearing with a few simple procedures.
“I remember that moment when I was first able to hear,” he explained. “Everything was so loud. I could hear the air going past my ears and the clock ticking on the wall.” A few years later, he picked up the guitar and followed the lead of his father, who was a fairly well-known guitar player at the time.
After a decade or so of playing recreationally, he was introduced by a friend to producer Rick Hutt. When Barry arrived at the studio, Hutt was just putting the finishing touches on a song that Tom Cochrane had recorded in the studio that day. Instead of a cursory visit, Barry was pressed into service.
“He said to me, ‘You’re a guitar player, can you help me with something? Everyone else has gone home already.’”
Barry ended up playing one part of the song that hadn’t recorded properly. Before he left the studio, Hutt asked him if he could come back the next day, and then the next. From that point, Barry continued to return to the studio as a guitar player, then as a backup singer and then as a producer himself.
Since then he has been presented with a plethora of Canadian Country Music Awards, including ones for studio of the year in 2009, producer of the year four times and guitar player of the year for 13 years running.
Although Barry has been in the business for almost 20 years, he still gets some nervous butterflies upon meeting some of his own idols.
“When I started, Charlie Major was one of the big acts of the time,” Barry noted. “I remember watching him on TV and thinking, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to play those songs?’ Getting the chance to actually play on his record felt like winning the lottery for me.”
Barry grew up in the rural community of Derby Junction in New Brunswick before moving to this area to marry his wife Melissa – he’s no stranger to small-town life. The area is, however, sometimes a bit of a change of pace for performers who come out this way from Nashville.
“Charlie Major and Terri Clark both came here and they loved this place. Everyone who comes here falls in love with the town,” Barry says of the musicians who have come to visit his home. “People who live in big cities just get used to being solo and reclusive. It’s easy to get used to not looking at people and not saying hi to anybody. Here it is just the opposite; it’s like a vacation for them.”
Recently a neighbour of Barry’s complained about the noise coming from his garage, and Barry was forced to approach Wellesley council to request permission to use what is now a shed in his backyard as a rehearsal space for visiting musicians. The ‘noisemaker’ who drew the neighbours’ ire was Aaron Lines, a chart-topping Canadian country musician who was once named Male Artist of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards.
“That was a bit of a drag,” noted Barry.
But it seems as though the majority of community members aren’t annoyed by the music coming from the garage, but entertained, and some even come over to visit.
“A lot of people in the town here are country music fans. Some of the guys (Aaron Lines and fellow Canadian artist Yellowbird included) will come over here for a beer and a campfire and the neighbours will come by to say hello.”
If the township approves Barry’s request to continue using his garage as a practice space, he plans to play guitar here for many more years.
“It’s a lot of fun and I hope it never ends,” he said as he knocked on the wood paneling of his small practice room. “I have been very fortunate.”