Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

An interview with troubadour Jason McNiff

Jason McNiff – the troubadour-host of the Sundowner Sessions at the Jenny Lind music pub on the High Street in the Old Town chats about his recent albums with Jude Montague

Jason McNiff is a fingerstyle guitarist, a lifelong player who writes meaningful melancholic musical stories, and his songs explore the ‘wildscape’ of travelling. He writes stories that draw the listener into an old-time, expansive cinema. His characters head down the wistful roads, riding imaginary horses on missions of glory and danger, or take beatnik journeys into the self. The classic Americana songwriting of Dylan, Cohen and Tom Russell is evoked in his songs but it’s not the only flavour here.

Jason also sings in other languages, which is a particular interest of mine. He sings in Italian as well as English and has toured Italy, marrying Benny, an Italian who now lives in Hastings too – and Jason is an enthusiast of the songs of Fabrizio de Andre who was influenced by the satirical and political songs of the misfits in society and also the hugely influential George Brassens.

He approached the Jenny Lind to suggest a weekly event  with selected guest performers at 5pm – in that magical post-work, early-evening hour that kicks off the weekend.  That became the Folk Sundowner, a weekly acoustic-based strand with a different featured guest each week.

JUDE: What brought you and your family to Hastings as a place to live and make music? The Jenny Lind is a famous music venue on the south coast and your sundowner sessions are part of our weekly lives. Can you tell me a bit about what songs you choose to play and what people can expect to hear who might not have been?

JASON: So many of our friends were moving here and London was getting more and more expensive. I found myself doing many gigs in the town and would daydream on the way back about living here. One day we just thought we’d make the dream a reality and there was no looking back, really.

JUDE: How long has Sundowner been in place? It already feels very embedded in our local musical culture. Can you tell me a couple of highlight guests for you in that time?

JASON: It’s been going since about Spring of 2019. I love all the acts who have played but a few highlights would be Dan Raza, Brendan O’Connell, Gabriel Moreno,  Matt Owens, Kirsten Adamson, Wild Service, Blues and other colours, Pepe Belmonte, Trevor Moss, Hank Dogs, Lily Ramona, Danny Horn, Alan Tyler, Rufus Miller, Tim Hoyte, Charlie Austen, Trevor Moss, Tom Cole, and many more….Sorry, did you say a couple!?

JUDE: There are many local music makers in Hastings and I’m sure there’s lots of talent to pick from but you also bring performers from London where many people have relocated from. Can you tell me a bit about the scene where you used to play in London and what artists you used to work with and perhaps still do?

JASON: Yes, I lived in London for over 20 years and got to know many brilliant people. It was involved in the Folkie, Singer/Songwriter scene playing places like the  Borderline,12 Bar Club and Betsey Trotwood. I used to hang out and play with people like Wizz Jones, Hank Dog, and Alan Tyler. It’s been such a resource for the Sundowner and, in fact, most of the acts come from out of town.

JUDE: You have released many albums, I think it’s eight now, congratulations and have had exceptional press for your songwriting and performance. Can I ask about your album of American covers, ‘Tonight We Ride’ which is your latest release. Tell me about the title song, and why you chose this?

JASON: The title track is a Tom Russell song. Tom’s a wonderful and highly respected songwriter from Austin, Texas, who seems pretty obsessed with the Old West and the mythology surrounding it. A real cowboy, but also a poet and expert in songcraft. I thought Tonight We Ride made a great title, and also went very well with the cover image I had. The album’s just a collection of songs I love, really.

JUDE: Your last album was self-penned material, ‘Dust of Yesterday’. What was the subject of those songs and why was it important to write these songs in these recent years, from your point of view and from the point of view of what is going on in the world these days.

JASON: I was struck by an idea that we are not the same as we were some years ago. And i mean that literally, down to the cellular level. So, i wondered what is it  about a person that is the same, and i guess one unifying thread across time are the memories one has. So, I thought I’d write an album of memories. I am also a sucker for nostalgia, which is pretty evident in the music I like! ‘Nostalgia – a denial of the painful present’ as Woody Allen says in Midnight in Paris.

JUDE: Anything else you would like to add?

JASON: Yes! Firstly, I don’t think Sundowner would be possible in any other place – the Jenny is such a great pub.  And secondly, thank you at HOT for doing this interview!


Jason McNiff’s Folk Sundowner Fridays 5pm – 7pm at the Jenny Lind, 69 High St, Hastings TN34 3EW


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Posted 11:45 Monday, Oct 30, 2023 In: Arts & Culture,Music & Sound

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