Q&A: Singer-songwriter Jason Poulsen

Vancouver singer-songwriter Jason Poulsen talks local music, shitty jobs and sunshine ahead of Falconetti’s Canadian Music Week Showcase this Sunday.

Credit: Tyler McCulloch

Singer-songwriter Jason Poulsen shares his favourite live music venues in Vancouver, what fuels his creativity (including the, ahem, serenity of Wreck Beach) and how a crap job inspired a sunny song


Vancouver singer-songwriter Jason Poulsen’s songs are inspired no less by the diverse local music scene and beautiful scenery than they are by shitty jobs and gut-wrenching heartbreak. Yet his upbeat, folk-inflected music shares that universal quality and broad appeal that make Jack Johnson or John Mayer popular across many time zones and demographics.


Jason Poulsen

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Canadian Music Week Showcase

Sunday, November 7, 2010, 7 p.m.

Falconetti’s East Side Grill

1812 Commercial Dr, Vancouver 

Poulsen has collaborated with Vancouver-based quintet Incura’s jack-of-all-instruments Jim McLaren and is currently performing with pianist Erik Olson, vocalist Stephanie Olson and drummer Joel Mohr.


Calling themselves Jason Poulsen, the Olsons and Mohr, the foursome is one of the acts performing at Falconetti’s Canadian Music Week Showcase on Sunday, November 7, 2010.


A huge fan, I recently sat down with Poulsen on a spectacular fall day, mochas in hand, to hear the stories behind the tunes that have been a constant fixture on my playlist.


Granville: Which of your songs is your favourite and what’s the story behind it?

Jason Poulsen:Wishing for Yellow” is my favourite tune so far. It’s a song about feeling alone and desperate but remaining strong and hopeful in the face of it. The lyric “Wishing for Yellow” came to me at a time when I was working handing out free papers by a Skytrain station. It was mid-February, freezing cold, around 5 a.m., and I was trying to give these things out to people who were racing around, going to work and had no time to be bothered. It was pretty miserable. I was on the verge of bailing and going home. But I stuck it out.


On this particular day, as the sun rose, the light reflected off the windows of an office tower on the other side of the street. The reflection was so strong that I could actually feel the heat emanating off the side of the building. It was pretty incredible. It was like the city was saying to me ‘Here you go, little buddy, here’s a bit of reflected sun from the side of this building to help you through the day.’ So that’s where the basic idea for the song came from. “Wishing for Yellow” is quite literally about being in a tough spot and hoping for a little light to come and help you through.


What influences your music?

I’m most inspired after seeing live music—doesn’t really matter what genre, just being part of the live music experience always inspires me. Some of my favourite Vancouver venues are:


Sometimes I get inspired at extremely inconvenient times. I’ll be out with friends and I get a melody or lyric that I don’t want to forget. It’s kind of awkward to just get up and leave, so I write it on a napkin or try to remember it by imagining how I’d play it on guitar. That usually never works though. I find it really hard to recreate the whole vibe that way.


I also do a lot of writing by the water when I can. Wreak Beach is a nice place to get fresh ideas. Most often though, I write late at night when I can sit with an idea and play around with it.


Vancouver singer-songwriter Jason Poulsen


What kind of music do you listen to?

It’s always changing. I like listening to danceable music. I go through periods where I’m obsessed with an artist/band and play it to death. I like listening to the same song 10 times in a row and paying attention to a different instrument each time. It’s fun, like looking at a sculpture from different angles. The last 10 artists I put on my iPod:


What inspires your songs?

I guess I write from personal experience for the most part, though not all of my songs are autobiographical. I find songwriting helps me make sense of the world. It’s like talking through a problem with a friend. Expressing your thoughts lyrically can clarify your point of view and at the same time cause you to question concepts you take for granted.


Songwriting is totally cathartic for me. If I don’t get at least a couple hours every few days to sit down and play around with a new song, I can get pretty strung out. I’ve had trouble in past relationships because I need that alone time to keep myself even and that can be hard to explain without hurting feelings.


What do you do to make ends meet?

I have a serving job to pay the bills. I also do acting work when I can get it. I’ve had parts on a couple of locally shot TV shows like Sanctuary, Smallville and Supernatural, and I’m currently working on a few episodes of Hiccups. When those jobs come in it’s great because the money is good and acting is another passion of mine. It’s always nice to make money doing something you love.


What advice do you have for people wanting to get into the music scene?

Work hard on your music. Be nice to people. Keep going.


Video: Jim McLaren playing bass on Jason Poulsen’s “Love is a Cartoon”



Video: Jason Poulsen, the Olsons and Mohr perform “Till the Day” at Raw Canvas in Yaletown