"Southern gospel has always had a little bit of that country flavor. It's a little closer now," says Jason, a Kentucky native who began his career as a teenager singing Southern gospel music with his siblings as The Crabb Family. The group rose from their humble roots in Beaver Dam, Ky., to become one of the Southern Gospel community's top groups before disbanding in 2007 to pursue solo careers.
Jason's self-titled solo album netted a Grammy for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album and the single "Somebody Like Me" earned him fans at country radio and among country listeners. When it came time to record his second solo effort, he admits to being a little concerned about following its Grammy-winning predecessor. "I was kind of nervous, but also excited too," the singer tells the Boot. "I was excited because it had been a while since we'd done that first one. I think it was exactly what it needed to be. We pushed the envelope a little bit, but let the people know we weren't leaving anywhere. We're just trying to make good music. With this one, I didn't have anything to do with any of it except get behind the microphone and sing. The producers had everything to do with it and that was the whole difference in this record."
Though he proved his skill as a producer working with his family (twins Aaron and Adam and sisters Terah and Kelly) last year on "Together Again," which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart, when it came time to do his new album, Jason opted to seek outside help. He chose three acclaimed producers from three different genres. Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts produced six of the 11 tracks on Love Is Stronger. The remaining tunes were produced by Ed Cash, a contemporary Christian music veteran whose credits include Amy Grant and Chris Tomlin, and Wayne Haun, who has long been known as one of the top producers and arrangers in the Southern gospel field. Haun's skills have earned him acclaim beyond the gospel community, as he's also done work with Earl Scruggs and Celine Dion.
Jason credits Jay for finding many of the songs on Love Is Stronger. "Jay DeMarcus just outdid himself in finding these tunes," Jason says, adding that he learned a lot working in the studio with Jay. "I just loved the way he hears things. It's those hooks that you catch yourself singing or humming all day long. He's just so good at it. He doesn't let anything fly that's not right. He's a perfectionist. I learned that he has a great ear for commercial sound and that also 'Good is not enough. Go after the best.' I love that."
Jay is equally complimentary of working with Jason. "As a producer, I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some of the best singers ever; I would certainly put Jason on that list," says Jay, who actually began his career in Christian music as one half of the duo East to West. "It is such a joy to work with someone that is so talented and driven. We've had a blast working together."
In working on the album, Jay and Jason welcomed some special guests to the studio. Jason is a big Kari Job fan and enlisted her to sing with him on the powerful ballad "Love Wins." Michael English and Joyce Martin of the Martins join Jason on "There's Not a Crown." "It was a dream having them in," Jason says. "It was awesome to stand at three different microphones, me at one and Michael at one and Joyce at the other. They are two people that have probably inspired my family and I more than anybody in gospel music. Watching them sing that song that I love and I'm putting it on my record, but they are singing it with me, it was just overwhelming. It's one of my favorite cuts on the record."
With the diversity of material on the album, there are plans to work singles to three radio formats. "What the Blood Is For" will be worked to Southern Gospel radio stations. "Near" is being promoted to Christian AC and the title track, "Love Is Stronger," is being sent to country radio stations. "I love all styles of music, always have, always will," says Jason. "I want to appeal to everybody. I'm just enjoying this ride."
The ride has been very busy lately for Jason. In addition to completing the new album, he recently completed his first acting role in the movie "Inspiration Pop," filmed a TV special that will air in April on TBN and has been touring extensively. When he's home, he loves to spend time doting on his wife Shellye and their two daughters Ashleigh, 10, and Emma, 7. "I love whatever is going on with my kids," Jason says. "They are so busy with ball, cheerleading and dance. They've got vocal lessons and do different things. I just love being wrapped up in their lives, going to their games and going to their practices, helping the coach out and doing whatever. That's what I thrive on is to get off the bus and be a part of that."
As busy as Jason's life is, he says his girls seem even busier. "I have to go on the road to get some rest because their lives are so busy. It's crazy," he says with a laugh. "I love spending time with my wife and my girls. Whatever they're in to, that's what I'm going to be hauling them around to do. "God has been so good to me and my family and I'm so thankful."