For Jason Gray, the summer has been a little like “Bring Your Son To Work Day.”
But perhaps a more accurate description of the work arrangement would be the inverse—“Bring Your Father To Work Day” for his son Kipper.
Jason Gray’s career as a CCM recording artist goes back over a decade and requires no introduction. What people may be unaware of, however, is that Jason’s not the only Gray with musical talent up his sleeve. Twenty-one year old Kipper has rhythm all of his own and is establishing himself as a budding producer. It was only a matter of time before the duo put their skills together outside of the household. And that’s just what they’ve have done, with Jason’s new EP The Kipper Gray Sessions releasing Friday, September 14.
“I’ve played around with music with my son for years and had always hoped one day we could make a commercial project with each other,” Jason says. “My record label ended up hearing some demos Kipper had done for me, and we felt like there was a little bit of magic in it that we wanted people to hear.” With a laugh he adds, “Plus, I figured my son does kind of owe me, since I paid for his room and board for eighteen years...”
Under Kipper’s leadership as producer, Jason worked on new material. There was something particularly fresh about this production process that felt reinvigorating for the singer-songwriter. With numerous years, albums, singles, and performances under his belt, he had found himself with “blinders” on during the creative process – the way all of us can get stuck doing work the way we’ve always done it, adhering to the norm “just because.” Jason found a breath of fresh air in Kipper’s new perspectives.
“Kipper wasn’t bound by any sense of rules or obligation, he just did whatever came into his mind to do,” Jason states, not just as a proud dad, but as an impressed musical collaborator. “He’s fearless, and he’s just so talented...He’s great at identifying little hooks and reinforcing them with instrumentation, when I didn’t even realize that part could be a hook. He could hear things I never would’ve thought of. It was refreshing to be around that, and he helped me tap into that too. I think you can hear that in the songs.”
Part of that vigor came from the surroundings. It was a throwback to simpler recording days—certainly not a primetime studio, Jason recalls:
“We recorded it in his college house bedroom—the vocal booth was his closet, which would mean I’d go in there and be singing beside his storm trooper Halloween costume, and I’d have to hold the door closed, and it was so, so hot in there...But I think that was part of the charm of it. It was very organic, I guess I can say.”
Of course, there was the learning process of checking his “Dad” card at the closet door:
“I was working under my son’s authority, which was a great learning experience, and not one that a lot of dads get to have. He’s so great at what he does, and it was a blast taking direction from him. But there were a few times when I’d have certain requests, and I had to learn to ask myself – if this were any other producer, would I have done that? And I would call Kip later and apologize and say ‘You’ve got this, I trust you.’”
Their teamwork hasn’t just been a unique experience for Jason, it’s produced a dynamic new sound. His pop roots and artistic songwriting still form the musical backbone, but sonically, listeners will encounter less acoustic guitar, more synth, more outside-the-box vocal effects. From the windows-rolled-down, feel-good “Love Life” to the multi-layered, Coldplay-esque “Becoming,” the Grays have thoughtfully crafted an album of honest emotion and groove.
“On the song ‘Time,’ there’s one line where Kipper had me record twelve different vocal takes, and they’re all in there and all different. It’s super cool and speaks to his attention to detail.”
Those details kick off immediately with the opening track, “Mountain,” its bold percussion and perfectly syncopated snaps carrying audiences through the chorus:
“Together we’re a mountain, a force to be reckoned with...”
The same could certainly be said for this musical team of Gray + Gray.
“My favorite thing about this EP is that I got to have fun and work with my son,” Jason smiles. “It was an honor to jump in on what he was working on. Capturing joy is one of the hardest things to do when writing music. But I wanted to feel joyful with these songs. And I do, not just with how they sound, but with where they came from.”
The Kipper Gray Sessions will be available September 14.