b. 8 September 1973, Columbia, Maryland, USA. Country and folk merged with rap is not a common union of popular musical styles, but it is a fitting description for the music that singer-songwriter and actor Jason Downs specializes in. Downs (who is part Cherokee Indian) got his start in showbusiness as an actor, working in both local theatre and television at an early age. Shortly after entering his teens, he travelled to New York to do some television commercials (including spots for Sega Video Games and Shield Soap), as well as appearances in movies including John Waters’ Hairspray and Whoopi Goldberg’s Clara’s Heart.
By the age of 17, Downs’ main focus had shifted from acting to music, as he began writing his own original compositions, equally influenced by the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, Dwight Yoakam, and the Beastie Boys. His music career had to take a back seat to education, as he enrolled at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California soon afterwards, and was followed by his marriage to his long-time sweetheart. He relocated to Arkansas to live with relatives but the marriage crumbled after only a few months forcing Downs to move once again. This time he returned to New York City, where he attended NYU (and graduated with a BFA in drama).
Making ends meet during this period by working as a caretaker for an apartment complex, Downs struck up a friendship with Lauryn Hill’s manager, who also lived there. On the strength of a demo, Downs was soon put in contact with producer Mark Passy (best known for his work with MC Lyte and Audio Two). Downs began working with former Audio Two member Milk Dee, resulting in tracks that merged country and urban sounds together. A solo recording contract with Jive Records ensued in the early twenty-first century, which was followed by the release of Downs’ debut, White Boy With A Feather (early working title, Between A And B), in late 2001. Despite spawning three singles, ‘White Boy With A Feather’, ‘Cats In The Cradle’, and ‘Cherokee’, the album failed to ignite the charts.