Celebs Gone Good: Jason, could you tell us a bit about your childhood and teen years? Why did you make the decision to leave home at the early age of 18?
Jason Damato: Growing up for me, like so many other people, was real difficult due to religious constraints. My parents are very religious. A lot of my dreams and goals and aspirations that I have for myself, they didn't share. And so it was more of a suffocation a lot of times. And I love them to death, but that's what I was going through. I guess from my age of 13 I was already ready to go, ready to spread my wings and see a different point of view. I was always under the idea that there was only one way in life and that is what I was preached to when I was little. So leaving at an early age for me was kind of like, overdue already.
CGG: How did you get into playing the guitar?
JD: Well I started playing the guitar when I was 13 or 14, and I started listening to a lot of old Beatles records. But I wasn't able to listen to a lot of secular music so the secular music I would get was a lot of oldies like Stevie Wonder..and a lot of blues musicians like Erin Clapton. Just listening to music is what got me into falling in love with music.
CGG: How have you made your mark in the music industry? Have you had any mentors along the way?
JD: Absolutely I’ve had mentors. There's Tom Freund; he’s an incredible musician and producer that I have been working with along the way since I've been here in LA. He has totally mentored me and taken me and molded me and given me a sound that I couldn't have created by myself. He is also on the virtual tour that I am getting ready to do soon…
He has worked with Ben Harper and some other phenomenal artists. I met him through my manager he had actually gotten us a meeting together. And we hit it off as soon as we met.
The process of getting from San Diego to L.A. when I left home was basically I got in a car with someone I had met at a party and went to LA. And from there I had started playing some open mikes and starting building my craft. And finally I got the incredible opportunity to run into my manager--Drake Stein...and the rest is hist...well its still going on!
CGG: What advice do you have for young people who want to use music or the arts to make a difference?
JD: Well I would have to say for anybody...that you fall in love with music and you never stop. And you don't listen to what anybody says whether it is against it or for it. You stick to it and you never give up. Which is like anything in life I guess. And music comes in all shapes and forms really so for me, I don't think there is any bad music. My advise would be: keep playing! Set your sights to the stars because anything is possible.
CGG: What’s been the biggest roadblock in your life or career so far and how did you get over it?
JD: I think myself. Just the fears of being in the industry and that’s so big, and trying to find yourself. And trying to measure yourself next to all these great talents out there while trying to be original at the same time. And having the security to perform. I mean one of my biggest problems when I first started performing was just that I was super nervous on stage. Sometimes I would throw up before I even got on stage. I learned it was myself and my own insecurities and inability to really get out there and show the music rather that I was so worried about what people were going to think about it. I'd have to say, I've had a few roadblocks but that was probably the biggest one.
It was practice… just knowing and feeling what you are saying and feeling. And believing what you’re saying. When you do that it sort of takes you out of the element of "oh what are they going to think and are they going to like it." And the time--Like you just gotta keep getting out there and playing no matter how bad or how good it is. And eventually you start getting into a mold and it’s really like clockwork. And [that’s when] you start really loving it.
CGG: Let’s talk about your work with ‘One Warm Coat.’ I know that this cause is very close to your heart; how did you find out about the organization, ‘One Warm Coat’ and how did you link up with them? Why does this org appeal to you?
JD: I was watching Good Morning America one day and I was just inspired after I saw 'One Warm Coat' organization. What they do is they basically have a deal with Burlington Coat Factory...and they give all their excess clothing and coats that they don't sell and give them to charities and homeless shelters other places where people who couldn't afford these things that are important--like a coat in the cold--could do that.
CGG: What makes you passionate about this cause?
JD: I was actually homeless for about six months of my life when I moved from San Diego to LA. At one point I had a job at KFC and I was living in a sauna in an apartment complex. They had a little pool and a basketball court and a sauna and I would sneak in there at night and just go and sleep there. So I guess 'One Warm Coat,' for someone's whose been homeless, I can completely understand the fears and the turmoil that you go through when you know that you don't have anything: you don't have a home, you don't have a coat, you don't have shoes.
So that's the biggest inspiration for me. And when I saw that, I knew I had to do something. So I wrote a song called 'One Warm Coat' and from there I also made a little video with little cartoon drawings and I had a friend help me animate it. They are both on iTunes and all of the proceeds are going to go to 'One Warm Coat.' And I don't have a lot of money but at least I can do that much. I can get as many people off the streets as we can. I feel sometimes we loose our priorities of where we are supposed to be helping and this is my way of helping…It's about people needing to know that they are still loved. As close as we are, we are so far apart sometimes. And I love this organization and I look forward to working with them a lot more in the future.
CGG: So when does your One Warm Coat tour kick off, can you tell me more about that?
JD: The virtual tour is basically instead of touring and driving around and using more oil than we need to we are utilizing and practicing conservation by doing this virtual tour online. And I think it also reaches a lot more people than just going out touring. And I'm a broke musician so yea I'm doing the virtual tour with Tom Freund and we are going to start this and kick it off soon--its right around the corner.
It's a great idea. I feel it’s totally effectively using the internet and a coming together in a global oneness. You can watch this tour in South Africa at the same time [someone else] is watching it in San Francisco. I feel like we can reach a whole different demographic of people. And that's what I'm about. I'm just about reaching out and trying to befriend as many people as I can before I go.