New Single: “Salt and Sand”

My most essential song about maintaining optimism in hard times is out today as we leave the chaotic year 2020 behind and look forward to a better 2021.

The video for this song is scheduled for public release as part of a special event I will announce soon.

Right now the video is viewable only to subscribers to my emails. If you’re not getting my emails yet, sign up below and the exclusive link to the video will be sent right to your inbox.

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I wrote this song in 2004 and have included it in many of my live performances. Back then I made a few demo recordings, but now the time was right to give it a complete multi-instrumentalist treatment. I was very much thinking of “Big Man” Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band when I decided to break out the saxophone for this arrangement. I also played a metal xylophone known as a glockenspiel, giving the piano and sax part an extra sparkle on top.

Salt and Sand single by Jason Didner

This is the title track for an upcoming album dedicated to supporting your best mental health. “Salt and Sand: A Rock-n-Roll Journey to Mental Health” is due out by summer 2021.

Enjoy! And have a happy and prosperous year 2021! I look forward to sharing the new year’s abundance of well-being with you.

New Video and Single: Battle

I’m pleased to present you with my latest musical creation: “Battle.” This is the home studio video – actual footage of my recording this track, along with Fred E. Jam, keeper of F-Jam Online Collaboration Studios, who played the electronic drum kit.

The song shares my revelation about how mental health or living with a chronic physical condition doesn’t have to be a battle. It can be a humanitarian mission.

At the same time the video is released, so is the single on BandCamp. You can play the track below.

(c) 2020, Lyrics and Music by Jason Didner 
Produced by Jason Didner, Amy Didner and Fred E. Jam 
Engineered by Jason Didner 
Jason Didner – vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass 
Fred E. Jam – drums, sound design

Lyrics: 

Verse 1: 
I thought this was a battle 
The kind that’s won or lost 
Where raging at the rival 
Brings a victory worth all costs 

But the prize is alienation 
Now that seems a hollow win 
Standing lonely in the ruins 
Of the war I fought within 

Verse 2: 
I thought this was a battle 
With troops on high alert 
Couldn’t trace the friendly fire 
From the part of me that hurt 

Oh, the rage destroys your allies 
In the same flames as your foes 
Your own weapon takes you over 
No matter how it goes 

Verse 3: 
I thought this was a battle 
I could win and earn my peace 
Then I saw myself in terror 
As hostilities increased 

And the anger gave an order 
Show no mercy in this fight 
I asked myself the question 
Could this order not be right 

Bridge: 
It can take all that you got 
To disobey an order that’s all wrong 
To take the heat for seeming weak 
That’s a different kind of strong 

When the rage calls loved ones enemies 
And declares we’re at code red 
And orders me to take them down 
I’ll lift them up instead 

Verse 4: 
I thought this was a battle 
Now I’m learning it’s much more 
It’s a mission to compassion 
For the pain down in my core 

It’s a journey toward forgiveness 
When the rage has had its say 
And the wisdom we discover 
We can’t fight these things away 
But we can live to love another day

I had shared this song with my email subscribers when just the vocal and piano were recorded. If you’d like to get exclusives like this before everyone else, go ahead and sign up below:

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You Can’t Get There from Here in Jersey quoted in New York Times story

In early 2013, the New Jersey State Senate debated whether to allow the inclusion of the state’s infamous jughandle turns in future highway designs. Since frustration with this unique driving feature of my homestate is the key to my song “You Can’t Get There from Here in Jersey,” I began to see interest in the tune take on a second life after the song made its debut on NPR’s Car Talk back in 2001.

As the great jughandle debate heated up in the State Senate, I got phone calls from Philadelphia’s Action News followed shortly by The New York Times’ reporter Matt Flegenheimer.

Here’s the resulting article, including my contribution and quotes:

Bill to Squelch Convoluted Left Turns Gains in New Jersey Senate

“But perhaps no New Jerseyan has weighed the jughandle’s merits as thoroughly as Jason Didner, 42, a singer and songwriter. Years before he took a job with a highway construction company, he wrote a tune about his driving experience for ‘Car Talk’ on National Public Radio.”

Matt Flegenheimer, NY Times

Here’s the definitive live performance video of me playing this song in front of an in-person audience (that sounds really nice right now, something to look forward to when we’re all vaccinated!)

Podcast Interview: My Handle is Johnathanblade

In this podcast interview I make a virtual trip to Richmond, VA to chat with cultural commentator and stand-up comic Thandi Woodard to have a thoroughly enjoyable conversation about family, music, mental health and the balance of it all. Press play and be part of it!

Or listen at Spotify, Apple Podcast or wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast series: My Handle is Johnathanblade

Click here for the full podcast series.

New Video: Because I’m Grateful-Home Studio Sessions

See me recording all the parts for my new song “Because I’m Grateful!” I let the cameras roll while recording the tracks of this new song – here’s the result!

This is my first time ever playing the drums! I was inspired by Wolfgang Van Halen (Mammoth WVH) who chose to play all the tracks on his much-anticipated upcoming debut album. So I watched the Drumeo channel on YouTube and got some pointers to start keeping a beat and playing some fills. I’ve heard drumbeats in my head all my musical life, but hadn’t really tried to physicalize it until now. It’s my “pandemic skill!”

released December 19, 2020 
Lyrics by Amy and Jason Didner, Music by Jason Didner 
Produced by Amy and Jason Didner 
Vocals, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards by Jason Didner 
Mastered with CloudBounce 
(c) 2020, All Rights Reserved

Verse 1: 
I’m grateful that I woke up this morning 
At least that’s what that TED talk said I’m supposed to say 
Still I’m sorry for myself and my brain’s all full of warnings 
I’ll try this attitude of gratitude on some other day 

But then, what if that day could come around this morning 
What could it hurt to thank a loved one or two? 
It might bring a little good to take stock of my blessings 
OK, let’s see what this gratitude thing can do 

Pre-chorus: 
I can feel my mood get a little bit lighter 
As my outlook grows just a little brighter 

Chorus: 
I’m not afraid today to show what I’m made of 
I’m grateful for my love, my child and my pets 
I’m thankful for the support I have 
And the strength I’ve found within 
Because I’m grateful 
Sadness isn’t all there is 

Verse 2: 
Depression can’t have the upper hand this morning 
‘Cause I’ve got a new move that villain has never seen 
When you see what it can do, you won’t call it corny or boring 
See, I’m getting in touch with the grateful part of me 

I’m gonna do it again tomorrow morning 
‘Cause feeling better is feeling pretty sweet 
I’m letting go of the rope - Depression, here’s your warning 
I ain’t fighting today and that don’t feel like defeat 

Pre-chorus: 
I can feel my mood get a little bit lighter 
As my outlook grows just a little brighter 

Chorus: 
I’m not afraid today to show what I’m made of 
I’m grateful for my love, my child and my pets 
I’m thankful for the support I have 
And the strength I’ve got within 
Because I’m grateful 
Sadness isn’t all there is

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New Single: “Because I’m Grateful”

I’m proud to introduce my new single, “Because I’m Grateful!” This is your mantra for daily gratitude. Let this song into your heart and mind. It will give you some space from your depression or anxiety.

This is my debut playing a drum kit! All my musical life, I’ve heard drumbeats in my head, but have always handled drums by either programming drum machines or better, teaming up with my drummer friends. Wolfgang Van Halen’s new solo project Mammoth WVH inspired me to complete my multi-instrumental abilities. Interesting note: Eddie Van Halen got me to play guitar when I was 16. Now at 50, his son has gotten me to take up drums and record entire arrangements myself! Thank you Wolf!

Amy and I co-wrote the lyrics and co-produced the record. When I was a little shy about the tempo (first take was pretty slow), Amy encouraged me to pick up the pace. The result you’re hearing now is much more lively than the original.

Lyrics: 

Verse 1: 
I’m grateful that I woke up this morning 
At least that’s what that TED talk said I’m supposed to say 
Still I’m sorry for myself and my brain’s all full of warnings 
I’ll try this attitude of gratitude on some other day 

But then, what if that day could come around this morning 
What could it hurt to thank a loved one or two? 
It might bring a little good to take stock of my blessings 
OK, let’s see what this gratitude thing can do 

Pre-chorus: 
I can feel my mood get a little bit lighter 
As my outlook grows just a little brighter 

Chorus: 
I’m not afraid today to show what I’m made of 
I’m grateful for my love, my child and my pets 
I’m thankful for the support I have 
And the strength I’ve found within 
Because I’m grateful 
Sadness isn’t all there is 

Verse 2: 
Depression can’t have the upper hand this morning 
‘Cause I’ve got a new move that villain has never seen 
When you see what it can do, you won’t call it corny or boring 
See, I’m getting in touch with the grateful part of me 

I’m gonna do it again tomorrow morning 
‘Cause feeling better is feeling pretty sweet 
I’m letting go of the rope - Depression, here’s your warning 
I ain’t fighting today and that don’t feel like defeat 

Pre-chorus: 
I can feel my mood get a little bit lighter 
As my outlook grows just a little brighter 

Chorus: 
I’m not afraid today to show what I’m made of 
I’m grateful for my love, my child and my pets 
I’m thankful for the support I have 
And the strength I’ve got within 
Because I’m grateful 
Sadness isn’t all there is

Single: Quit While You’re Ahead

Here’s a throwback to an online collab I did in 2004 with Fred E. Jam, a great drummer and producer in Michigan who’s been highly dedicated to collaborating online. We also got Mike Mililo to lay down some killer sax riffs and Dennis Wieand to add some great texture with his Hammond organ. And of course, my wife Amy gave the song its character with her spoken parts at the beginning and end.

This song is the true story of that time I was in Atlantic City and blew all my available money for gambling within the first 15 minutes there! I was left with the rest of the day to wait and think about the quick losses while my family managed to nurse their money over the course of the day – ultimately I won, because I came up with this song!

Lyrics:
There’s no clock in this gambling house
No window on the fading light of day
My better judgment says “Get up, get out!”
But greed is standing in the way, yeah

My lucky hands they held the winning cards
I felt the ride would never end
Who thought saying no would be so hard
When you think a win’s around the bend, yeah
So have you got a couple bucks to lend?

Chorus:
Green light, go for the money
Now I’m running through the red
I’ve had my run on the table
Now I’m in above my head

I was sitting pretty
But now I’m broke instead
I’m telling you I should have quit while I was ahead

My next big win is on the credit card
I’ve got to make back everything I lost
This ain’t no foolin’ now, I’m playing hard
I will break even at all costs, yeah

I was the highest roller in the place
I pushed my luck a little bit too far
I’ve got to get myself back in the race
And play the chips on one more lucky star, yeah
So how much would you pay to buy my car?

Chorus

Outro:
Better quit, better quit while you’re ahead
Better quit, better quit while you’re ahead
Better quit, better quit while you’re ahead
Better quit, better quit…
(spoken) Coffee, soda, juice?
Quit While You're Ahead by Jason Didner

Single: Cubicle

In 1992 I graduated college right into a recession. I remember seeing a political cartoon in a newspaper where graduates were handed a diploma and a spatula (as in fast-food). That image stuck with me as I landed a temp job in a corporate office and continued working entry-level jobs through my early 20s. Within a year or two I had written this humorous, quasi-tropical take on life in the office – a raucous water-cooler gathering and happy hour filled with gallows humor about the rumored downsizing on its way.

Hear the full track below from Bandcamp.com

Hear a sample below on Apple Music or Spotify.


…or find Cubicle wherever you stream music.

Comic strips like Dilbert came along and confirmed my visions of this song. In 1996 I recorded it with producer Annie Virrill, who first made a 4-track acoustic demo with me in her tiny apartment. Then we went to Third Studio from the Sun and cut it with engineers Dave Meyer and Dan Jerram.

Annie brought in an absolutely killer rhythm section: Joe Howell on bass and John Hummel on drums. Annie’s own quirky musical sensibilities found their way onto the record, like her use of a jaw harp, water cooler and manual typewriter. Add in friends Joey McNelis and Steve Gadjisz on Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and happy-hour banter during the solo, and the result perfectly captured what was going on in my head for 40 hours every week of my youth while working in a cubicle and daydreaming of rock stardom.

The artwork was masterfully done by Russ Mowry of Brushfire Designs, who, as my other collaborators, found elements of my song to set him off on his own artistic riffs. Look in the cover artwork for “icicle, bicycle, cubicle!”

CD single artwork for Jason Didner's Cubicle by Russ Mowry, Brushfire Designs
Lyrics:
Here in my cubicle
I try to get the project done
Until I get a visitor
Who starts me over back at square one

Here in my cubicle
The phone rings off of the ugly green wall
Whoops! Here comes the manager
I pray it’s not a personal call

I collate and I staple
I make the mailing labels
My degree is on their file
They call this entry level

I’m running into deadline trouble
It has to get done on the double
I type til I get carpal tunnel
In my cubicle

Here in my cubicle
I’m checking for the mistakes
Everything looks all right
Now I’ve got time for a five-minute lunch break

Here in my cubicle
I play computer solitaire
Whoops! Here comes the president
He’s talking to the engineer, he says…

This is our opportunity
I say we downsize the company
I recommend the strategy
Trim the office and the factory

Quick! Better close the file
They’re coming up my aisle
Gulp down my Adam’s apple (GULP!)
Methinks me job’s in trouble
(Water cooler/happy hour chatter)
WHAT! Reogranization?!? Reorganization?!!!?!?!

I can’t believe how swift
They canned the second shift
They gave us lovely parting gifts, but
Now I find myself adrift

I wear a nametag and a funny hat
Would you like some fries with that
I wish that I was back….
In my cubicle

Managing mental health issues doesn’t have to be a battle.

Managing mental health issues doesn't have to be a battle. It can be a humanitarian mission.

Early on in my marriage to Amy, we were dealing with the Type 1 Diabetes she’d been living with since age 8, and its progressive complications. We’d been dealing with the emotional insecurity that comes with accelerated wear and tear on the nervous system and the side effects of nearly a dozen prescription medications. She had recently moved from injecting 4 different types of insulin every day to a new mode of self-treatment – the insulin pump. I considered her a warrior, battling diabetes every day. Similarly I envisioned her battling depression.

At the time, I wrote the song “My Gentle Warrior” with my observations of her showing up every day to fight these battles.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the battle metaphor proved to do as much harm as good. When the perception is that you live in a constant state of battle, it sets up a wider sense of hostility within oneself and among loved ones. And it’s exhausting for the person living with the condition and for that person’s immediate circle – call it shell shock, battle fatigue or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Amy and I have been faithfully going to couples therapy for about 4 years at the time of this writing and, along the way, we’ve learned that in our case, these feelings aren’t defeated with a battle. Their power grows in a battle. Instead, these feelings are mitigated with self compassion, mutual compassion.

We learn “contrary action” – the skill to do exactly the opposite of what depression or rage is telling us to do. Depression says stay in bed, contrary action says get up and sit in front of the bright light – or hop on the treadmill. Rage says to tell your spouse off. Contrary action says to hold hands with your spouse, look him/her in the eyes and make an emotional connection.

Depression and rage tell us mental health is a battle. Contrary action tells us mental health is a humanitarian mission – to ourselves and to our loved ones.

In this light I more recently thought about “My Gentle Warrior” and wrote its sequel: “Battle.” The line that keeps coming back in reflection in the new lyric is “I thought this was a battle.”

I can’t speak for everyone; I believe there are people whose mental health is better suited to thrive in a battle; I’ve learned from experience and counseling that Amy and I are not among those people. So, what will you choose in creating and maintaining your mental health: a battle or a humanitarian mission? Feel free to comment below.