What: JoJo Mason with Eric Ethridge and Sons of Daughters
Where: Distrikt, 919 Douglas St.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 9 p.m. (doors at 8)
Tickets: $25 from Lyle’s Place, the Strathcona Hotel and Eventbrite.ca
JoJo Mason never expected to become a singer. But following a series of serendipitous events dating back many years, the Vancouver performer knows now it was his destiny.
“Since I started my career, there have been too many things that have happened, which has led me to believe this has to be fate,” Mason said. “This has to be what I’m supposed to do.”
Mason saw his dentist on Wednesday for an update on his jaw, which was broken in June after an errant golf ball struck him on a golf course in Surrey. The ball — which hit him at high velocity from close by — realigned his top teeth and broke his jaw bone “in the most incredibly perfect spot for an incredibly shitty situation,” Mason said with a laugh.
His dentist popped the bone back in place, with all his teeth attached to it, and in two weeks, he was on stage singing again.
It could have been a lot worse: “Think about it. It could have gone two inches to the left, concaved my skull and I could be dead. It could have hit me in the throat and I wouldn’t be able to sing anymore. I’m counting my blessings right now.”
Mason’s five-date tour of B.C., which gets underway on Friday, brings the 29-year-old to Victoria for a show Wednesday at Distrikt nightclub, which is a homecoming of sorts. Mason lived in Victoria during his late teens and early 20s as he pursed a career in hockey.
The Reynolds secondary graduate was a one-time defenceman for the Saanich Jr. Braves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, before his career was cut short by a back injury.
He has maintained a healthy association with the team in the years since, singing the national anthem at one of the team’s games in 2017 and wearing Braves merchandise on stage when he played Lake Cowichan’s Sunfest country festival in 2018, but hockey is no longer part of his day-to-day life.
“It got to the point where I couldn’t stand on my feet for more than an hour at a time because my back was so bad. I was forced into retirement at 19.”
Mason struggled over the next several years, adjusting to life without hockey. He worked a series of jobs around Victoria — at Alpine Disposal & Recycling, Glo Restaurant and Lounge and Sport Chek — before succumbing to the partying lifestyle. He became a heavy drinker and smoker, and was close to losing it all in the throes of depression. “It was a nightmare for me. I was literally the worst version of myself.”
Mason’s brother, who was his roommate at the time, called their mother for help and she came over from Vancouver, with a plan to take Mason back home to the mainland to dry out. He started getting healthy again when he was told if he hadn’t started rehabbing his injury through traction therapy, the disc would have ruptured and he could have been permanently injured.
He spent eight months getting physically and mentally healthy. When he was able to start working again, he went back to bartending and a job at Jack’s Public House in Surrey, where he met a friend who took him to a Christmas party.
It was there that he met a stranger who asked if he was a singer. Mason’s new outlook was to embrace life at its fullest, so he continued chatting with the music-industry professional — even though Mason was not, in fact, a singer of any kind. “It’s pretty crazy, but that’s how I got my start in music. I had only sung in the shower, and I sang in my car when no one was around,” he said with a laugh. “I did karaoke one time, and halfway through the song, I quit and went out back and started smoking cigarettes.”
Fast forward five years and Mason is one of the most promising up-and-comers in the crowded country music scene in Canada. He was nominated for the Rising Star award at last weekend’s Canadian Country Music Awards, the latest in a long line of accomplishments that began with his first single, It’s All Good, in 2015. The song became the most-added song on the radio in its first week of release, a first for a debut single for an independent artist.
In the years since, everything Mason has touched has turned to gold.
Chapter Two, his forthcoming EP, arrives in stores and online Friday. As he waits for its release, he is looking back on the happy accidents that got him to this point.
“I continue to say, and will continue to say, that this must have been fate. While I was working at [Jack’s Public House], the new owners called myself and a good friend of mine to run the bar. My friend wanted to hire two of her friends, and I flatly refused. ‘It’s a terrible idea. You don’t mix business and friendship.’ She did it anyway, of course. And as it turns out, of the two people I begged her not to hire, one of them became my fiancée and the other one was the one who invited me to the party and introduced me to the guy who gave me my start in music.
“And then I got hit in the face with a golf ball, and I didn’t die!”