Country music artist Jason Byrd is releasing on November 5th, 2021 a song entitled "Better Life". This is likely his most prized gem in his archives, his duet recording with the late, great George Jones. The beautifully affecting, straight from the heart pure Country song titled “Better Life.” Byrd is releasing the ballad as a single on Nov. 5 as a tribute to Jones, who would have turned 90 this year. Jason Byrd will never forget the friendship, mentorship, management and time that the great late George Jones gave him so freely.
Written back in 2004, “Better Life” was originally created to live on an album that Bryd never put out. It was a song that included the sweet sounds of Jones’ and Byrd’s collective voices. “I started to think it was selfish, in a way, for me to just hold onto it and not let anybody else hear it,” explains Byrd, who is now signed to the MayCourt Records label. “Giving the world the chance to hear something that George Jones recorded that nobody's ever heard before…has never been more important to me as it is right now. The fact is that true Country music fans are starving for this kind of traditional Country music….my kind of Country music.”
Jason always liked music and played the trumpet in his high school band, so music was a big part of his life. The first concerts he ever went to was the Statler Brothers, Barbara Mandrell and Charley Pride. Jason still remembers going, and thinking, "it was really cool". Jason and his dad also saw The Kendalls, a father-daughter duo play in the Tallahassee Mall. Byrd recalls listening to a lot of George Jones, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap, people who were big back when he was growing up.
Jason Byrd was just 19 years old when he became a fireman. It’s a profession the high school ballplayer felt especially destined for, as the Florida native grew up hearing the stories of his late grandfather’s work within the fire department. He also watched firsthand as his father and his uncle took the sacred oath to protect others at all costs, and it was as if Bryd had no choice but to follow in the footsteps of his firefighting family. But there always was another fire that burned within Jason Byrd, and that was Country music. Although Jason listens to and appreciates a wide spectrum of music genres, it was always traditional Country music that called his name.
Byrd found himself balancing a career in the fire department with a career in Music City. He travelled the 490 miles each way with determination to make both of his dreams come true. It might also be part of a young artist's dream to be noticed by some legendary performer, taken under his or her wing and groomed for potential stardom. That dream came true for Jason when Country music legend George Jones and his wife Nancy, not only took notice of him, but became his friend, mentor and manager. In many ways, it wasn’t until the day that Byrd met the legendary George Jones that his entire career forever changed.
Jason recalled the story of receiving a phone call from Nancy Jones telling him that she and George had heard him sing and that they were interested in meeting him. At first Byrd didn't think it was real but when he understood that it was really Nancy Jones he literally immediately made plans, packed his car and made the drive to where the Jones' resided picturing a huge mansion and a gated estate would be what he found. Jason is not quite sure the Jones' were expecting him so quickly but when he called and advised them that he was in fact in town he was given directions to their home. Arriving, Jason was welcomed to their lovely home, which was much less estate like that he thought, but a place where he would feel at home for years to come. Jason ended up watching TV and talking to his idol, George Jones, like he had known him forever.
“There I was, literally sitting across the room from the greatest Country singer ever, but he always had a way about him that made you feel comfortable. He didn't make you feel like you were in the presence of greatness, but I always knew I was,” commented Byrd.
Under the direction of George and Nancy Jones, Byrd began making strides within his songwriting, ultimately collaborating with Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Jim McBride on several expertly crafted songs. These songs that would grab the attention of major labels up and down Music Row. Byrd even performed twice on TNN’s Nashville Now, once with Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence, and Danny Shirley of Confederate Railroad, and the second time with John Conlee and Ronny Cox. And while the professional accolades meant much to Byrd, so did his solid friendship with Jones. “We would sit together watching old Westerns all the time,” laughs Byrd, who ended up being managed by Jones and his wife Nancy. Of course the name of "George Jones" opened doors for Jason and George and Nancy wanted nothing but to see Jason Byrd be successful.
Any young Country artist who has ever been handed a guitar dreams of one day appearing before a cheering crowd at the Grand Ole Opry, in the historic Ryman Auditorium. Jason Byrd accomplished that. In 2012, after 20 years of working hard to make it in the music business, the traditionalist Country music singer decided to return home to where his roots are deep. By then the father of two realized he had changing dreams and the importance of family. Jason Byrd was also realizing that Country music had changed. Jason is a diehard Country traditionalist. He knew there was still a huge audience out there that would still like to hear traditional Country but wasn't sure that was Nashville at the time.
Jason decided to bring his music home and he started singing in clubs around his home town. There were a lot of live places he could play, and Country music was a big deal right around that time, in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He felt that he had done almost everything he really set out to do in Nashville, all of which again he gives credit to his mentorship and management of his friend, the late George Jones and his wife Nancy. He had been on the Grand Ole Opry a couple of times, which he describes as "Really incredible. It was at the Ryman, which was really cool. Once you get to the Opry, there’s not much else you can do outside that, in my opinion. That to me was a true marker of success," Jason stated.
However, feeling that he was getting older, and had lived out of a suitcase as much as he would ever had wanted to, and spent a lot of his time out of town working at trying to make things happen. Jason also felt he was missing out on a lot of opportunities to do some things he grew up enjoying doing. Having a new baby, he was really looking forward to being able to hang out with him, sharing his experiences with music, but also his experiences in life with his new son.
In 2013, George Jones passed away at the age of 81. Jason Byrd was devastated by the loss of his friend and mentor. While Jason had decided to return to his roots and hometown, the traditional Country music that both he and George Jones had such a passion for still burned deep in his soul and he never quit playing.
Fast forward five years later to the summer of 2019, Byrd made the decision to retire from his position as the Battalion Chief of the Tallahassee Fire Department. With his time now opened for more of his music passion, Byrd decided to finally resurrect a song him and Jones had worked on together many years ago. And that song is now Byrd’s soon to be released single “Better Life.” “This song has always been a treasure to me,” reflects Byrd. “Every time I would listen to it, I would still get that feeling of just how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to do something like that. And that's something that nobody will ever be able to take away from me.”
“I’m really happy that it is finally seeing the light of day and hope that his fans enjoy hearing it as much as we enjoyed recording it. I miss my friend and his music and I hope that I am making him proud to see that there’s still some of us out there trying to keep traditional Country alive. ” The release of "Better Life" is the first song release of Jason Byrd's anticipated new album which should be available in mid 2022.
"It’s been a while but, we were back in Nashville cutting tracks for a new album. The town has changed a lot over the years but, the magic still happens up there," Jason commented. As he takes a long, deep breath, “I truly believe that there's some good music out there and I'm happy for all of those people who are finding success right now,” however Byrd concludes. " I think that there's room for traditional Country to be a part of that industry. And I know for a fact from seeing butts in the seats that people are dying to get that kind of stuff…and this song gives it to them.”
'Better Life', Jason Byrd's debut single featuring Country music legend George Jones, will be available on all digital streaming platforms on November 5th. "Better Life" is as much Jason Byrd's tribute to his late friend, the legendary George Jones as it is Jason Byrd's triumphant return to his Country music passion.
By Deborah Gibson