Ridin’ in Style

Jason Michael Carroll helps design his new bus and hits the road with Martina, Trace, Craig . . . and Brittany.

Jason Michael Carroll recently invited CW to check out his new bus and find out what life on the road is like for the rising star . . . especially when his family’s out with him. Jason also talked about a very special friend. Here’s part of what the “Alyssa Lies” singer had to say. For more, pick up the Nov. 17 issue of Country Weekly.

CW
The bus looks great. Is it a huge improvement from what you had before?
JMC
Oh absolutely. For being pretty much a brand new artist, just a year or two into touring, we’ve already got a slide-out bus, which is a huge difference. A regular bus is what you see on the outside. You’ve got a two-foot path runnin’ through the middle of the bus, all the way to the back. On a slide-out, the side of the living room actually comes out, probably another close to three feet. So that almost 3 feet makes a world of difference when you’ve got 11 guys on a bus tryin’ to get around.
CW
What about the back living area? Does it slide?
JMC
Some buses do it on both, this one only does it in front. But when we were designing this bus, I turned the back lounge into my bedroom. It’s really cool because whenever my family comes out on the road, I have a place for them to come out and stay with me.
CW
Did you pick the tile color, all that stuff?
JMC
Yeah, we did. Most buses we had, the walls were kinda dark. I’m real into earth tones and things like that. I remember a couple of the buses we had, my drummer would always turn the lights down after a show. He didn’t like it real bright in the room, and my eyesight’s not that great [he laughs], so I couldn’t see! So I picked lighter walls, so no matter how low they’d turn the lights down, I could still see people.
CW
How many people travel on your bus?
JMC
If there’s not a writer with us, it’s 11, including the bus driver and myself. In the band, there are six of us on stage, me and five other guys. And then I’ve got a road manager, I’ve got a front of house sound guy, I’ve got a monitor engineer, and my production manager. And I’ve got a merchandise manager.
CW
How’d you name the bus?
JMC
I remember before they came to me about a bus, before any of this stuff ever got started. Right about the time I was doing my radio tour for “Alyssa Lies,” my first single, we went through my home state, North Carolina, and I was able to take part in a radiothon for UNC Children’s Hospital, to raise money for the kids there. It was my first trip to the children’s hospital there. I’d always been a UNC Tarheel fan, but goin’ to the hospital and seeing what they’re about and meetin’ some of the kids there and performing a few acoustic songs for ‘em was a big deal.
And I remember it like it was yesterday. Because that day, a friend of mine I’d known for 10 years, had come up there. She had an appointment at the UNC hospital, which is right beside the Children’s Hospital. But she came to the show we did. I can see her standin’ there as plain as if it was yesterday. Her name was Brittany and her dad was one of my very first guitar players in my very first band. I’ve been doin’ this a little over 12 years now. So, I’ve known her and her family a really long time.
That event was about a week and a half before Thanksgiving that year, and about three days after Thanksgiving, I got a call saying that Brittany had been diagnosed with a really aggressive lung cancer. She was 19 years old. She was a gymnast, didn’t smoke. She was very active and almost the picture of perfect health. The whole month of December, I was on the road every week. And when I’d come home, I’d go from the airport to the hospital to see Brittany and her family, and then I’d go home. Most of the time it was just for one day. So I’d spend one evening at home, then get up and fly out the next morning.
I did that the whole month of December, and Brittany was really fightin’ it the whole month. I remember we played the Grand Ole Opry my very first time was Dec. 22 of 2006. When we got to play the Opry, I had Brittany’s mom and dad sneak a laptop computer into her ICU room. And we dedicated our “Livin’ Our Love Song” to Brittany, because that was one of her favorite songs. As a matter of fact, a week before the Children’s hospital in November of that year, she had come up on my bus just after we recorded “Livin’ Our Love Song” in the studio. And I got my very first rough mix back that night. So we sat in the back of the bus that night. And I downloaded the song on my computer. So she was one of the first people who heard the song with me.
So, she was singin’ along that night and she told me it was one of her favorite songs. Then all of her friends would tell me at shows, “You’ve gotta write another song. She’s wearin’ us out with this one!” I dedicated it to her that night on the Opry, and three days after Christmas, Brittany passed away.
And when it came time to name the bus, I really couldn’t think of anything. I’ve never named a bus before. Usually they’re something like Scorcher or Red Dragon or something like that (laughs). And I remember my bus driver, Bo, who was the real reason we signed with Celebrity Coaches as our bus company, he’s like a member of the family. He’s the best bus driver I’ve ever had and he’s a good friend. He looked at me and said, “Jason, you know, you always talk about Brittany. Would you want to name it Brittany?” And I said, “Well, that’s not as rough and ragged as some of the other bus names out there.” And he said, “Well, no, this is your bus. You name it whatever you want to.”
So I put some thought into it and decided that Brittany was a great name for it. I always make jokes and tell people that any time I feel I’m doin’ something wrong, she’s watchin’ over me. And I can tell . . . something stupid will happen. I’ll either stub my toe or stuff like that. I’ve always said that’s her watchin’ out for me. Kinda cool that we named the bus that.
CW
What’s the guitar you’re playin’?
JMC
That guitar is actually a Taylor 816 cutaway. What’s really exciting about that one, I called Bob over at Taylor. He’s a friend of mine. And I told him what I was lookin’ for. I’d looked online at their catalogue and I’d played a few. I called him up and said, “Bob, this is the guitar I want. But the standard guitar with the white faces . . . they’re a little too clean for me. Our music is a little more edgy, and our show is definitely a lot more edgy than that.” And Bob said, “Jason, what are you lookin’ for?”
I said, “Well, I’m lookin’ for kind of a tobacco sunburst or somethin’ like that.” He said, “Well, we don’t have one. We don’t make that model in that color. But we’ll take care of it.” And about three or four weeks later, I got the guitar you saw, with the tobacco sunburst built into it. And that is the only one like that, or if not the only one, it’s the first one they decided to make. Because they didn’t make it in that color before.
CW
How’s your summer gone?
JMC
We had the chance to go out with Carrie Underwood in June. I left two weeks before June and didn’t get to go home the whole month of June. So what I did the week of my birthday, around June 13, I flew my kids and [wife] Wendy out to see me. And they stayed on the bus with my full band. I took a bunk and gave the kids the back lounge. I had two of my babies in my bed, Junior in his bunk, my youngest daughter, Stori, didn’t come on that trip.
Gavin Michael is about to turn 8 Sept. 15. Savanna Nicole will be 7 in October. Stori Paige just turned 5 in April. And then J.W. will be three in October.
CW
Pretty kid friendly bus when they come out? Do you have stuff for them . . . or do they bring it?
JMC
It’s kind of funny. I usually keep a Playstation 3 in my room, just because that’s one of my little guilty pleasures. I’m back her playin’ video games if I’m not up front. We like to go to the gym and stay active, but for rainy days, the other day I bought a Nintendo Wii for the front lounge. And we’ve really worn ourselves out to where our arms are sore the next day from boxin’ and golfing.

For more on Jason Michael Carroll, check out the Nov. 3 issue of Country Weekly.

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