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Jason Herring is the 'Energizer Bunny' of Charlotte music

Jason Herring performs with his band The Mystery Plan at Snug Harbor in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Snug Harbor
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Jason Herring performs with his band The Mystery Plan at Snug Harbor in Charlotte, North Carolina.

For the past 30 years, Jason Herring has been up to his ears in Charlotte music: from being the founder of North Carolina record label 10mm Omega Recordings (home to rocker Benji Hughes and Brazilian jazz artist Micah Gough) to playing in more than a dozen musical groups and leading the avantgarde band The Mystery Plan (which recently celebrated its sixth studio release You Also Have Eyes). Needless to say, Herring shows no signs of stopping.

"I have the philosophy that if one of us makes it, then all of us will come up. Like with Seattle, where you had Nirvana, Soundgarden and all of these groups come up. I want that to be how people think of Charlotte and 10mm Omega Recordings."
– Jason Herring, Charlotte musician and founder of 10mm Omega Recordings

Interview Highlights:

On his musical upbringing:

I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in a small town right outside called Blythewood, and we lived there until 1987 when we moved to Charlotte. I was 16 and did my last two years of high school here. My family moved back down to Columbia, but I decided to stay here in Charlotte.

I was raised in a music family. My father, Hunter Herring, was a DJ on the radio for years down in Columbia until he moved up here in Charlotte to work for Easy 104.7. I was brought up around Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, beach music and soul music. I rebelled when I became a teenager and listened to The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Dream Academy and stuff like that.

On his first music experiences in Charlotte:

I adore the Charlotte music scene. There are Charlotte groups that I have been in love with since I was a teenager. It’s been very important to me to help and be a part of getting their sound and music out to the world. I decided back in the late '90s that that’s what I wanted to do: to let people outside our area know of the beauty and talent we have here. I’ve spent many hours, many tears and many monies on making sure that happens.

I remember the first show that I went to when I was 18, and it was at The Milestone with Mo Tucker from The Velvet Underground. And the second show I saw was Hope Nicholls and her band Fetchin Bones, and I was simply floored by how amazing they were. I was so floored that I decided that I wanted to do what she did.

Hope worked at a place called Superior Feet here in Charlotte, and I remember walking up to her desk and introducing myself and asking her, “How can I do what you do?” She looked at me deadpan and said, “I don’t know … maybe play an instrument? Or sing something?” And I said, “Cool, cool, cool. I’m going to get right on that!”

I decided with some high school buddies that we were going to start a band called The Groovy Disco Bunnies. We came up with the name of the band before I could even do anything. After trying to play drums and bass, they thought it would be best for me to be the singer. And I wasn’t very good at that either, but we did it anyway. Fast forward 10 years, and my band (The Interstellars) was approached by a record label out of Atlanta to be on a Pixies tribute compilation record with some great groups like Jarboe and Underwater. It was going to be our first national release, and I got Hope Nicholls to sing the Kim Deal parts with me and play saxophone on the song “River Euphrates.”

On creating local record label 10mm Omega Recordings:

Whenever I would see Charlotte musicians, I felt so inspired. Their music was so good, and it was killing me that no one outside our area knew about them! I decided that it was going to be my job. I didn’t care if I made money or not. I just wanted a good representation of our beautiful music city.

It was important for me that this record label can have musicians work together, do things together and come up with a different sound. I’ve always asked people, “What is the Carolina sound?” Because on this record label, we have everybody from Benji Hughes’ rock to the Katskillz Project’s hip-hop to Micah Gaugh’s Brazilian jazz.

On the creation of The Mystery Plan and their 2021 record "You Also Have Eyes":

I had taken a break for a while from being in a band because me and Amy Herring (wife and music partner) got married and had a baby. My daughter was maybe 2 years old, and we were driving back from visiting my parents in Columbia, and I was kind of depressed. We were listening to the college radio station 90.5, and I was telling Amy that I felt like I needed to do music again, but I needed a sign. I swear to you, as soon as I said that, my voice came on the radio, “Hey everybody, this is Jason Herring from The Interstellars, and you’re totally zoning out to 90.5 WUSC in Columbia!” So I decided to get back into writing songs. It’s been about five years now since The Mystery Plan formed.

Our 2021 record "You Also Have Eyes" is not really a “greatest hits” album, but during COVID last year, we had released an album in 2020 titled "Zsa Zsa." Since venues and gigs got shut down, we weren’t able to promote that record properly. So we took a few songs from that record, a few songs from our last couple of records and a couple of new songs and put it on this new Mystery Plan album titled "You Also Have Eyes."

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

The Mystery Plan - “Al Gore Rhythms”
The Mystery Plan - “Silver Lining”
Fetchin Bones - “Sons of the Dinosaurs”
The Interstellars - “River Euphrates” (The Pixies cover)
The Stoners - “(don’t outlaw) plants” feat. Benji Hughes
Katskillz Project - “Discovery”
Micah Gaugh - “Cera de Vela”
The Mystery Plan - “The Golden Moon and Silvery Sea”
The Mystery Plan - “Wonder Why”
The Mystery Plan - “Long Way to Heaven”
The Mystery Plan - “Weird Things Humans Do”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier.