Over the past seven years singer-entertainer Jason Brock has made unusual strides in building a unique career both on and off stage. Even though he did not win in his category at The X Factor TV show back in 2012, Brock has gone on to do much more than expected of a contestant in a TV show singing competition.
In some ways, Brock has in essence become a good will ambassador of sorts, utilizing his singing abilities. At present he is in Japan and will be appearing on May 5 in Yokohama at the Jazz Cafe, called ‘Gig.’
He noted to this reporter, that the Jazz music scene in Japan is alive and well. Live-performance wise, he might just be in his element there. Yet, for all his gregariousness, Brock has a deeply thoughtful and serious side.
“I came here for school, he said. Mainly – to study political science and Japanese at Meiji University. It’s a pretty well-known university here. This will contribute to my undergrad in Poli Sci, which I decided to get about 2 years ago.”
A tech support rep turned cabaret singer entering into the complexities of political science, is unusual. Brock explained further…
“I had never finished college, and after Trump was elected, I was inspired to go back and try to make a difference in the U.S. Specifically, I plan to work in San Francisco government or law – after I finish law school, that is.”
If one was to look back upon Brock’s life up to this point, it would be hard to imagine he would be where he is today, studying and then performing in Japan. Born in East Texas, not far from Dallas his early life was centered around convention.
As he told the SF Bay Times, “I began singing in public when I was 5 years old or so. My siblings and I sang in church with my mom while she played guitar.” His early life was centered upon church. He described his upbringing and that environment as “very conservative. Most people seemed to think being gay was wrong. I was glad to leave,” he said.
Brock is very open about his life and who he is, for him there is nothing to hide from.
Last year in 2018 he did a show about “leaving religion.” Texas is part of “the Bible belt” where sermons are rousing and conformity to conservative beliefs and norms are often presented as mandatory or else…you are out.
And even though he loved his family, Brock knew he had to break free. It was while living in Tucson, Arizona that a tug on his heart-strings brought him to San Francisco. Even though that romance ended he stayed in San Francisco, and unexpectedly stumbled into Martuni’s a piano bar with open mic nights and cabaret venue in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) district.
The interesting thing about Martuni’s and San Francisco’s cabaret scene is that Brock arrived at a time when it was dwindling. Not that San Francisco did not have enough singers or talent, it did and still does; only the venues were disappearing. The dot com boom and the cultural change in the City caused many established venues to close. The venerable Plush Room closed as did the short-lived but well liked Octavia Lounge and Rrazz Room. Martuni’s is one of the very few left, amid a social/cultural shift that seems to pay more attention to real estate values than anything else.
Many cabaret and live performance talents have struggled to remain in San Francisco because venues have closed or can no longer afford to operate due to rising costs. Yet, Brock and a small handful of performers remain. In fact, Brock has been a mainstay (if not an anchor) at Martuni’s, like no other.
He and accompanist, Dee Spencer have performed show after show there at Martuni’s with much success. “I have never stopped loving it,” he says. He has been able to build a fan-base and from Martuni’s he has branched out.
Performing concerts of his own Brock has made himself available for hire. When asked to perform at an event, it is often for private events, like birthday parties, weddings or anniversaries. He has also done fundraisers for non-profits or made an appearance as a guest or featured artist in a festival or party.
He has ventured into theatre, film, TV and has recorded albums of which are available on iTunes. Still, despite his success and undaunted personality, Brock recognizes the rare opportunities he has been given. San Francisco has been an ideal place to branch out from. The City’s diversity, uniqueness and “great big small town” aspects have helped Brock immensely.
He was fortunate to find an internship at City Hall at a critical and delicate moment in San Francisco history. Since the dot com boom and especially the ‘great Recession’ of 2008, the City of San Francisco has been wrestling with its changing social and economic demographics as society moves further along into the 21st Century. “I was an intern at City Hall for Mayors Lee, Breed & Farrell. I also interned for Nancy Pelosi and District Attorney George Gascon, says Brock. I love internships!”
Part of what made Brock’s tenure there vulnerable was the sudden death of Mayor Lee who died unexpectedly from a heart-attack.
Being able to obtain an internship or any job within City Hall was a windfall. Because despite all of it’s diversity and liberality, San Francisco can be a very tightly knit group of people politically. This is especially among those in positions of power at City Hall or in City and County government.
And this was something that has really helped Brock become something more than just another singer/performer. When the internships came to an end, Brock instinctively knew it was time to venture out yet again and prepare for more opportunities. While he did not mention it to this reporter, it seems a bit of romance was part of the reason for his trip to Japan; as he told the SF Bay Times.
The balance between art, entertainment and politics is often a very delicate one. Yet, he has been able to make connections and build bridges where others have not. The opportunity to go to Japan was perhaps a godsend. And, despite times of loneliness being so far away from home and his group of friends like pianist/musician Dee Spencer, Brock has kept his goals in focus.
Being so far away and without the vital support of accompanist Dee Spencer, he has not let any language or cultural barrier keep him from making friends. “I’m working with a pianist named Ikumi Koyama. We met at a piano bar here,” Brock said.
When asked what Spencer thought of this venture way across the Pacific, Brock replied. “Dee is happy for me. She is considering coming out here to Tokyo in July, but she’s not sure yet.” Still, Brock is not hesitant and wastes no time in his resolve.
“I’ve been connecting with the LGBTQ community here in Japan, as well as Japan’s club scene, he says. In 2-Chome (that’s the name of the gay neighborhood in Tokyo) there is a huge community. So many gay bars, I can hardly count them. Some of my favorites so far are Aiiro Cafe, Arty Farty (despite the name) and Dragon Men.”
Even if his objective in this adventure in Japan is a mixture of romance and a way to find more work in city government back home, Brock’s first love is music. “I have been exploring the music scene too , he said. Specifically jazz and piano bars. My favorites among these so far are called ‘My Scotch,’ ‘Pit Inn,’ ‘All of Me’ and ‘Izumi.’ Jazz is definitely alive here in Tokyo, said Brock and ‘My Scotch’ is the piano bar most reminiscent of my favorite SF bar, Martuni’s…of course!”
Brock plans to remain in Japan until August. He has been making plans to do more shows in and around Tokyo. To learn more about singer, performer – extraordinaire, visit his web site.