Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Jason Dwight Campsall moved with his family to Camrose, Alberta when he was only 5, but moved back to Ontario, settling in Anten Mills before he was a teenager.
He picked up the guitar for the first time while living in Alberta, and although he grew up with a wide array of influences and was an AC/DC fan in particular, it was country music that appealed to him most, and he emulated his ‘old school’ idols, like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. While still in high school, he joined Three Quarter Country, covering the hits of the day at the legion halls, Saturday night dances, and any other venues around the area where he could gain some experience.
After winning a talent contest in Toronto in 1988, he travelled to Nashville and worked with Ray Griff, recording an independent album for Airstrip Records called GREATEST TIMES OF ALL. Although distribution was limited, it featured three tracks that all had some chart success – “Slow This World Down” (the only single to crack the top 40), “How Could You Hold Me,” and “She’s My Wife.” The additional exposure expanded his touring range, which in turn helped land him a deal with MCA Records a few years later.
Working with producer Scott Baggett, his major label debut came in the form of his 1995 self-titled album. It peaked at #2 on the Canadian charts while spawning seven singles, including four that made it to the top 10 – “All The Way,” which peaked at #4, and “This Used to Be Our Town,” “Learning a Lot About Love,” and “Candle,” which all hit #1. Videos for those three songs, along with the third single, “Ghosts,” also made McCoy a media darling, keeping him on the video airwaves as well as the radio for the better part of a year and a half. While in the middle of one of many cross-Canada tours in ’96, he was nominated for his first Juno Awards, for Country Male Artist of the Year.
The album made him a runner-up for his second Country Male Artist Juno a year later, just prior to the release of PLAYIN’ FOR KEEPS, his first outing with new label Universal. Certified gold, it bore the top 20 singles “Heaven Help Her Heart,” “I’m Gonna Make Her Mine,” and “There’s More Where That Came From,” as well as Born Again in Dixieland” and “A Little Bit of You,” both which hit #3. Loved by the critics as well as the fans, the album also showcased his influences, with a cover of Powder Blues’ “Doin’ It Right.” But although he was practically gold-plated in Canada, the American charts were still foreign territory to him.
His next effort wasn’t until 2000’s HONKY TONK SONATAS, his third straight record working with producer Scott Baggett. Having moved to Nashville a year earlier gave McCoy new influences and a new hope on cracking the American audiences. It also introduced him to new songwriting partners. Like its predecessors, the record relied on outside writers, more heavily than before, including Jim Lauderdale and Sean Michaels each co-penning two songs each.
For nearly the next two years, five singles kept the machine rolling while his tour van made its way up and down the highways across North America. The first single, “Kind of Like It’s Love,” ranked the highest at #3, and was followed by “Bury My Heart,” “Fix Anything,” “Ten Million Teardrops,” and “I’ve Got a Weakness.” The album also featured fan favourite “Doin’ Time In Bakersfield,” a duet with Gary Allan, and helped peak the album at #9 on the charts, but still failed to make any dent Stateside. It also earned him his fourth straight Juno Award nomination for Best Country Male Artist (or Country Male Artist of the Year) in 2001.
After switching to Open Road Recordings for 2003’s SINS LIES AND ANGELS, McCoy took the producer’s reigns himself, working alongside Colin Linden for the first time. Three singles were released, but none made the top 40 on either side of the border – “Still,” “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On” (done a year earlier by The Dixie Chicks), and “I Lie.” He also covered Billy Joe Shaver’s “Old Chunk of Coal,” recorded in the ’80s by John Anderson.
The compilation GREATEST HITS 1995 – 2005 not only featured over a dozen of his hits through four albums over a decade, but also “She Ain’t Missin’ Me” as the first of two singles, followed by the new track “I’m Not Running Anymore.”
But bored and looking for new challenges, McCoy agreed to a pitch made to him by CMT executives, where they would make a series out of him auditioning a new group of musicians in the hopes of founding Canada’s next supergroup. “The Roadhammers,” both the show and the band, were a hit. McCoy, Clayton Bellamy, and Chris Byrne (and originally Corbett Frasz) packed stadiums in Canada and the US, and even did a dozen shows in China.
They tore up the charts with three albums and songs like the Jimmy Reed cover, “Girl On The Billboard,” “I’m A Road Hammer,” “Nashville Bound,” “Keep On Truckin’,” “I’ve Got The Scars To Prove It,” and “Eastbound and Down.” They also picked up two Juno nominations for Album of the Year, winning the prize in 2006, the same year they won the CCMA (Canadian Country Music Association) honours for Artist of the Year.
A month prior to their final show in December 2010, McCoy released a Christmas album he’d had in the back of his head for years. Recorded at The Grand in Calgary earlier in the year, the concert portion of CHRISTMAS AT THE GRAND also served as backdrop to a CMT special. Along with cameos from the likes of Belle Star, Colin James, Rik Emmett, and Oscar Lopez, it featured classics like “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Joy To The World,” as well as studio versions of “Dear Santa,” “The Perfect Gift,” “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe,” and “This Is Christmas Day.”
With the Road Hammers’ run now over, he returned to a solo career in 2011, releasing the year-long project, EVERYTHING. Along with returning to Scott Baggett, it also featured a production helping hand from David Kalmusky and Deric Ruttan, who co-wrote the first single with McCoy, “She’s Good For Me,” which was followed into the top 10 by “I’d Still Have Everything.”
Having gained a reputation over the years for surrounding himself with some of the industry’s top writers, other contributors included ex-Road Hammer mate Chris Byrne, Mike Plume, and Odie Blackmon, who’d penned several tracks for him in the past. The fans always loved him, and the critics openly embraced his return to a solo stage, from the foot-stomping opener “I Don’t Think My Baby’s Comin’ Back” to “I’m Only In It For The Country Girls,” straight out of the honky tonks of the bayous.