Jason Michael Carroll Returns with Touching New Single

Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by country music writer Ken Morton Jr. You can find more of his work at That Nashville Sound.

– – – – – – – – – –

Back in October of 2006, a fresh-faced long-haired former Marine named Jason Michael Carroll released a powerful heartfelt debut single that pulled on the heartstrings called “Alyssa Lies.” The song about a young girl suffering and eventually perishing at the hands of child abuse was a Top 5 charted radio hit and launched the artist’s career that would span four albums and five additional charted hits. The song was inspired by a poem and a real-life news story, and it hit home with listeners in a way that resulted in real-life success stories of kids coming forward and seeking help from abusive situations of their own.

Since that debut single, Jason Michael Carroll has remained active in music and in causes that he believes in. He still plays regularly regionally around his home in North Carolina and back in his adopted second home of Nashville. He’s been involved in USO tours for the military and has been heavily involved with PGA Hope—a program that introduces golf to Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.

Now a decade and a half after that debut single, Jason Michael Carroll is releasing his first single in many years with another song that hits close to home and deals with the tough topic of Alzheimer’s Disease called “Tell Me Your Name (Diane’s Song).” Carroll has watched his mother-in-law battle the affliction over the last few years and watches the impact that it has on his wife, Wendy, and their extended family. When his friend Johnny Orr shared a portion of a song dealing with the subject, Carroll felt it important and was inspired to jump in an finish the song as a co-write.

The finished product is a highly personal tribute that’s equal parts beautiful and sad. It’s a testament to a family member, but doesn’t hide away from the bitter piece of life that the affliction takes away. His hope is that the song, like “Alyssa Lies” did 15+ years ago, will bring awareness and help listeners dealing with similar situations in their own family life with a little healing of their own.

Carroll was kind enough to talk about the new project with Saving Country Music (see below).

Let’s start by talking about this new single and I know this is a highly personal song for you and maybe kind of talk about how it came about first of all.

So the idea for this song came from a friend of mine and I really think it just shows how organic this whole thing came about. My buddy Johnny Orr had posted on Instagram a video of how he describes a song that he’d written or an idea that he’d written for his grandmother who was battling Alzheimer’s. And he started this song; it was part of a quote that he put on this post.

And as a songwriter you don’t typically post a song unless you’re done with it and all songwriters know that because somebody will take your idea and make it something before you can or if you finish it later. It’s just how it works. And Johnny did this and said in the video, “I don’t know why I wanted to put this out here yet because it’s not finished, but I feel like I needed to.”

So I watched this video and before it was even over I called Johnny and said, “Hey, man, can I write this with you? Have you finished that song?” He said, “No.” And I said, “Can I write it with you?” and I explained why. “My wife’s mom, my wife Wendy, her mom Diane has Alzheimer’s and it’s pretty bad. She’s 65 years old, we’ve been telling her doctor since she was 55 that she had it, that something was not quite right.”

We noticed that she was forgetting a lot of different things. The local vet in the small town that we grew up in would call us and say, “Hey, your mom’s here again. She doesn’t know why she’s here.” And we’d pick her up she say that she was just out for a walk but she’d have no clue why she was there. She didn’t have the dog with her but she just went to the vet.

Now the doctors were admitting that it’s early onset of Alzheimer’s dementia and she was struggling. We shot the music video for this song a couple of weeks ago and there were moments during the video shoot that as we were looking to shots of the family we’re like “Hey, there’s you and Tom.” And she’d ask, “Who?” And I would tell her, “That’s your husband, Diane.” And he was sitting right beside her.

It’s been a very tough thing to see but after Johnny—after I told him my story—he said, “Now I’d love for you to write it with me, you’re one of my favorite writers.” We set up a call for later that next week.

Well, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I kept working on it. I played a verse and the finished chords for him. He said, “Man, l love it. We’ll finish it Monday.” I said, “Cool!” Well, I couldn’t get it out of my head all night Friday night, Saturday morning I got up and kept writing. By Saturday lunch I sent him the second verse and the revised chords and he was like, “Wow, man, this song is finished, it’s done.” So that’s how we wrote the song.

Certainly it’s going to have an incredible impact on people who have gone or are going through this. I’m interested to know your wife Wendy’s take and people close to you. What was their take on this highly personal song?

It has been received pretty well. I think people are understanding why I wrote it now especially when they see us in public. Diane, she’s struggling when we go out. The other day she was at church, for example. She was with Wendy when we took her out after service to this restaurant and when they were in there she didn’t know how to use the bathroom.

We take her to Tacos Tuesday, we used to do that anyway, it was kind of a regular with the family. And she’s gotten to the point now where she doesn’t remember how to eat the tacos. We have to explain how to eat every time we sit down to a meal. And so the people see it when we go out. It’s become a strain. I know that one of the toughest things is watching Tom, her husband and Wendy’s dad, go through this because he’s scared. He doesn’t want her to be by herself but it’s also getting to a point where he’s going to need help taking care of her.

Your career got started with a song that had a really deep and highly personal topic like this song. Can you maybe talk through “Alyssa Lies” and maybe some similarities that tie back around to this new track?

The song “Alyssa Lies” was—and I think this all comes back down to what I’ve always said from the beginning, from before I even got a record deal, before I ever got to Nashville. I’ve always felt songwriting is therapy and that started when I was a kid. The very first song I ever wrote was about ironically my dad had run over my cat in my childhood when he was leaving for work one morning.

I remember at eight years old I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. I was so sad and tore apart that I got up in the middle of the night that evening. I went and grabbed my notebook out of my backpack and sat on the edge of the bathtub in the restroom with the light on because my brother used to sleep in my room. And I just started writing down ideas and before I knew it, I’d written a song of my feelings.

So songwriting has always been an escape for me. It’s been therapy. At least putting it out on paper to get it out of the inside. And I think “Alyssa Lies” was the exact same way for me. When I wrote it, I didn’t think “Oh, this song is massive, this song is going to be a hit.” I literally wrote it for my own therapy to get my own ideas out because of the way I grew up and the way I was raised. It was from having to protect my mom from seven years old until 13. When my dad and mom would start fighting, that’s when then I turned it toward me because I felt like it was my job to protect the family.

I think it’s always been therapy for me and this song is no different. I think that the struggles that I have with Diane, the way she is or because she … Diane had a very tough life, a very hard life. If you were a stranger off the street, she is the nicest person you ever met in your life. But not always to her family.

But the feelings I have towards Diane are really a result of the way she grew up. Her mom died before she was 10 years old, she was raised by her—I can’t really say it any other way—wicked stepmom. The stepmom would yell and scream and threaten the girls.

She had an incredibly tough life and that’s why at the very beginning of the song that’s the image that I had in my head when I wrote the lyric, “There’s days that she can’t recall from the life that she lived with some memories she’s better off because she doesn’t have to forget.”

I know with “Alyssa Lies” there was a movement afterwards to get the word out and do some good. There was a lot of positive to come out of it. Do you hope for similar things out of this new song as well?

I do. The last thing that I released on my own was a song called “Let Me” that was never really actually a single from me. A radio station out in California named KNCI listened to an album I put out and called me directly to see if they could play the song. That just does not happen in radio. And I’m like, “Sure!” And they in turn led me into a number one single out there in Sacramento but what was cool about it was the fact that we didn’t make a push for that. It happened organically.

This is the first single I’ve released formally as a single since I left Arista. This song was the first one in almost ten years. So to be able to see the kind of response in the song since I started playing it in May last year is unbelievable. I think it’s important to people. We would go travel and just have people come up to me and tell me their stories and how it impacted them and it made me feel confident enough to say let’s go back out.

If country music is three chords and the truth, this is your truth as hard as that is to tell. It is a beautiful sentiment to a really hard topic.

When Diane sees us now, she knows that she knows us but she doesn’t know how. She just knows we’re familiar. And it crushes me because she’ll come in my house when I’m cooking dinner. I cook dinner at least once a week for us and when she comes in the house, she’ll walk right in the door and sometimes she’ll walk right by her own daughter, my wife, and come to the kitchen and see me and give me a hug. And she knows she knows me, she just doesn’t know how. And it’s just such a tough thing to watch the whole family going through it.

What people don’t understand about Alzheimer’s is those memories, it’s not like they’re forgetting and they’re there, and they just got to unlock them. Alzheimer’s is a disease that actually eats a part of the brain away. There’s holes being eaten away in her brain, like physically deteriorating. So there’s memories, not like they’re there and can be unlocked later, they’re gone. Like there’s parts of her that she’ll never get back and it’s going to keep progressing.

So it’s just a horrible thing to watch happen and it’s something that we pray for. And of course, for my wife, the hard part now is on top of watching her mom go through this she’s stressing that what if she has the gene. She asks, “What if this is going to hit me?” and she’ll look at me and say, “Well, if that’s the case and I’ve only got 15 or 20 more years.” And I’m like, “Look, we don’t need to focus on the what ifs, let’s enjoy the time we have and we will handle all of that when it comes or if it comes.”

© 2024 Saving Country Music