Q&A | Sitting down with host of Yellow Chair Diaries, Jason Waggoner
“Welcome to the Yellow Chair Diaries community where the cool kids hang out!”
This is how Flint-based singer/songwriter Jason Waggoner starts his weekly show Yellow Chair Diaries on his Facebook Live feed. During the hour-long livestream, he performs for viewers in real-time, playing the guitar and singing familiar tunes as well as his own original music. He even takes requests from the audience, giving it a personal touch for those tuning in.
Originally from Clarkston, MI, Jason moved to Flint several years ago amidst the water crisis to experience the city’s unique culture and impending growth. He started Yellow Chair Diaries at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 when the majority of the country went on lock-down.
Since he couldn’t perform at his regular spots in downtown Flint like Cork on Saginaw and Tenacity Brewing, he decided to take his talents to Facebook to provide entertainment and help people take their minds off of COVID-19 for a moment.
The show’s following began to grow and Jason soon found himself with a supportive online community that tuned in faithfully every Tuesday and Sunday evening. To show his appreciation, he uses the tips from his performances to buy items from local businesses to give away to viewers in hopes of inspiring more people to visit Flint.
We had the privilege of speaking to Jason about the makings of Yellow Chair Diaries, his experience as a performing artist during the pandemic, his love for Flint culture and much more. Keep reading to get “the goods” on Jason Waggoner.
The GOODS: You’re originally from Clarkston, what made you want to move to Flint in the middle of the water crisis?
Jason Waggoner: “I was taking music classes in Flint, and while driving back and forth, I thought that it would be pretty cool to live here. I looked at the city and all I saw was potential. And then I saw so many people trying to do so much work here. It was so different from where I grew up and how I grew up and I just I just fell in love with it. There's just so much culture here; the music, the museum's, just everything across the board. I love this city."
TG: How has living in Flint impacted your life?
JW: “This city has changed me in so many ways. When I talk to other people about the city, the first thing they bring up is the water, but it’s so much more to this city. The water crisis is an awful, awful thing. but it's almost like a phoenix. There's so many things that came out of it that are just so good like the community leaders that stepped up in so many ways to help. I think that it was a tragedy that drew the city together and shined a light on it in a way that you couldn't really escape.”
TG: What was your mission with Yellow Chair Diaries when you first started it, and what could we expect if tuning in for the first time?
JW: “Once COVID-19 started and we did the lockdown, I started doing this thing where I sit in a yellow chair and perform, and I had no idea how long this would go on. My goal was to communicate in the chat room. I wanted to be up close, but not really try to give a concert experience because that's not what it is. I wanted people to establish a sense of community. I just wanted to bring people together. So, it's not just me playing music. If you read the comments in the chats, the people are talking to each other.
My family jumps in, my daughter jumps in, people from all over. I've had people drive to Flint, or come to Flint, from as far as South Carolina to come and watch me play because of that. That’s one of my goals, I just want to instill a sense of community. It's like when your passion aligns with your purpose, that's when things really start happening. And I talk Flint. I always have something Flint on. You're gonna see a very Flint centric show where I'm always talking about Flint.”
TG: You also have an online community in support of Yellow Chair Diaries. Could you talk more about that?
JW: “So, I have my Yellow Chair group which is a private [Facebook] group where I post every morning after I get up. I do my meditation. I do my journaling. Then, I'd write something that I'm going through, and generally somebody can relate to it. Even this morning, somebody said, “Hey, I'm going through some tough times, can you guys send me some prayers and good vibes.” I had this banner, and all the people in the group signed it. I'm going to raffle this off as a thank you. There’s a guy in the group who is dying of cancer, and his son really wants to get this banner for him. I never knew I was making this kind of impact.”
TG: What advice do you have for musicians who may be struggling creatively during the pandemic?
JW: “I would say get involved with streaming, communicating with the people and giving back when you can. Most of my gigs, even on my streams, I go live from restaurants and I donate all of the tips to the staff because without them, I have nothing, I don't get paid. And I've never looked at myself as, “Oh, I'm an entertainer, I have a skill.” It doesn’t work without the servers, it doesn't work without the bartender, it doesn't work without the cook. It doesn't work. Get involved with the people and give back when you can. Get involved with the places that are providing work during these times because they're hurting bad. Stay connected with other musicians and try to see the good that will come out of all of this.”
TG: Any shoutouts?
JW: “Oh yeah, Oaklin of course! He's the Godfather to me for opening up GoodBoy in Flint. I remember telling someone that I would love to open up a store in Flint and they said that I didn’t want to be the first store like that. But then Oaklin does it and becomes a pioneer and I respect that. Also, Dorian Jackson from Comma Bookstore. He’s one of the hardest working people I know. I've told him he's a role model for me because he works so hard and just cares so much about the city, and he's involved on so many levels.”
To stay up to date with Jason Waggoner, follow him on:
Also, visit his website: jasonwaggoner.net
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