Photo by C. Williams
Jason Howard is the author of A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music (The University Press of Kentucky, 2012), a collection of profiles of contemporary roots musicians that explores how the land and culture of Kentucky have shaped American music through the years--and continues to do so today. Focusing on modern musicians who live everywhere from Manhattan to Los Angeles to Nashville to small towns across Kentucky, A Few Honest Words shows how the spirit of the state has taken up residence in the hearts and songs of an eclectic group of musicians including multiple Grammy Award winner Dwight Yoakam, multi-platinum soul singer Joan Osborne, rural rap pioneers Nappy Roots, indie rock god Jim James of My Morning Jacket, legendary country music star Naomi Judd, and many others.
Howard is the coauthor of Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal, which was hailed by the late Studs Terkel as “a revelatory work” for its unflinching look at the destructive mining practice through the eyes of thirteen environmental activists including acclaimed novelist Denise Giardina, country music singer Kathy Mattea, and the late Judy Bonds, winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize. As the editor of We All Live Downstream, Howard gathered writings from artists and activists such as Wendell Berry, Ashley Judd, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Terry Tempest Williams into a multi-genre anthology that the Huffington Post called “an extraordinary testimony to the resiliency of Appalachians.” His features, essays, reviews and commentary have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, The Nation, Utne Reader, The Louisville Review, Lumina Journal, 1966: A Journal of Creative Nonfiction, Sojourners, Revolve, LGBTQ Nation, Paste, No Depression, and on NPR and C-SPAN's Book TV.
Widely acknowledged as one of the South's finest music writers, Howard has interviewed musicians spanning all genres including the iconic Yoko Ono, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Griffin, Naomi Judd, Ricky Skaggs, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Skinny Deville of Nappy Roots, Caroline Herring, Jay Farrar of Son Volt, jazz pianist Kevin Harris, and legendary folksinger Jean Ritchie.
As former senior editor and staff writer for Washington, D.C., based Equal Justice Magazine, he wrote investigative articles on such subjects as the efforts of Eastern Kentucky miners to receive black lung benefits, assisted adoption cases in Manhattan, and an eminent domain case before the Supreme Court. In 2009, Howard co-founded Still: The Journal, the first online literary magazine devoted to Appalachian literature, with Silas House and poet Marianne Worthington, serving as creative nonfiction editor for four years.
In November 2013, Howard was named editor of Appalachian Heritage, a literary quarterly founded in 1973 that has published national and regional writers including Lee Smith, bell hooks, Wendell Berry, Silas House, Harriette Arnow, James Still, Maurice Manning, Nikki Giovanni, Ron Rash, Robert Morgan, Crystal Wilkinson, among many others.
Howard was a finalist for the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award. In recognition of artistic excellence, he received the 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state agency, which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Named a 2010-2012 James Still Fellow at the University of Kentucky, he was chosen as a finalist for the 2010 Roosevelt-Ashe Society Outstanding Journalist in Conservation Award and as one of five “up and coming” writers by Kentucky Monthly in 2010.
He has spoken at and/or taught master classes and writing workshops at the University of Kentucky, Indiana University-Bloomington, Spalding University, Eastern Kentucky University, Appalachian State University, Lincoln Memorial University, the University of Pikeville, Murray State University, Centre College, Transylvania University, and Davis-Elkins College.
Howard holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, an M.A. in History from the University of Kentucky and a B.A. in Political Communication from The George Washington University. He teaches at Berea College and lives in Berea, Kentucky, with his partner, novelist Silas House.