Growing up in Greencastle, Pa., Jason Kabler was all rock 'n' roll. He said he loved to sing in the style of Axl Rose, former lead singer of Guns 'N Roses. But then something happened — his voice changed and he couldn't hit the notes just right anymore.
His mother, who taught her son how to play guitar, introduced him to the music of a new artist.
"She's like, 'he's not rock, but he's as close as you're gonna get in country.' And at that time, I was like, 'Country, mom, come on,'" Kabler recalled during a telephone interview from Nashville, Tenn., his home for more than a decade.
But Kabler was taken with the country singer in the black hat and striped shirt.
"I started watching Garth Brooks concerts, and I'm like, 'that's just about like any rock show I've ever seen. So I started learning (Brooks' songs), and that's what got me into country," he said.
And Kabler never looked back. He said he started joining and forming local bands, including one called Whitehorse. "We were kind of all over the place, and had a good time," he said.
At the time, the 1992 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School and the Franklin County Vocational Technical School, also worked as traffic manager at WJAL-TV near Chambersburg, Pa., and as district manager for Video Den.
Then his big break came. "In 1999, I sent out some copies of me doing acoustic versions of some of my original songs, and I got a call, and as soon as I answered it, I heard me in the background .... It was a producer from Nashville," he said.
That call led to his first record deal with an independent label, Galaxy Entertainment.
In the interim, he has recorded seven albums, with some time off to raise his children, now ages 12 and 9.
Currently, he is finishing his eighth albums, "Spin." The collection will feature prominent blues musician Stacy Mitchhart on lead guitar.
"We just worked out the details ... (Mitchhart is) officially signed on. I do all my own instruments except the lead guitar. I just don't know how to play lead guitar (well)," he said with a chuckle.
Kabler, 38, said he hopes the album will be ready to drop in August, but is willing to wait a little bit longer if need be.
"The CD was supposed to be released 1 1/2 years ago, but everything happens for a reason. If I'd released it then, it wouldn't have (Mitchhart) on it, and I just think some of the songs are better now."
One of the reasons for the delay was his 2011 diagnosis with ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the colon or large intestine. Rather than let the illness slow him down, Kabler has channeled his talents into becoming an advocate.
"I am working with the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America here in Tennessee. I'm doing some headlining shows for them, to raise money and raise awareness," he said. "My goal is to work my way up to be a national spokesman for this organization."
Kabler is also legally blind, a condition that means he cannot drive a car. "Well, I can (drive), but the state of Tennessee has some kind of law against it," he quipped.
Always moving forward, Kabler recently launched his kickstarter project. This is an online project that will help get "Spin" finished faster, and get all his earlier albums into the digital age. "I don't know anyone who has a CD player. They all have MP3 players and iPods," he said.
Through the project, fans can buy download cards and can receive rewards based on how much they donate to the project. Participants must sign up by Saturday, June 9.
Kabler said he hasn't been to his hometown in about two years, and hopes to arrange a visit sometime this year.
"There are so many things that I miss so much. Tony's Pizza (in Greencastle) is like my favorite thing in the whole wide world. That and Gibbles (potato) chips. I have people send them to me (here)," he said.
To learn more ...
Jason Kabler's official website is www.jasonkabler.com; he is also on Facebook.
For more information about the kickstarter project, go to www.kickstarter.comprojects/1550255612/bringing-my-music-to-the-world-with-spin
For more information about the Crohn's and Colitis foundation of America, go to www.ccfa.org
Jason Kabler graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 1992 and performed with local bands before moving to Nashville, Tenn., in 1999.
A single dad, Jason Kabler has taken some time off from his music career to raise his children, Julia and Brodie.