Jason Everman: The Nirvana and Soundgarden Member Who Became a US Army Ranger and Green Beret

Photo Credit: US Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Photo Credit: US Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Jason Everman, with his long curly hair and piercings, looked the epitome of a rockstar – because he was. As a young man, he played guitar and bass for popular bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, as well as smaller acts. He eventually made a drastic career change, however, going on to enlist in the US Army, for whom he served as a Ranger and Green Beret.

Jason Everman’s early life

Portrait of Jason Everman and Louis Svitek
Mind Funk guitarists Jason Everman and Louis Svitek, 1993. (Photo Credit: Karjean Levine/ Getty Images)

Born on October 16, 1967 in Alaska, Jason Everman was only a toddler when his parents divorced. He moved to Washington with his mother, who married a former US Navy serviceman.

His introduction to music was perhaps untraditional, as he was encouraged to play guitar while in therapy for blowing up a toilet with a firecracker. The hobby stuck, and he eventually joined several bands in high school. Everman went between Washington and Alaska for employment as a young man, working with his biological father on his fishing boat during the summer. Eventually, he met future Nirvana drummer Chad Channing.

A turbulent music career

Portrait of Soundgarden
Soundgarden, 1989. (Photo Credit: Krasner / Trebitz / Redferns / Getty Images)

In February 1989, Jason Everman got his big break when he was brought on as the second guitarist for Nirvana. He was credited with playing on the band’s debut album, Bleach, even though he never did. Kurt Cobain later said this was their way of thanking him for paying the $606.17 fee to record it.

Everman went on tour with the band following the album’s release. When it ended, however, he was fired due to his “moodiness.” This didn’t stop him from continuing with music, as he joined Soundgarden later that same year as the band’s temporary bassist. He can be heard playing on their cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together,” and in their Louder Than Live home video.

Everman stayed with Soundgarden for a while, but was, again, fired. He then briefly went on to play guitar for Mind Funk.

Jason Everman enlists in the US Army

Jason Everman standing atop a snowy ridge while holding a weapon
Jason Everman serving with the US Army Special Forces in Afghanistan, 2013. (Photo Credit: US Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Jason Everman had a change of heart about his career in 1994 after discovering the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, a Renaissance author who said well-rounded men were simultaneously philosophers, artists and warriors. Around this time, he spoke to an acquaintance who’d served as a US Navy SEAL, who put the idea of enlisting in the military in his head.

The musician subsequently joined the US Army, and attended basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia without mentioning to anyone that he’ had a brief stint as a rock musician. However, that didn’t stop people from finding out.

He recalled the day, which happened to be just after Kurt Cobain’s death. In the middle of some routine hazing, one of the drill sergeants stopped right in front of him and said, “The lead singer for Nirvana killed himself yesterday.” In a different interview with The New York Timeshe said that, around the same time, another drill sergeant saw a photo of him alongside Nirvana and could tell it was him.

Becoming a US Army Ranger and Green Beret

Portrait of Soundgarden
Soundgarden, 1990. (Photo Credit: Paul Natkin / Getty Images)

After completing training, Jason Everman was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington. As the United States wasn’t at war at the time, he didn’t have many missions, apart from various training exercises. By 1998, he’d completed his four, rather uneventful, years of service.

Everman left the Army to travel through the Himalayan Mountains, where he joined a Buddhist monastery. Training to be a monk didn’t stick for long, however, as he was soon offered a position as a Green Beret. After completing the Qualification Course, he was assigned to “A Team,” 3rd Special Forces Group, with whom he finally got to see action. He was sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, earning an impressive reputation.

Everman later said serving in the Middle East was “probably the most profound experience of my life. […] It takes an event as extreme as war that simultaneously brings out both the worst and the best in people.”

Jason Everman is honorably discharged

Portrait of Jason Everman and Louis Svitek
Mind Funk guitarists Jason Everman and Louis Svitek, 1993. (Photo Credit: Karjean Levine / Getty Images)

In 2006, Jason Everman was honorably discharged from the US Army, and he quickly moved onto the next stage of his life. He continued bettering himself in a Cellinian fashion by enrolling at Columbia University’s School of General Studies, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. He received a glowing letter of recommendation from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

After graduating, he went on to obtain a Master’s degree from Norwich University.

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Everman never truly stepped away from music. After retiring from the Army, he started a band with fellow veteran, Brad Thomas, called Silence & Light. Each member has previously served in the US military, and the group’s music focuses on the experiences of veterans and first responders. They donate a significant portion of their earnings to charities that do the same.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.