By day Jason Didner is an information technology manager for a construction company, but at night you can catch him on stage, guitar in hand, singing his tunes. Though he was always musically inclined with a number of instruments, he didn’t start singing until his 20s when he was in a cover band that performed Billy Joel songs. 

Joel plays a substantial role in Jason Didner’s life. He attended college on Long Island, where Joel grew up. And Didner said he found his voice with Joel’s live album “Songs in the Attic.”

I could hear my baritone voice in Billy’s,” Didner said. “I could sing his songs and back myself up on piano with some authenticity. I was learning to open up my throat and sing naturally.”

Though Didner, like many people, admired Joel for his musical talent and songwriting ability, there was a piece of advice from the pop star that he took to heart.

Didner saw Joel in a TV interview where the singer discussed his pre-show ritual. “He was talking about eating light before a show because he doesn’t want to be singing and digesting at the same time,” Didner said. “That kind of stuck with me.” 

Though Didner took plenty of notes from Joel throughout his musical career, his tip about eating before singing ended up being a pivotal one for Didner. 

When he was in his 30s, Didner started to notice he had stomach problems. He would clear his throat a lot due to a burning sensation and would feel chest pain. It wasn’t long after noticing these problems that Didner received a diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. The disease causes stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus, causing irritation.  

Though he has dealt with acid reflux for nearly 20 years, Didner didn’t make the connection that it could impact his singing voice until recently. A friend who is also a singer, John Taglieri, spoke about his history with GERD and Didner realized that he was having the same problems on stage. 

“If I eat too close to showtime or something too heavy, I might feel acid coming up into my throat when I’m singing,” Didner said. Sometimes the acid would keep him from getting the next note out and he would have to quickly pivot to delay the next note.

Since becoming more mindful about how his stomach issues impact his voice, Didner is rediscovering his voice. Now, he eats less before a show and keeps up with his medication and doctor appointments to manage his GERD. 

These minor changes paid off when he went to play the biggest show of his career in March at Outpost in the Burbs, here in his hometown of Montclair. Didner said he was very careful that day about what he ate and when. He limited himself to half a sandwich before he got on stage at First Congregational Church. The result, he said, was “the best vocal performance in my life.” 

As he continues to manage his stomach acid issues for the betterment of his health and his singing career, Didner has no intentions of slowing down. Last year, he re-released his song, “You Can’t Get There From Here in Jersey,” which was recognized by “The Asbury Park Press” as one of the “10 Biggest and Best Songs of 2022 by a New Jersey Artist.” In February, he released his fourth solo album, “Side Effects.” 

In addition to being a solo rock artist, Didner co-founded a children’s rock band called Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam with his wife, Amy Didner. The band started when Didner and his wife would make up different songs for their daughter, Holly. 

“We kept writing songs about all the things as a family that we were experiencing, all Holly’s firsts and when she became really curious or fascinated with something, we’d write a song about it,” Didner said. 

As in his solo career, health and music intersect for Jason Didner and his wife. Amy Didner was diagnosed with diabetes and was awaiting a kidney and pancreas transplant from a deceased donor. In 2015, her health started to decline. 

“We were going to the transplant center regularly to keep her ready to receive a kidney and pancreas should they become available, but she was getting progressively sicker,” Jason Didner said. “Her transplant doctors said that she was getting close to the point where she would need dialysis.”

Then one of the doctors turned to Jason Didner and suggested that he get tested to see if he would be a match to give his wife a kidney. When Jason Didner got tested, he found out he was a direct match and was able to donate his kidney to his wife. 

Two months after the transplant both Jason and Amy Didner resumed their shows, sometimes performing three times in one day. 

The successful transplant surgery inspired a song, “A Complicated Miracle, which Jason Didner recorded for one of his albums. The song’s lyrics include, “We were in dire need of help, we couldn’t make it by ourselves so we put our faith in the brightest, and we counted on the best as we lay down on their tables and trusted we’d be blessed.” 

Ten years, two albums later and a range of performances along the East Coast, Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam is another successful musical venture. 

As for whether his daughter enjoys the music that Didner makes on his own or if she still listens to the rock band made in her honor, he said, “I think she’s sitting right in between the two.”

For Didner, he hopes his story and openness about GERD will inspire people with acid reflux to take it more seriously and schedule an endoscopy with their gastroenterologist. 

As far as the music goes, Didner wants his lyrics to touch the hearts of those who listen. 

“I want it to make people laugh,” he said. “I want it to maybe help people make good decisions about their mental health and about their relationships with other people. I want the message to help connect people.” 

His next live performance, with Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym, will be on Tuesday, July 11, at Shipyard Park in Hoboken.