Interview: JONES breaks down her new EP 'London', discusses music streaming, influences and more
The British alt pop rising star gives us an exclusive sneak peek into her new EP 'London' with a track-by-track breakdown. Plus an exclusive Spotify playlist of her current jams
Last week, on April 10, British alternative pop up-and-comer JONES released her new EP, titled 'London.' The EP is the first of a three-part EP series being released this year, each dedicated to a favorite city of JONES.
This first EP is a tribute to her hometown and city to which she has an intense emotional link, and 'New York EP' and 'Paris EP' will follow later this year. On these EPs, JONES take us back to her signature acoustic sound, and a fully produced single will accompany each release. The London EP showcases JONES delivering a diary-like account of her emotions with her signature honeyed vocals.
JONES was last in the spotlight with her debut album New Skin, that came out in October 2016. Growing up in London with her mom, the sounds of soul, reggae and pop her mother played filled her days and nights with rhythm. Those styles and sounds became the building blocks of who JONES would become, and also for the music she gives us now. After years of experimenting and practicing, she found her sound: a starkly modern, electronic soul music with a pop direction. 90 million streams later, JONES is ready with her new music.
We spoke to Jones to discuss her new EP, her influences, current favorites and the impact that music streaming services have had on up-and-coming artists in recent times.
Read the full interview below:
What’s the story behind the title of the London EP?
I wanted to do 3 EPs, one in each of my favorite cities that I particularly strong memories and feelings attached to. They begin with my London EP. It’s my hometown which I’m still very much in love with, the birthplace of it all and I feel like I owe so much to this city it’s been hand in hand with my musical journey.
Can we have a quick track-by-track breakdown of the songs from 'London'?
The first track Tender is about me questioning the nature of people and relationships, wondering if love can last a lifetime and if I am able to see it all the way through, acknowledging that people change and perhaps move in different directions.
How About That is super fun to play live, originally written to an incredibly groovy (I can’t believe I just used that word but that’s the only way to describe it) bass and drum loop it was then converted into the acoustic version that you hear on the EP. It’s about wanting someone to be ‘all-in’ and the frustrations around how that feels.
Think Too Much is my ode to many a sleepless night spent with my mind on overdrive. It’s observing how the mind just ticks on and on and will give you no rest if you don’t tame it. I have been delving into the practice of meditation much more recently and find it is the only way to combat the ‘monkey mind’.
Giving It Up - the final song on the EP is me talking about being powerless to my feelings, a moment where I fell totally in love and just wanted to be lost in that feeling.
Altogether they are quite direct, personal stories that feel much-like diary entries, which is how I like to write.
Who produced the EP? What was it like in the studio during the production?
I wrote each song with different people as demos and then made the decision to record them all as acoustic songs. 'Tender' was written with Norma Jean Martine and Max Mostely on the production, How About That with Roy Kerr and Scott Quinn, Think Too Much with Jonny Hocking and Lauren Aquilina and Giving It Up with Fyfe. I enjoy working with different people and the different flavors that that can bring out of you. I wrote all the songs first and then went in and recorded all of the acoustic ones in one day - with my long-term collaborator Ollie Green down at Urchin Studio in East London. I recorded the produced and lead single with Ben Baptie at Strongrooms also down in East London.
If you had to pick one favorite among all your tracks, which one would it be and why?
I truly love them all and feel very attached to them all for different reasons, but I guess the standout song is 'Tender' which feels like a real moment and feels very powerful to sing live. I love all of the different sections, I love the memory of the day I wrote it with Norma and Max - we’d never worked together before and began the session with the massive debate about what love is and all shared our recent experiences and insights we’d gathered.
We didn’t all agree with each other which was interesting, but that debate helped spark the idea for the chorus and ultimately led to the song.
What were some of the challenges / the greatest challenge that you faced while recording your music?
Just personal things really, trying not to let certain things that were happening in my life prevent me from being able to focus and just immerse myself in writing.
Aside from that I always feel like writing each song is a bit of a riddle, you get an idea that you start with and then keep tracking it and never fully know where it is going to go and you wonder how you’re going to finish it, or if it’s good, or does it make sense? Sometimes you can write something and be like - hold on, do I actually mean this or believe this? I guess always trying to keep everything that you’re saying anchored to a place of truth.
When did you first start performing?
I started performing at a really young age, I used to play the violin in school from around the age of 6 and used to perform in assemblies playing both that and singing in the choir. I did ballet when I was around the same age, I adored it but quit years later after the teachers told me I was too tall be a ballerina! I did a brief stint at a drama club but was far too shy and found it difficult.
My music and singing were always center-stage and I’d just constantly find opportunities to enter competitions and perform for this or that, though I struggled with awful stage anxiety back then - nearly to the point of giving it all up.
Who are your biggest influences?
The main man Stevie Wonder (I’m named after his song My Cherie Amour), Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey (early years), Whitney Houston, The Beatles, all of the old school soul music my mother would play like Otis Redding - and then disco music was on heavy rotation throughout my childhood.
What kind of music do you like listening to?
All different stuff really…from Soul to Indie and band-based music to Electronic. Some of my all-time favorite artists are Lykke Li, Tame Impala, Little Dragon.
Can we have a link to a playlist/mixtape that you particularly enjoy?
If you had to pick just one artist/band that you would like to collaborate with in the near future, who would it be?
Kevin Parker of Tame Impala is my ultimate dream collaboration! I love everything that he does and think it would be completely dreamy to get in on some of that magic.
What is music to you?
Music is magic and music is my total lifeline. I feel that I’ve been dealt some particularly difficult cards throughout my life and music has truly been the one thing that has got me through and held me together. I owe so much to it, it’s my best friend. It can break your heart sometimes but it can also heal it.
Vinyl or digital? What’s your preferred format and why?
I will always love vinyl and the memories of it, learning how to gently put the needle of the record as a child, worrying that I might scratch it. Messing around with speeding up and slowing down songs physically with my hands. Watching my mother play all of her beloved records, looking at the sleeves scattered all over the floor…not to mention the audio quality. But, that said, I love the instant nature of digital. I love being able to own my entire life’s music collection in the palm of my hand and spontaneously just pull out any song I feel like listening to basically out of thin air.
What do you think about music streaming? Do you think it’s helpful or harmful for up and coming artists?
I think that streaming is the future and it is the present so you can’t argue with that. I was initially very resistant to the idea of it, not switching from my bought-music library to a streaming service for a while. But then I watched the film The Artist and thought wow - I don’t want to be that guy, I don’t want to resist change because it was unfamiliar.
So I signed up to Spotify and have never looked back since. I think it is incredibly liberating. It had led to the release schedule that I am doing this year, which would not be the case had it not been for streaming. It’s much more satisfying as an artist to release 3 EPs in a year as opposed to just one record. As with all new things, there are areas that things could still be improved such as royalty rates for songwriters, who are so important and often the unsung heroes behind the scenes. I think that yes it changes the way we consume music, moving into a more single-based playlist mindset, but it also helps you to discover so much more music. I think it has given a platform to so many new artists and that I something I wholeheartedly support.
Any plans of touring soon?
Yes, I am putting together some UK dates as we speak and further shows outside of the UK, heading to NYC for my next EP launch (handily called the New York EP) in June and Europe TBA soon.
What's next for JONES?
Well, next will be the second and third chapters of my London / New York / Paris trilogy, be sure to look out for those!