Seneca the Younger said that travel and a change of place impart new vigor to the mind. Being able to connect with unfamiliar environments allows us all to connect with an extraordinary energy. It can give you a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a resurgence of passion for the things that make you happy. Said energy has been partly responsible for a year's worth of releases from British singer/songwriter Jones. The London-based R&B songbird has opted to release her music this year driven by feeling and movement as opposed to a trivial albeit traditional release rollout. She is dropping three EPs this year named after three cities she loves - London, New York, and Paris.
London, the first of three EP being released this year, arrived in April. Serving as the genesis of the rollout, London sets the tone for a new era of Jones. Since the release of her debut project New Skin in 2016, Jones has discovered more of herself musically and personally and you can feel it emoted in the new music. I caught up with Jones after the recent release of the New York EP to discuss her unique rollout, why she's drawn to artists like Sufjan Stevens, learning how to move with feeling, how her acoustic songs serve as personal diary entries, and more. Read the full interview below.
Ones To Watch: I read in an interview that you recently became a big fan of Sufjan Stevens - What do you like about him as an artist?
Jones: Yes this is true! I first discovered him when I was looking at the list of Oscar Nominees for Best Soundtrack and then ended up watching ‘Call Me By Your Name’ where it’s featured, and wow I just listened to him on solid repeat for days. And then stopped myself so that I wouldn’t completely murder all of his songs in such a short amount of time, which was difficult. I think his sound was just completely refreshing when I heard it and had a sort of magic that captured me in those moments.
Do you feel like you're drawn to other artists who are honest and personal in their music?
Completely - I veer away from (whoops) a lot of general Pop music (not all…) as it can feel over-thought and calculated, formulaic. Honesty is always going to be captivating when someone just says something totally real and makes themselves vulnerable like that, it’s hard not to fall under their spell a little.
You dealt with severe stage anxiety as a child and overcame it. What are some other challenges you've had to overcome in your career since?
Yes, I did - I remember almost quitting the idea of pursuing music when I was younger as though I’d never get to the place I’m at now where I feel at ease while performing. As an artist and songwriter, there are never any rules or guidelines as to what you’re doing, every decision and creative movement is based on a feeling…which can be pretty scary sometimes. Less so the more that you do it. I’ve been learning to trust more and more in myself and my instincts.
New Skin is now about 2 years old - Looking back, what did you learn about the person you were when you recorded and released that project? How have you grown since it came out?
When I look back, what I mostly feel is the pain I was feeling at the time. It may not be super obvious to anyone listening, but to me, it’s there and that’s what I hear. It feels nice to be through that and to feel a little older and wiser (but not too much of course). Also, I was so unsure of everything, myself, my life - I feel like I’ve found some direction and balance which is great. With every little step you take forward I think you end up being more and more sure of what feels right and where you’re going, at least that’s how I feel artistically. Musically, I liked so many different things and so many options can be overwhelming, so through trial and error I feel like I know who I am both personally and musically now a lot better - but like everything in life, I’m sure that is going to change and evolve.
You've decided to release your music this year in three separate waves. Can you tell me the concept behind the London - New York - Paris projects?
I wanted to get more music out this year instead of following a conventional release schedule. Together with my label, 37 Adventures, we decided to do it this way, and it felt right. I felt excited by the idea of lots of movement. One of the most frustrating things as an artist is writing so many songs and then waiting for what feels like an ice-age to share them. I think that everything is moving so fast these days, more and more people are putting out a song a month that this felt like the most exciting thing to do. London, New York and Paris each have a special place in my life for different reasons so it felt right to name them after these cities. I love traveling so it was exciting to me that I’d launch them all in their respective cities.
What kind of energy do you get from each of these places?
London is deeply familiar, with deep emotional ties, all of my history and the beginnings of me. I once heard someone say that New York City was like their mistress, and I would agree! It holds so much excitement, magic, and fun for me that it does feel a bit like my mistress, whereas London would be my spouse…and Paris is mystical and elusive with its own kind of cold stardust. They’re such key and iconic cities in mass-Western culture I guess I felt like I identified with them before I ever even spent any time there (NYC/Paris), and then when I did, I formed my own bonds with them.
Are the songs on each city's EP tied to specific memories in that place?
Some of the songs are directly related yes - like “Silver Screen” and “If You’re Gonna Love Somebody” are from specific memories of NYC and most of my songs have been written in London so that connection is present in most of my songs. For Paris, which is not out yet, there’s a song called “Move To France.”
Why did you decide to only have one fully produced song and three acoustic songs?
There are a few reasons, partly because I love these two sides to what I do - the full bigger sound and the super organic and raw acoustic recordings. Partly because it just takes so much time to get full productions sounding perfect and with the release schedule we wanted to do, acoustic recordings made that slightly easier. Also, I like the fact that the acoustic recordings feel a bit like my diaries.
What did you set out to achieve by releasing your music this way and do you think you've achieved it so far?
As an artist you just want to get your music out there and for people to hear it. Hopefully, connect with it. I wanted to do that in a more frequent way than I had before and I feel like so far, so good! The third EP is out in October, and I imagine I will reflect on it all then once it’s complete. Right now, I’m still in the middle of it and watching things grow.
Dance music is big in the UK - With "Something Bout Our Love" and your recent features with Claptone and Pat Lok, can we look forward to more dance music from you in the future?
Yes, I like so many different types of music, and I think what’s great about now is that you don’t have to be just one thing - you can get to try on different hats a little and collaborations are a really fun way of doing that. All of those songs happened organically, and I wrote and co-wrote them all so they all feel like me.
Who are your Ones To Watch?
I am guilty of being very caught up in my own musical bubble so I haven’t got any tips here! I recently started listening to Miles Davis back catalog (which is maybe the opposite of Ones To Watch!)
What does success in 2018 look like to you?
Touring around the world, making mass-connections and continuing to spread my music far and wide.
The Paris EP is set to release in October so make sure to check back for more from Jones in the near future. Stream the full New York EP below.