JONES Makes Heartbreak Feel Surmountable [Q&A]
Cherie Jones, The East London singer and songwriter known as JONES, released her debut album New Skin in 2016 - an expansive take on R&B flushed with electronic and pop. While her vocal range is impressive, her ability to make heartbreak feel surmountable might be her biggest gift. While rooted in traditional R&B, JONES incorporates elements from all genres into her music without any of it feeling foreign because at the core of her music is this innate sense of honesty and vulnerability. This confidence and ease of which she integrates a variety of sounds could be attributed to her upbringing. Growing up listening to artists such as Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston contributed to her deft understanding of how to have a soulful compass with influences from other genres.
New Skin was a declaration for JONES. Singles such as "Melt", "Indulge", and "Hoops" helped cement her place in the new vanguard of R&B. All of the songs on New Skin feel like Jones because she wrote on all of them. Not concerned with chasing hits, Jones focuses on the creative process and its authentic results. When asked about the importance of writing her own music, Jones said, "It’s definitely important to me when writing songs as Jones, there’s just something sacred about songwriting and the process and it needing to be aligned with my truth as a person and an artist." When JONES writes a hit song, it means something to her.
After the release of New Skin, JONES took time to handle all the things that come with being an emerging artist. She toured, did festivals, moved to New York for a bit, signed a new record deal, and started writing and working with new collaborators. During this time, she released the mostly acoustic London and New York EPs to represent her home and her newly adopted home, respectively. But aside from a few singles since, JONES has mostly been quiet prepping for new music and most importantly, a new album.
Fast forward to 2020, and JONES is back with three funky new singles that give us hope in the form of socially distanced shoulder and hip sways. Whereas the music on New Skin had the vulnerability and innocence of a hand written note you gave to your childhood crush in third grade, new singles "Giving It Up," "Camera Flash," and “Brittle” have the confidence and energy of your first night out after you've finally gotten over a breakup. It's not a departure from her earlier work, it's an evolution. We grabbed some time with JONES via email to find out how she's been surviving quarantine, some of the social justice causes she's been learning about, and of course, her new music and album. Read the full interview below!
How was COVID-19 and Quarantine affected your life?
Very bizarre at the start and then to be honest quite enjoyable (other than the fact that I wasn’t able to see my mother). It’s been a time of health and reflection, quality time with a loved one and period of time to learn things totally outside music. But have also been in a release cycle for half of it so it’s been interesting coming back in this way…
Have you picked up any new hobbies or interests during Quarantine?
Yes, I got quite into Maths during quarantine and started working through my old GSCE workbook which was like re-learning all of that stuff. I found it to be strangely meditative.
It has been such a weird time to release music. What has the pandemic and the fight for Black Lives done to change how you approach making and releasing new music?
True. Well of course due to the pandemic there have been heavy limitations on what you can physically do - but then new creative online paths have been forged in the wake of that - live streaming and ‘at home’ sessions. With everything happening with BLM I definitely felt it important to pause any music-promoting activity and dedicate my channels to sharing, acknowledging and discussing what was going on. It’s important to also still keep this conversation going as I know that a lot of the heat has died down but the issues have not…it’s going to be a generation’s life’s work in this fight.
I noticed you have been sharing information about banning conversion therapy for the LGBTQ+ community. Can you speak a little bit about your support for the ban.
Yes, I had in fact not been aware that it was still in place until someone mentioned it to me and it just disgusted me. As a person that counts myself lucky to have close friends who are gay (and just as a human being in general!) I find it completely immoral that there are organizations that still think it’s right to try and persuade anyone out of who they are. It’s wrong, it’s archaic and the attitude it conveys is yet another aspect of our society that needs some deep healing.
I'm a huge fan of The Neptunes and the structure and cadence of "Giving It Up" reminds me of their bouncy, early 2000s aesthetic. Could you give us some details on how you made this song?
Good ear- because old school Neptunes was definitely a heavy influence on the production of the song! I wrote this song in a session with the artist/producer Fyfe, it was our very first writing session together and we struck musical synergy -both being big Neptunes fans. I then enlisted the magic of producer Mike Spencer to bring in some extra magic!
I assume "Giving It Up" is the first single of an upcoming project. What can you share about it?
Yes indeed. There’s an album coming, which is largely inspired by dreams and the dream state (one of the lead songs came right out of a dream) but before that I will be releasing a love-army of singles…
If you could co-write a song with any person dead or alive, who would it be and why?
That would definitely be with Kevin Parker (Tame Impala) - I’m a huge fan of his lyrics, use of melody and production and often reference his music when I’m working with producers in the studio. I think I could learn a lot from seeing how he works.
You've performed at tons of shows, what city do you miss performing in the most?
To be honest I think I’m most looking forward to performing in the old hometown (London!) as it of course always carries a special place in my heart. But also just miss performing in general.
Watch her brand new video for "Camera Flash" below.