There always seems to be something musically exciting going on in London, from the deepest, darkest corners of the underground to unexpected mainstream stars, and 2015 has been no different. JONES, who debuted at the end of last year with the lush, beautiful “Deep,” is one of a crop of rising stars who can be categorized under a loose pop/R&B/soul umbrella, and she’s primed to take center stage in 2016.
JONES’ debut EP Indulge marries subtly experimental production from Rodaidh McDonald, Brunelle, Raffertie, and A. K. Paul with her honeyed vocals and universal lyrics about love, relationships, and growth. Her pop bona fides were already on display on Indulge, but new single “Hoops” makes it clear: JONES is not afraid of aiming straight for your heart with a huge hook.
JONES’ debut album, is scheduled for release early next year, and from the new songs we got to hear, she continues to push forward by pairing memorable pop songwriting with multi-faceted production. We spoke to JONES about her debut album New Skin, the genius of The Neptunes, and giving her listeners a musical hug.
Read the interview below, and check out a new remix of “Hoops” by the always impressive salute.
The video just came out, so let’s talk about “Hoops.” It’s a love song but there seems to be a bit of desperation there. Tell me about the song and what it means to you.
I love it, it’s one of my favorites. I’m really proud of that song, and also proud of the video. The song for me is less about desperation and more about just realizing that you are relentlessly pursuing something and you’re in love. I think when you realize where you’re going wrong you can begin to make changes in life. It’s kind of more about accepting where you are for now so you can move on.
And how is that reflected in the video?
Well, the video has so much going on. There are the really cool hand movements that reflect the feeling of unease and being uncomfortable. Then there’s me just standing alone and isolated in this warehouse, which echoes that feeling of loneliness and someone not meeting you halfway. I just think that the colors used and the visuals match the production. The production is kind of left-field and slightly unpredictable. I think the whole thing just blends really well together.
The first track you released was “Deep,” how long had you been working on that song and why did you decide to introduce yourself to the world with it?
With “Deep,” it feels like a long time ago but I still love the song. I had a bunch of songs and I just played it around to different people and I also had talks with my label and that one just stood out. I think it was just the energy of it and how it sounded a bit different. It’s just a strong song. It was a gut feeling to go with that one as an introduction.
How long had you been making music before putting that out?
I’ve been making music forever, since I could learn to sing and start writing songs was about 15, but taking it seriously since 16. Trying to learn how to write, learn how to sing, imitating other singers. I’ve been doing it for many years.
Do you remember who was inspiring you most when you started really writing songs?
Yes I do, at the time I was very into The Neptunes production and all the stuff they did with Kelis. Every track they produced, I loved. Then I was in love with the band N.E.R.D. and I was obsessed with everything they did. I just think they made some really great songs, from production to songwriting, so that was my inspiration at the time.
Talking of producers, how did you link up with the producers of “Deep” and specifically [XL Recordings in-house producer] Rodaidh McDonald?
I got introduced to them all through my record label 37 Adventures, they know Rodaidh. I played him some of my early stuff and he was up for doing some studio sessions together.
Were you actively trying to create a sense of mystery by obscuring your face in early press photos?
Looking back, I guess it was a bit scary putting things out in the world after so long of being in my bedroom writing songs. I was just really into that sort of imagery, having things in black and white and just things that were blurred. The eerie, creepy imagery was just interesting to me at the time. I think it was a good way to introduce myself.
With songs like “Indulge,” which sounds very personal, are you singing to a certain person in your life?
It really depends on different songs, it’s a mix. “Indulge” is definitely a love song to someone that you’re in love with, but I also enjoy writing songs to myself, I do that a lot. “You” was definitely one of those written to my mother. I find it therapeutic to work some stuff out in my head.
The album is called New Skin, can you tell me about the name and why you chose it?
Well “New Skin” is actually the name of a song I’ve written too, and the name is about realizing as you get you older you develop a new layer that you didn’t realize you were walking around with. The album is about kind of wanting to shed that and going back to the innocence or the time in your life when you’re a bit more pure. I loved the title and I thought it could mean a lot of different things and wanted to use it as my album title.
Have you enjoyed performing live so far?
My first headlining show actually just happened, I’ve been doing some acoustic stuff up until then. It was really beautiful, it was in an old church and it was nice and busy, good mix of people I’ve never met and people that were familiar. It was a really special night, also nerve racking. It went well and I’m looking forward to doing more.
Looking from abroad, it seems like it’s a really exciting time for up and coming artists in England, especially in pop, soul, and R&B. Do you feel that same sense living there? Do you feel part of a scene at all?
I guess each year or every couple of years there’s a new wave of a people. I think I’m actually quite isolated in what I’m doing, though. I don’t think I really belong to any sort of collective or anything like that. I guess the beauty of the internet is that you can feel connected to something without ever having met those people or those artists. So in a way yes, in a way no.
What about in terms of your peers, what current artists are you into?
There’s a girl called Dua Lipa that I think is really cool. Aside from that I’m not really listening to much new music. I love stuff like Tame Impala, Lykke Li, Little Dragon. I tend to go back for my music rather than looking ahead.
For some people, pop is a dirty word, but your music is a reminder that you can have pop music that has heart and soul. How do you feel about that association and pop music in general?
I’ve never been shy of pop music, it’s definitely been an influence on my songwriting and musical ear. It definitely is rooted more in a emotional and soulful place. I think stuff like dark and dreamy pop is really cool, and it can really hit people. I think that’s great
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far?
Good question! I love the phrase, “Be yourself, because everybody else is taken.” That’s something that I come back to quite a lot, especially in this music industry, and many creative industries. It’s easy to compare, and I think it’s important for every artist to use their heart and their gut to guide them through.
You haven’t put the album out yet but when you are looking to the future, do you hope that music and making/releasing albums is something you can do for a long time?
Completely, that’s definitely my dream and goal in dream in life to keep doing this for a living and keep inspiring and uplifting other people, giving people a musical hug. I love it when I get a tweet about a song speaking on how it came at a crucial time or that it connected to a fan’s life. I really hope to continue to do this.