We have a quick chat with the latest guitar-slinger to emerge from Seattle, Washington ready to take over the world
Songwriter and musician Ayron Jones has a classic rock sound that will appeal to fans of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Lenny Kravitz but it was actually a chance encounter with Sir Mix-a-Lot back in 2013 that properly kickstarted his career. So impressed by the live performance he was witnessing from the young guitarist and his band that the legendary rapper agreed to produce their first record for free.
Things have only gone from strength to strength since then, with Jones now a solo artist and signed to the powerhouse outfit Big Machine Records. Child Of The State, his debut album for the label, was released earlier this year and skilfully balances heavy rock anthems like Take Me Away and Killing Season with slower jams such as My Love Remains.
Jones bringing his unique brand of rock n roll over to Europe and the UK provided us with the perfect excuse for a quick chat…
Has songwriting always gone hand in hand with playing and performing or did some parts develop later than others?
“That’s always been one and the same. I think I learned how to play guitar to express the songs that I wanted to write. I remember being at elementary school, the first time I taught myself to play piano, and then the first thing I did was sort of like write my own stuff since that point forward when I was like seven or eight years old. I was always trying to show off my songs to people.”
Was there a point when it suddenly became more serious?
“It didn’t become very serious for me until I got discovered by Sir Mix-a-Lot in 2013 and that was when it became like a thing, you know, and I remember the specific moment working with Mix-a-Lot, I used to write jam songs, only a few words here and there and he was like, ‘Yo man, you have to learn how to write songs,’ and so I had to learn how to really put songs together.”
What did that process of learning how to put songs together entail?
“Listening closely to the radio and to things that were selling at the time like arrangement, composition, melody all those things… that that was the beginning of that for me, 2013. That was definitely a challenge but here we are in 2021 and from that beginning to now, everything has completely changed for me in terms of songwriting. That seed being planted in 2013 was what created who I am today.”
What part of the process have you found hardest?
I think the hardest part of the process for me is finding catchy melodies. I can write a hook all day, I can write a chorus all day but finding a dope melody and something to say in the verse is the thing. Usually, when I write songs I write them inside out, I find the core of the song in the chorus and I build from that out, you know like, ‘What do we want to say up to this point?’, That’s the hardest part usually, finding out in-between the chorus what are we trying to say and how’s the melody going to lead to the chorus?”
And do you think you’ve got better at that?
“Yeah, getting faster, you know. One of the biggest things that helped me, in terms of getting signed, was learning how to be quicker and more deliberate about setting up my choruses. You can say so many different things building up the chorus but it’s learning how to build everything around that moment.”
Child Of The State came out earlier in the year, did everything change because of COVID or was it always the plan to drop it then?
“I think that was always the plan, to drop it when it came out. Some things changed because of COVID but I remember signing for Big Machine and they were like ‘Nothing’s changed for us,’ and telling me ‘We’re just gonna keep moving forward in terms of how we present music.’ I was like, ‘How’s it been going through the pandemic,’ and they were like, ‘We’re doing really, really great,’ so the schedule kind of stayed on par. We had some success with radio singles and for me it was really important, after getting that first single out, just to get the record out and it’s turned out okay for us so far.”
The album ebbs and flows with a real sense of dynamics, it seems like you’ve properly considered which songs go where…
“Very much so, we deliberated over it for a long time, figuring out how the sequence of the songs is going to go. There’s a lot of heavy songs, there are some really really soft songs, there’s a lot of dynamics in the tracklisting and so trying to figure out like how we were going to make that work and flow was very deliberate.”
Do you know before you’ve even started writing whether it’s going to be a ballad or something bluesy or uptempo?
“That’s more revealing as you’re writing, you know, we have no idea. With the single, Mercy, we just flowed with it, I sat in a room with those cats and had no idea what the song was gonna be or turn into, you know, we just kind of felt good about it. Then, by the end, we were like, ‘Oh wow.’ It’s like if you’re painting something and take a step back and go, ‘Oh my God, what did I just make?’”
Were a lot of the songs co-written?
“It’s half and half. Half the songs are co-written and half the songs are just me by myself. I had a No 1 in Germany recently for instance that was a self-written track, you know, whereas my No 1 in America was a co-written track.”
Do feel differently about those songs or are they still your songs and do you have the same relationship with them either way?
“Same relationship and I still have a relationship and love for the songs that were co-written. Although, when I did get to the point where the songs that I wrote were being considered for being put out on the radio, there was a different sense of pride. Some early songs I’d written have been with me for a long time and all of a sudden they’re finally being put on display and doing well on the charts, there’s a different sense of pride but it’s all the same stuff.”
Which song was that?
“Take Me Away was a self-written track and Take Your Time which hit No 1 in Germany was also self-written.”
Could you pick another track from the album that you’re particularly fond of and take us through how it came about?
“Mercy was one of those tracks where I walked in with the songwriters, having never met them; they had an idea, I had some ideas, we came together and in four hours time, the song was done, honestly. Free has had a lot of success in France and it was the same idea there. We got in the room and four hours later it was a track and it just took off. We had no idea what was gonna happen with it but that’s the way it went down. It was all capturing a vibe and putting it into the music, catching energy and synergy that we were in a room with and putting it in a song and magic happened.”
How do you establish those relationships so quickly?
“I think just my ability to read people’s energy and let people be themselves. I am a firm believer in that. When you get in a room with anybody you let them be themselves, and that goes for my band, with anybody. At a certain point I could sit there and hark at you all day about what I think should happen, but how am I allowing you to be the best version of you? And how am I allowing that best version of you to bring all the elements of talent you bring to the table to be applied to what we’re doing? I’m able to step back and say, ‘I have this idea, but what do you have in mind?’ The ability to do that is what creates really great music.”
And does that bring out a different side of yourself than if you’re writing alone?
“For sure 100 percent, because the energy in the room is gonna change right. If I’m by myself I can sit and write all day, I can do that just fine and I’ll add a certain energy to the songs but it’s not the same as if you and I sat in a room. ‘Hey, like what do you what do you think about this?’ and you say, ‘Well I think the chorus should sound this way,’ this co-creation we have is going to be a different baby to if sit by myself for sure.”
For more info on Ayron Jones, head over to ayronjonesmusic.com