Fender Jones is a talented musician with a new -first solo- album called “Reflection and Echo”. Drawing on a diverse range of influences, from Americana, classic country, folk to indie rock and beyond, his sound is at once timeless and contemporary. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Fender to discuss his creative process, inspiration, and what fans can expect from his latest release. Don’t miss this in-depth look at one of the most exciting artists in music today.
Music Authentic: Hi Fender, nice to meet you. Thanks for joining us for the interview. How are you?
Fender Jones: Hi, nice to meet you too, thanks for taking the time to chat. Yeah, I’m good, it’s been a very busy time and it’s an exciting and busy time to get this album ready for release.
Music Authentic: How does it feel to see your debut album, “Reflection and Echo” coming to fruition?
Fender Jones: To be honest it just feels really good. It’s been a long process of 10 months since I first decided to release my solo album and there’s just an immense sense of pride to finally see it completed and ready for others to listen to. It’s funny because as an artist you write songs because that’s what you’re driven to do and that’s the way you explain the things you experience in the world. So that’s always my primary reason for writing songs. And then during the process of recording an album you have to start thinking about what others may think of them and for much of this process today I haven’t had to think about that because it wasn’t ready but now it’s something that I am intensely curious about and that is what will others think about my stories and the way I tell them.
Music Authentic: On your blog you write about the reason that you chose to release a solo album now. What did finally make you decide to go solo?
Fender Jones: Yeah that’s a good question. For many years I’ve been playing in other bands and always been happy to support a lead singer and also be a co-writer of songs. I’ve played in some great bands and had some great times but it was something that happened with some band mates about two years ago as we set about getting back together again and looking at recording a new album. I just noticed that this time I really didn’t feel like contributing much to the songs that were being written, and then when it came to time to go into the recording studio I really wasn’t that enthusiastic about playing and recording them. So, I sort of did some thinking as to why this was happening because I felt like I was letting down the other guys in the band. I kind of came to the realization that I just had this really strong feeling that it was time for me to not be a co-writer of songs anymore but to write my own songs and play them in the way that I wanted to play them. To be honest I was curious about what that would sound like as I didn’t really know what I sounded like when I wrote my songs and played them my way.
Music Authentic: Is the final product what you imagined it would be when you started?
Fender Jones: To be honest I’m not really too sure when I started the project what I thought the final product would sound like. I mean I knew what it wasn’t going to sound like. I know that as an artist I’m not a hip hop or an R&B artist and I always knew that it would have a strong Americana or country feel to it, but I really didn’t know what it would sound like at the end. It was really working with my producer, Charles Austin, that sort of gave life to the songs and the sound. I would write demos of the songs and we would listen them to them together and I would basically say to him that I didn’t like the sound of the demo and that in my head the song sounded like this artist or that artist and that’s how we ended up deciding on the particular sound for the songs and the album.
Music Authentic: “Reflection and Echo” is really good to listen to. The Stories you tell are incredible. I noticed a few different styles of music on the album. Was this deliberate and how would you describe your music?
Fender Jones: Yeah I’m glad you noticed that. I think first of all it’s a reflection that it is my first album and in a way I’m still finding my sound as an artist and I was also really happy to experiment with different styles. I think they all fit within a broader genre that I guess you could call Americana style music but obviously some of the songs are very country, some of them are very rock, and some of them are very folk. I think the diversity of the sounds also represents who I am as an artist and sometimes the songs I sing are faster, some are slower but the focus for me is always on the lyrics and hopefully that is the constant element amongst all of the songs on the album.
Music Authentic: It sounds blues, rock, country, sometimes like Bruce Springsteen and other times Deep Purple – yet unique and wholesome over a clean mix and understated mastering. Who did you work with?
Fender Jones: One of the things I know as an artist is that my strength is writing lyrics for songs and in recognizing my strength I also recognize where my weaknesses are and for this project I gathered a team around me of people who would complement my strengths with their own strengths. First and foremost, I worked with Charles Austin my producer, and he’s absolutely amazing at taking my ideas and turning them into a fantastic sounding song. He was able to bring in some incredibly talented musicians to play on the songs. I also reached out to some other songwriters because I knew that if I wrote the songs purely my way that they wouldn’t have the life that I would want them to have in terms of chord progressions and melodies. So, I did work with fantastic songwriters, including William Lucey on one of the tracks called My Heart Loves Trouble. He’s worked with some amazing global talent like Alicia Keys and REM, and he also teaches songwriting so he was a great collaborator. When it came to mastering the album I wanted a particular sound so I reached out to Anthony Catalano who plays in a band called Little Hurricane and he’s also recently worked with artists like Gwen Stefani and Neil Young as a recording engineer and I really like what he does, so I was really lucky to get him on board as the mastering engineer. Generally, as an artist I’m a great believer in collaborating and I’m really proud of the team that helped me put this together.
Music Authentic: 10 songs, a traditional album concept, even CD and vinyl versions are available. Does it mean you don’t believe in streaming music?
Fender Jones: No, digital isn’t dead, it’s the way that most people in the world consume music. I’m a great consumer of digital music but I’ve always noticed that with digital music it sort of becomes background music very quickly there’s no real intent to listen to it. And that’s the great thing about having a hard form of music such as a vinyl record or a CD. When you go to listen to one of those it has to be a really deliberate act and that means you listen to the music more intentionally. Also, when you listen to a vinyl record or a CD you have to listen to the order of the songs that the artist wants you to listen to them. I deliberately chose the order of songs in a particular way to make you feel a certain thing as you went through the album.
Music Authentic: You’ve been making music and performing with other bands for quite a few years now. Is there a special vibe now to go on with your own songs?
Fender Jones: It’s a little bit nerve wracking to finally go out on my own. There’s definitely a sense of safety working in a band because you know you just have to do your job as guitarist and somebody else has to be the lead singer. So, at this point it is a little bit nervous to be out on my own both in terms of being the focus of the music, and also being at the front of the band when it goes on tour. I guess from a funny point of view I can’t blame anybody else if the performance isn’t that great.
Music Authentic: In this era where everything seems to be about instant gratification and immediate satisfaction, how do you think people can make time to listen and immerse into meaningful music and stories, like yours?
Fender Jones: That’s a really good question because as I said earlier, on so much of digital consumption of music I think is either about it becoming background noise to your life or it not being an intentional act. And I think for some artists who put a lot of work into their lyrics and their storytelling this is a huge disservice to both the artist and the listener. I know for me my songs are stories that I feel really need to be told and the way I tell them is through a song. I can’t tell the listener how to consume or listen to my music but I would definitely recommend taking some time to listen to the story that’s being told and maybe you will be able to relate to it and see your own experience in it. But hey if you wanted as simply background music that’s fine with me too.
Music Authentic: Which guitars did you use from your collection? Was there a sound you wanted to include but couldn’t?
Fender Jones: I do have a good selection of guitars, not as many as I have had in the past as I’ve instituted a rule that if I haven’t played an instrument in 12 months that in fact it’s my responsibility to that instrument to make sure it is played and I’ll generally sell it or give it away. This means that I’ve probably got a lot less instruments now than I’ve had in the past and I think that’s a good thing overall. Strangely I did sell one of the guitars that I did use on the album. I had a fantastic Gretsch solid body guitar that I did use on a couple of tracks and I chose to sell it because I had the opportunity to buy a fantastic custom Jim Root Fender Jazzmaster that pretty much would replace the sounds that the Gretsch guitar made. That will be the guitar that you see me use on stage mostly going forward because it’s such a beautiful guitar. The other guitars that I’ll take on tour with me will be my trusty old Fender Stratocaster and the biggest decision I’m making at the moment about going on tour is which acoustic guitar to take with me. It’s always a challenge between wanting to take your most beautiful acoustic guitar versus the reality of touring and making sure you can take an acoustic guitar that can withstand life on the road and if it does get damaged you don’t get too tearful about it. So, if you do see me at a live gig take particular notice of which acoustic guitar I’m playing because a lot of thought would have gone into it.
Music Authentic: Where and how will you release and support “Reflection and Echo”? Will it be a solo act in smaller places or rather an opening act for another band on tour?
Fender Jones: The timing of the release of the album is July and that makes it a little difficult to get tours organized in support of it because to book the good venues you generally need to book those at least a year in advance and certainly by the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the year I really wasn’t sure when the album would be released so there isn’t time now to book any of the good venues. So what I am planning to do is to go back into the studio and write a new album for release early in 2024 and begin booking venues for a tour where you will hear both songs off Reflection and Echo, and also songs off the new album. So, keep an eye out for touring dates and venues for the northern hemisphere summer of 2024.
Music Authentic: Your songs are unique and although there are songs that sound similar to other artists, they definitely sound unique. In this copy-paste era, when acts are interchangeable in the mainstream, is it worth it to be a true original?
Fender Jones: I can’t speak for anybody else and their choices about how they express themselves creatively. It’s different for every artist. I know for me I would love to sound like somebody else but the truth is when I create my music the more important thing is that I tell my stories my way. If somebody came to me and said you tell great stories but would you record those in a very pop format or in a R&B format because it’ll be more profitable and you’ll get a wider audience I’d have to say no because that’s not who I am and how I would tell the story. I think whoever you are as a creative you have to be honest and authentic as an artist and if that means being original, then you be original, and if that means copying somebody else then that’s fine too.
Music Authentic: Now let’s go back way back, what (or who) was the reason, the motivation to become a musician?
Fender Jones: Oh, wow, that’s a question that goes way back in time. I think I’m just one of those people that was always inspired by musicians to be honest. I know growing up as a child the people that I really wanted to learn more about were musicians. Of course my parents had lots of vinyl records so I would listen to those and figure out which ones I liked, I would also watch TV in the area of music videos and make compilation videos of the artists that I like. I don’t know if there’s any one or two artists that really stuck out that inspired me because I was really drawn to diversity in sound, but the common element was that they were all storytellers. So for me it didn’t matter if you were a storyteller in folk, pop, hard rock, wrap, R&B or any other genre, if you told a story in song and music then I was listening to you and wanting to be like you one day. And I figured out the reason I like listening to storytellers and music is the song makes you feel something. And that’s who I try to be as musician. I try and write songs that will make you feel something. It might be happy, sad, angry, reflective come out or even energized, but for me that is what music should be.
Music Authentic: The life on the road can be lonely and challenging and green rooms easily look the same after the while. How can you keep yourself focused and fresh on the road?
Fender Jones: I think life on the road for me now will be different from life on the road in the past. One of my songs on the album is called Lost On The Road and it’s kind of inspired by times on the road before where everything sort of blurred into one big long road trip and the bands I played in were no different from the stereotype that you hear about of getting on the road and playing great gigs and perhaps drinking a little bit too much and regretting it the next day. Things are different now as I’ve got a young family and when I do go on tour next it will be with the family so life on the road will be a little bit different. I’m looking forward to it and curious about what it will be like being on the road with a young family and I’m hoping that the level of accommodation will be a lot better.
Music Authentic: I personally like listening to The Word66 from Las Vegas or Sami Chohfi from Seattle these days – aside from the older classics. What about you? Do you have any contemporary favorite acts?
Fender Jones: I still listen to a lot of music and I’m always searching out new sounds. I don’t agree with people who say that there’s nothing new in the world of music as there are always new ways of expressing and a new way of telling stories or just a new way of making people feel something. I guess my guilty pleasure at the moment is actually listening to Maneskin a lot. I’m really impressed with where they are as a band in that hard rock genre but I’m also really impressed that you can see their story from when they were performing on the streets through to winning Eurovision and now becoming a globally respected act. In terms of other contemporary artists I am drawn to some newer Americana artists like Tyler Childers and Morgan Wade as they’re both excellent storytellers.
Music Authentic: And what’s next? Will you write another album?
Fender Jones: Yeah definitely. As I mentioned earlier my plan is to get back into the studio and record another album for release in early 2024. I’ve started the songwriting process for this and I expect that those next batch of songs will be ready to head into the studio later in 2023.
Music Authentic: Thank you for taking the time and wishing you the best fans and listeners!
Fender Jones: Thanks for taking the time to interview me I enjoyed talking about my music and if anybody wants to contact me and talk about any aspect of my music they should feel free.
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