High Temperature Conversation With JW Jones
BD: I was delighted when I was sent your latest album High Temperature out Friday 20th October 2017 the follow-up to Belmont Boulevard to review. But first – let’s go back to the early days
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Ottawa, Ontario?
JWJ: JWJ: I started out playing drums at 13 years old. I was into classic rock: Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix etc. As I explored their influences, I discovered blues greats like BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Muddy Waters. Then, when I was 15 I saw BB King live in Ottawa. I went to the show as a drummer and left wanting to pick up a guitar.
Growing up in Ottawa, there were a couple of great blues clubs. The Rainbow Bistro is still open, and when I’m in town I play there. Another club, Tucson’s, is closed. I saw tons of great blues bands there when I was younger and became friends with so many of my musical heroes. Most touring blues bands don’t come through Ottawa anymore, other than to perform at the Blues Festival.
When the festival started, it was truly a blues festival. Now it’s more of a general music festival with everyone from Kiss to Lady Gaga. But they still bring in great blues artists like Buddy Guy, Dr John, Luther Allison, The Fabulous Thunderbirds etc.
BD: High Temperature is certainly getting noticed for all the right reasons. Awards seem to follow your releases including for High Temperature produced by Nashville-based Colin Linden, which recently won “Best Self-Released CD” at the 2017 ‘International Blues Challenge’ (via Blues Foundation in Memphis).
JWJ: It was a huge surprise to be nominated since I had not heard of the category. I thought the International Blues Challenge(IBC) was about performances. I have been a judge at the IBC, which was a great experience. The Ottawa Blues Society approached me saying they wanted to submit High Temperature. Out of 93 entries, I heard I was in the top 5 or 6, which was exciting enough. When they announced that it had won, it was a nice surprise.
BD: Tell us about the making of the album number NINE. BD: The album is full of blues, with the genre being mixed in with other influences including Country, was this due to Nashville-based Colin Linden’s influence?
JWJ: Colin Linden is well-versed in roots music. He was mentored by Howlin’ Wolf, so he has a long history with the blues. He also works on the TV show “Nashville” as the musical director, so he brought a combination of influences to the album.
One song that comes to mind is “Where Do You Think I Was”, which I wrote in drop “D” tuning on guitar at home. I had no idea which way it would go in the studio. When I went in there, the studio musicians played their parts, then vocal harmonies were added. All of a sudden, it sounded like it had a bit of a country tinge to it.
My last two albums were recorded in Nashville with producers. This one with Colin Linden, and my previous album, Belmont Boulevard, with Tom Hambridge. Both producers assumed that the albums would be made using studio musicians. I had to fight to get my own band on a few songs. I believe it is important to have my own touring band on the album because they bring a different approach to the songs. They know blues music well since it is what we play every day on the road.
BD: Does the Title of the album High Temperature have any particular significance?
JWJ: “High Temperature” is a song by Little Walter, which we recorded for the album. I thought it would be a good title for the record because it ties into our live show, which is high energy.
BD: The album is inspirational with the track Who I Am being deeply personal as you share life experiences. Do you find it easy to open up using the power of your lyrics, vocals and guitar?
JWJ: That changed on the last record. Before that, I had not written anything really personal. For Belmont Boulevard, I mentioned to Tom Hambridge that I wanted to write a song about my childhood. He said to do it. Once I did this and got a positive reaction, I felt liberated. So on High Temperature I dug deeper with the song “Who I Am”. It is so moving to get emails from people saying they went through similar experiences. It is a beautiful thing to have your songs appreciated and understood.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. How do you set about writing your music is it words first or sometimes a guitar lick or riff that inspires you?
JWJ: Songs are all individual. Some come all together at once, but that is rare. My brain works in two ways. One side gives me the chord changes, riffs that develop the melody and the other side the words that become the lyric. I then play match-up with the tune to the lyrics to the melodies. It takes a lot of trial and error just have to keep going until it clicks.
BD: Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?
JWJ: Every song is different. Some come together all at once, but that is rare. In my brain, there are two sides to writing a song. One side is the chord changes and riffs. The other side is the words and lyrics. I then have to match the chords with the lyrics and melody. Sometimes I try a few different ideas with the same lyrics. It takes a lot of trial and error, so I just keep at it until it clicks.
BD: Having toured the U.K. for the first time in 2016, long overdue having heard you and the band play in Swansea. You are back in the U.K. in November. With 17 dates will you be touring with the same band?
JWJ: The band is Laura Greenberg on bass, who was on the first U.K. tour and has been in the band for over five years, and we’ve got a great new drummer, Will Laurin. The UK tour last year was my favourite tour to date. I was nervous about stepping into the unknown, but the response was incredible with people travelling miles to see us on multiple shows. We really started to develop a fan base.
Now we are coming back to new towns and venues. We are taking a risk by renting venues, when we normally get paid to play, so we have to sell tickets in advance. On the positive side, there is a huge potential for growth. I would love to make this a regular tour, so we need to get everybody talking about us on social media and building a buzz for the tour. I loved the British experience and I am looking forward to going back.
BD: With new album and touring do you have any exciting plans for 2018 and beyond?
JWJ: My goal is to keep playing festivals, clubs, and theatres. I am also planning a live record for 2018. The last nine albums have been studio recordings, so it will be a first. People have been asking about a live record for years, so I think it’s about time.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing
Drums: Richard Innes
Bass: Larry Taylor / James Jamerson
Guitar: Jimmie Vaughan
Harmonica: Little Walter
Organ: Jimmy Smith
Piano: Chuck Leavell
Vocals: Aretha Franklin / BB King
Find out more about JW Jones at – www.jw-jones.com
Read Bluesdoodles Reviews for JW Jones:-
High Temperature – Review HERE
Beaumont Boulevard – Review HERE
JW Jones Live in the U.K. HERE
JW Jones 2017 UK Tour Information HERE