A planned three-year break from music turned into 13 for Ian Jones, and as a result, he has about five albums’ worth of songs ready to record.
“I never stopped writing,” the singer-songwriter-guitarist and longtime general contractor says. “I kept putting stuff away thinking, ‘I’ll get back to it one of these days.’ ”
The Seattle-based artist’s self-described “big, grand re-debut” was 2019’s Results Not Typical, and when the pandemic derailed plans for another full-length, Jones and producer Jesse Siebenberg pivoted and turned a handful of demos into a collection called The Evergreens.
The title suits the EP, released Oct. 22. There’s a timeless aspect to the material, and throughout Evergreens, Jones — who spent many years living in Southern California — taps into Laurel Canyon-esque vibes reminiscent of Jackson Browne and The Byrds.
The backstories to the EP’s six songs are as good as the tunes themselves.
1. “Evergreens” — It seems the location and your guitar tuning were equally important to this song’s creation. Talk about how both played a part.
Ian Jones: “I was in a fishing boat in Washington with my buddy. We were sitting there one morning, and then he said, ‘It’s 9 a.m.’ And then a couple of minutes later, I said, ‘It sure don’t feel like August.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Boy, if that’s not the first line of a song, I’ve never heard one.’
“[Afterward] I was in my garage [in Santa Barbara, California], messing around with open D tuning, and I figured out a little riff. Then I sang that line, and the rest of the song literally wrote itself in 15 minutes.”
2. “Born Again Sinner” — I understand the title came from a friend on social media. How much of the lyrical theme came from her?
Jones: “None. Sometimes you disguise things in songs so there might be a line or a phrase that’s very personal, but then you surround stuff around it so you can sing it and nobody knows what you’re talking about.
“It was one of those nights where I probably drank a bottle of wine, and I was in my studio. The song started out totally upbeat with a backbeat, almost like ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ by Tom Petty. When I went to do the demo with Jesse, I was playing it on acoustic [as a placeholder]. I did the vocals, and when Jesse sent the demo back to me, he went halftime with it. … I listened to it, and the guys in my band were like, ‘Sorry, dude, this is way better than the way we’ve been doing it.’ ”
3. “Liars, Criminals, Beggars and Thieves” — Halfway through 2019, you felt the need to finish this song. But when did you start it, and did any person or any issue in particular inspire this?
Jones: “I started it around 2000 — it was just the politicians and all their [nonsense]. … What happens when you get someone who’s not a politician and put him in charge? Well, we just saw what happened (laughs). … It’s not really about any one person or any one party. If you listen closely to the verses, you’ll be able to tie those verses to events that have happened in the past 20 years.”
4. “Hallelujah” — Prior to this song, had you ever written a song on Christmas Eve?
Jones: “If I sit down to write a song, I’m a complete, miserable failure. I can’t do it. … I was in my kitchen on Christmas Eve, I’d had a glass of wine or two, feeling happy that my family was there, and then all of a sudden, I started thinking about all the people I knew who were less fortunate. … No matter what happens, we’re programmed to survive. We wake up the next day and we go on, and that’s kind of what ‘Hallelujah’ is about.”
5. “Promised Land” — The lyrics mention various moments and places, but is the “promised land” the protagonist sings about more of a state of mind than an actual destination on a map?
Jones: “You tell me (laughs). … It could mean a lot of things. I don’t think it’s necessarily a place on a map as much as it is a destination in your mind. [The song is] very autobiographical; all those places and everything in that song are true.”
6. “Last Call” — There are plenty of “on the road” songs from a musician’s perspective, and this is more of a “gotta hit the road” song. Was this one autobiographical, too?
“No, no, no. … It’s a parody [of a musician’s life on the road]. Every verse is like a different town and a different girl.”
“I was in bed reading Steinbeck, drinking a glass of wine. And this tune pops into my head. And I’m comfortable, I’m warm, and I’m into this book. … [Instead of getting up and going into my studio] I picked up my phone, turned on the voice recorder, and I hummed the tune. Into my recorder, I sang about half of the words that are in the song. … A couple of days later, the song just finished itself.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Photo by Justin Dylan Renney