When chatting with our friends at Huckberry, they put us on to The Bones of J.R. Jones. Our team gave him one listen and instantly became fans. And ain’t that the love of music? Riding in your friend’s beat up Bronco in the dead of night, and hearing your new favorite track while hugging curbs. Or, hunkered down in The Continental Club of ATX, and being mesmerized to a point, you forget the cold Shiner Bock in your hand. Music is the greatest gift, and the recommendations from close friends shouldn’t go unnoticed. Hell, a new favorite musician will quickly become your oldest go-to artist as years pass by—thus becoming the anthem of your life adventures.
We’ve got no doubt you’ll dig The Bones of J.R. Jones as much as we do, so after reading about the man with a BB lodged in his back for the last 20-years, pay it forward, and share his sound.
CYTIES: Let’s dive in, we know you spend time in Manhattan, but for a break, you head up to the Catskills. What’s your day-to-day life like up there?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: I grew up in central New York and then I moved down to the city many, many years ago and have probably spent about 12 years down here before climbing back up north. Spending that much time in the city, I just got really burned out. My wife and I moved back to the Catskills a few years ago. It’s just a wonderful place to disappear. As a small community, living up there it takes so much focus, and you’re just in your own little bubble to a degree, but it’s quite, there are no distractions. Internet and cell phone service are really spotty. We are renovating our house up there slowly and primarily doing it all by ourselves. It feels very good to step away from music, emails, and Instagram and all the administrative stuff that feels necessary to be creative in this day and age to actually focus on something with your hands, and be creative in that way. That’s kind of my day-to-day up there. It’s really not thinking about music and the work aspect, but focusing on what is in front of me.
I actually got to focus on the art as opposed to the bottom line.
CYTIES: Like a form of meditation?
The Bones of J.R Jones: For sure. It’s good and bad because I can definitely disappear for like a solid 14 days and I will get a phone call from my manager, “where have you been? We have work to do.” But, it’s pretty great, I just love it up there.
CYTIES: What inspired the moniker The Bones of J.R Jones? We love it.
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Thank you, I appreciate it. John Robert is my name, so JR is the one section that represents me, but The Bones of J.R Jones is created because I wanted to develop a spectrum. It gives me the flexibility to make music that I want to develop and not feel personally tied to it. It has a darker tinge to it, and a little bit moodier, and that’s what I relish about it. It’s a sense of wanting anonymity and not being too tied to the music I create.
CYTIES: You’re a solo act who is to say at the very least, staying busy on stage. Sometimes playing two or three instruments while singing. Do you see yourself always as a solo act, or is a band in store for the future?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: The short answer is no. I don’t know where it’s going to go. I feel like when this last album came out I did a handful of shows with a full band, it was the first time I got a chance to do that and I really, really enjoyed it. It’s something I hadn’t experienced since I was playing punk rock in high school, to sit down, play with a bunch of guys, and kind of let loose. As I grow, I will definitely try to bring more people on the road, maybe it will be a rotating cast.
CYTIES: Being a solo act you have your hands full while performing. If there was another instrument you could add to the mix, what would it be?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Well, I play piano as well so if I could do that on stage I definitely would. If it’s the instrument that I don’t know how to play, I would definitely say the violin. It breaks my heart that I don’t know how to play it. I think it’s the saddest most heartbreaking instrument that can be played. Just the tones and the mood that comes out of it I feel are unparalleled.
CYTIES: Agreed. Okay…. we’ve heard you have a BB lodged in you from a BB gun. Care to share that story?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: The short version of it is that my best friend shot me in the back with a BB gun.
CYTIES: Over a girl?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: No, I wish it were some like great story like that. Basically what happened was we were in sixth grade. We had a science class together and had to come up with our own science experiment. Somehow the teacher of the class approved of us shooting BB guns. Our science experiment was mainly to see whose BB gun was most accurate through a control. People would never approve of that in this day and age. Basically, what happened is the experiment went awry, I pissed my friend off, and he shot me in the back.
The other side of that story is 20-years later, I had no idea the BB was in me. I thought it fell out. I went to get an X-ray because I had bronchitis, and the doctor comes in and says, “Hey, have you ever been shot with anything?” He brought in the X-ray and it was plain as day to see the BB was well in my back.
CYTIES: Any trouble getting through airport metal dictators?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Yes, always, but not because of that.
CYTIES: So, your latest album Ones to Keep Close has an electric vibe, and has skyrocketed you into a rock and roll classification while still keeping your blues and Americana sound. You’ve now bridged different avenues of the spectrum of music together. What was the process like working on this album, and how did it differ from your previous?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: This album was definitely a combination of all of my other records and my experiences working on the other albums. Rob the producer and I sat down before we started working on it and we had a really good talk about what the process should be because up to that point, all of my albums were recorded very quickly. Being an independent artist, there is not much capital to work with when you are in the studio. So, you are in the studio for three days, it’s going to cost this much and whatever is recorded by the end of those three days—somehow that will be the album. You don’t always know what is going to happen. On this one, Rob was gracious enough to let me use the studio as I wanted, and that way he charged me for hours spent. It gave me the flexibility to sit down and actually work on a song and the tones and the production of the tracks that were recorded. It’s just much more thoughtful in that respect, I actually got to focus on the art as opposed to the bottom line. It was very unique in that sense, and I hope I get to do it again because I enjoyed it immensely.
CYTIES: Your popularity is growing. Have you had a single “wow” like moment that gave you a cool sense of reassurance?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Yes, I guess so. I’ve been doing it for a while, but I’m sure you guys know running your own business you just feel like it’s a full-time job. You are always working and so when those moments appear, it’s very gratifying. I just got back from touring Europe. I was over there for three weeks in October, it was my second real tour there. It was amazing to see the growth. I had 20 shows and half of them were sold out, they weren’t the biggest shows in the world, but just to have that 50% max capacity over there felt good. It felt like the right move; we are making the right steps. That’s always encouraging.
CYTIES: Is there one venue in Europe that you recall really giving you that feeling?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Yes. I played at a place called The Water Rats in London, this was the third sold-out show on the tour at that time. It sold-out a few months in advance which has never happened before, and I got there and it was the first time I played a show where I think everybody knew the words to every one of my songs. It’s a surreal experience to be up there and step away from the microphone and let people finish a song for you—I had never experienced that before in my life.
CYTIES: When kicking back at the Catskills, or traveling on tour, which artist are currently circulating through your playlists?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: I’m a pretty strong creature of habit. I’m always eager to listen to new music and when I find something that clicks for me, I become a devout listener to that person. A. A. Bondy is one, I listen to him all the time. And all the great old school guys, Sam Cook is always on my playlist, and I can range all the way from John Prine or Tom Waits. The artist that I found most recently that was new to me is this Norwegian singer-songwriter named Daniel Ingrid. He’s one of those guys who has been at it for years. I actually was turned on to him when I was in Europe, and I highly recommend checking him out because he is one of those guys that every album—I think he’s had like six to seven—is him just experimenting with different kinds of moods and tones, it’s just tremendous. Definitely check him out.
It’s a surreal experience to be up there and step away from the microphone and let people finish a song for you—I had never experienced that before in my life.
CYTIES: In most of the videos and photos we’ve seen you in, you rock our favorite three colors: black, white, and grey, which are classic style rules that we hold ourselves accountable to. Is there any specific style guidelines that you personally hold sacred?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Maybe not sacred, but I think you can’t go wrong with those classic colors. Nothing too over the top. As far as rules, I have a tough time wearing shorts. I can’t wear shorts. I don’t know what it is, maybe because I was born in the North East or whatever but definitely jeans year around if I can. Nothing with brand logos, classic Americana. Things like Bruce Springsteen circa 1977 —something like that.
CYTIES: Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: Well I just mentioned him, Bruce Springsteen, for sure. The first album I ever owned, and I think it was cassette tape for Born in the USA. I played it till it couldn’t play anymore. Beyond that, as I grew up, I really love U2, and then I kind of fell into Tom Waits, and once you discover Tom Waits it kind of opens the door to all these indie folk blues singers. He was definitely my stepping stone into older more folky people like Nick Drake. So, I think my musical taste and the way I write songs is attributed to Tom Waits for sure.
CYTIES: If you could collaborate on a song with any musician past or present, who would it be?
The Bones of J.R. Jones: I think I would collaborate with somebody like Howlin’ Wolf or even somebody way out beyond my paygrade like Dizzy Gillespie, I’m not traditionally trained. I know very little theory, just self-taught, so I would like to see what could be created while working with somebody like Dizzy or Roy Eldridge, someone who is just a savant of theory and structure.
CYTIES: Last question, what is next for the Bones of J.R Jones?
The Bones of J.R Jones: In the immediate future I’m looking forward to actually just doing some songwriting. I’ve been writing a lot of songs and basically framing out the next album. Between hopefully doing that down here [Manhattan] and working on it upstate a little bit, that’s my winter. That’s like the next two months of my life, and that’s probably when I’m happiest I think. This spring, touring is already booked through next fall. After February comes I will be on the road again for the remainder of the year.
Catch The Bones of J.R. Jones on his current tour circuit:
4/11 – Richmond, 4/13 – Nashville, 4/17 – Athens, 4/19 – Charlotte, 4/20 – ATL, 4/23 – Memphis, 4/24 – NOLA, 4/25 – H-Town, 4/26 – ATX, 4/27 – Dallas, & more to come.