“As an only child, for me, imagination was everything. Standing apart, just listening, taking everything in. Making my world.”
The voice comes from London’s Aldgate, near the dusty edges of the city. It comes from a young woman with who has a quiet, noble presence, but an undeniable strength , a strength that pours out of her melancholic but optimistic songs. A young woman who grew up in London with her mum, the sounds of soul, reggae and pop her mother played giving her days and nights rhythm. Those styles and sounds became the building blocks of who JONES would become, and for the music she gives us now.
JONES is now a tall, striking woman in her mid-20s, with an undeniable warmth behind her sharp style. As soon as she got pocket money in childhood, she saved to buy books and CDs to teach herself how to sing: you can still hear that shy teenager finding strength in putting words to her emotions now, feeding her experiences into melodies, delivering them with a new life and confidence. Through her teens, he taught herself to play keyboard, then started going to small competitions around East London, and doing open-mic nights. “I’d be there, just being terrified, but I always knew that I never wanted to let fear stop me. I had to do it, like a mission”.
After years of experimenting and practising, she found her sound: a starkly modern, electronic soul music with a pop direction. Her songs are all crafted to hit the heart, “to talk about love and life in an original way, as if no one else has ever spoken about it before”. Her love of Stevie Wonder’s longevity and creativity has taught her that since childhood; the work of Pharrell Williams has taught her how bold and otherworldly you can be with production and melodies when you’re writing new pop. The darkness and drama of Lykke Li, and the weirdness and liveliness of Little Dragon, have also taught JONES that you approach the oldest things in pop in a striking new way.
New Skin has come together thanks to JONES’ work with some incredible studio talents: Lana Del Rey collaborator Justin Parker, Savages producer and xx mixer Rodaidh McDonald, Sam Smith cowriter Tourist, and the enigmatic AK Paul. Working with these disparate talents got JONES exploring new ground, but also hardened her vision of what her songs should really be: moments to lift people out of their lives, however difficult. “ What I want to put across is that it’s OK to be where you are, wherever you are, to learn from this. We all need the sad songs sometimes, but it’s good to have optimism too, to free your mind of things that make you unhappy.” In her life, she’s always been an agony aunt sort of friend, a shoulder to cry on: she has needed that herself sometimes too, but she’s gained power from learning how to deal with that. Music deals with that. “I love it when music does that. I want to do that too.”
JONES’ songs ring out like bright bells. There’s Wild, a song about persistence and never giving up: to remember that even when you feel caged in by life, you’ve got wildness inside. Tomorrow Is New is about watching someone in trouble, pulling them through, and the epic Waterloo, about a moment when you know you have to leave someone behind, because you don’t feel the same way that they feel for you.
This song also takes us back to London, and to a young woman who made her life begin, on her own, on the edges of the city, who carved out a world for herself from the very beginning. She makes music for now – her rhythms, sounds and beats unmistakably of the 21st century – but her hopes and sentiments are ageless, like the best music can be.
Noble, strong, observant, standing apart: that’s JONES. Just listen, like she did. Then glory as you take her world in.
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