The Bones of J.R. Jones Put It All Together And Records An Album That’s Got “Ones To Keep Close” BC INTERVIEW: The Bones of J.R. Jones
LOS ANGELES, CA- I receive dozens of emails every day from music publicists and record labels asking me to check out their artist’s new music. I won’t lie … I don’t always click the links they send me, but when I do I give the track a couple of spins and really give it some attention. When I heard The Bones of J.R. Jones’ single “Know My Name”, I didn’t have to listen to it a couple of times to know that I’d have to earmark the artist for future listens. With it’s bluesy and gruff a cappella intro, I was hooked at the get go.
The Bones of J.R. Jones is the musical project of Jonathan Linaberry and “Know My Name” comes from his latest album “Ones to Keep Close” which was released on May 11th, 2018. It’s an album that plays with, and fuses, various facets of Americana, from blues to folk to a little flavor of country. Its emotional timbre covers the spectrum as well, digging in with rabble rousing blues rockers like “I See You” to pondering life in the reflective “Sinner Song”.
Blurred Culture caught up with Jonathan during his tour of the west coast in Redondo Beach. We were hoping to spend some time with him in the local arcade for a cool photo op, but finding that it was closed during the “off season” we walked around the pier and the beach talking about his latest album and what it took to put it all together.
Blurred Culture: “Ones to Keep Close.”
Jonathan Linaberry: Yes, sir.
BC: Now, is there any particular meaning to that title? There’s no track on the album that’s called “Ones to Keep Close”.
JL: Yeah, there’s not a self-titled track on it. To me, I feel the title comes from two points. One of it is my insecurities about growing as an artist. I felt like I tried a lot of new things on this one. And so … I think “Ones to Keep Close” really just reflects that moment of writing a song and knowing where they are going to end up and how I felt about releasing them, if that makes sense… How insecure I felt about releasing them.
BC: So, I guess, at the end of the day, the songs you chose for the album were like “THE ONES you want to keep close.”
JL:Yes, yeah yeah!
BC: Sounds like your whole writing process is very personal.
BC If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the whole process like? Is it something where you go re-live a moment in your life? ‘Cause it feels like, at least from when I was trying to get caught up on your music, it felt more like you were storytelling, like kind of creating stories….
JL: Well they are definitely autobiographical for sure, but I’m not re-living a certain situation. I’ll take certain aspects of my experience and that will then form the song that I write. But really, there isn’t a process. It’s really boring. I really try to be as boring as possible and limit any sort of distractions and just sit quietly and will continuously play a song over and over and over and over again until something sticks and a melody comes.
BC: So is it the lyrics first or is it melody?
JL: Oh, it’s always the melody. Always the melody. For sure.
BC: Do you have any good stories about any particular song or some sound that inspired you into a melody?
JL: You know, there’s always very autobiographical songs … that always seem to be the sadder songs, I guess. I don’t know if those are really good stories. One story, a happier one, would be that I got married about 2 1/2 years ago. And about a month before we were to get married, my wife and I were having a tough time – just the stresses of life and all this other stuff. Not that I was ever doubting anything, but it was really just a tough time. And I ended up writing a song called “Wedding Song” [in] that moment, and it made the album previous to this “Spirit’s Furnace”, and that for me is like, I don’t know, it was a very reflective way and definitely brought my wife closer together having that out there.
BC: Is there any song on the current album that’s helped you in your own personal life like that?
JL: I guess “Sinner Song” comes from that particular element.
BC: That sounds like the opposite of “Wedding song”!
JL: Yeah yeah, “Sinner Song”, I’m getting really creative with my song titles. That was definitely reflective of some family situations and things I had about growing up, or experiences I had growing up in the household I had.
BC: Is it fair for me to say that maybe you use music as a coping mechanism? Is it something that actually helps you as your own therapy?
JL: For sure! I think it’s definitely a release of some sort. Especially the live show and stuff like that, it’s something I exercise my demons or whatever you want, on stage.
BC: So you mentioned earlier that you had friends like Nicole Adkins come in to help record some music. Were there other people who were… no pun intended … instrumental in putting the album together?
JL: Oh yeah, huge, huge! I was very fortunate with this album. It’s definitely my most ambitious album in that sense, in terms of bringing people in, and finding great personnel and the sound engineer was a brilliant guy named Jens Jungkurth, who works out of a little studio in Long Island called the Diamond Mine, and has [worked] with the Daptones and stuff like that, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, and guys like that. And the producer Rob [Neiderpruem] and I, we spent a long time talking about the sounds that we wanted to create on this. So he had a big hand in the sounds we created.
BC: From what I can recall, [the album] sounds a lot cleaner. It’s sharper than the last album.
JL: For sure, for sure. It’s more of a studio release. The mixer we hired to do it, a guy named Bill Skibbe, we were really lucky to get on board, did a great job! He’s based out of Detroit but works a lot with Third Man Records and does a lot of Dead Weather stuff and The Kills. So there were definitely a lot of personnel on the record that I was just geeking out over to begin with.
BC: Totally fits the blues-rock vibe.
JL: Yeah, sitting in the room talking to them I would have just been excited to do that, and now you have to work on my record so that’s amazing.
BC: Was there a moment during the recording process where you just knew it all came together or was it kind of step-by-step that just kept getting…
JL: No, still don’t feel that way.
BC: Wait, are you saying you’re not happy with the album?
JL: No, I’m saying I’m happy with the album. But I think being satisfied with something on an artistic level … I don’t know if I’d actually want to achieve that, you know what I mean? I’m really happy with what we’ve created and the songs are strong.
BC: Still more music to be written and tracks to be recorded…
JL: Of course, yeah!
BC: So besides “Sinner Song”, is there a song which is maybe representative as a whole? Is it “Sinner Song” or is it…?
JL: No, that’s a tough question because I really touch a lot of different genres. I pay homage to a lot of different genres with [the album]. I think that, in my mind, and I’m sure my manager has a different song than I do, but I would say actually the last song that we recorded, for me, really rounds the album out, and that song is “Know My Name”. That was the last track I recorded before we decided okay, this is it. That for me touches on all my inspirations, I feel like that one does. So that for me is, I hope, if i had to boil the album down to one song that really resonates, it’s that one.
BC: If somebody was unfamiliar with your music and listening to it for the first time, what is the thing you hope that they would take way from your album?
JL: I don’t know. You know, I really feel like music is a very personal thing, and a personal experience, so I don’t really think too much about what people are taking away from it. Because I think everyone has their own baggage, everyone has their own personal history, and that album is going to reflect that, however they hear the song, it will reflect their history onto them. I think the most that I can hope for, is that it resonates with them and the energy and the passion and the rawness, that grit that I hope is in those songs, kind of grabs them.
BC: I like it.