Joan Jones – Interview

Joan Jones

How are you?

Fine. Just waking up. I’m drinking coffee as we speak. (laughs)

So are you still touring with Seal?

Well, we just had a week off and we start up tomorrow. And then we do like five or six shows in the mid-west.

How has the tour been?

It’s been good, long and interesting. Got married in Vegas the first show of the tour about two months ago.


Uh-huh. And I got divorced a week later in Reno. There are lots of good things about the tour. It’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Was it a spur of the moment wedding?

Yeah. The tour started at the House of Blues in Vegas and it was two nights in a row there, and it is a relatively intimate crowd and the shows were early. So I was just messing around in the casino, gambling the first night, and things got out of hand and I was a lucky girl at the crap tables, craps tables. (laughs) Then one thing led to another and to another, and it happened that I said, ‘If you come to my show tomorrow night, we should get married.’ And he did after he won a lot of money, and then we got married and I couldn’t stand him. (we both laugh) Then, a week later I was like, ‘It isn’t working out. You gotta go. See ya.’ And that was in Reno.

Well, I guess that leads me into my question of whether touring or recording is more emotionally draining?

They are both overrated and they are both over emotional.

Which is more taxing on your energy, recording or touring?

They are both so different because they both use a different part of your brain. Recording, you have to be able to let yourself wander and not control it and let it come out. Often, trying to find that when it is coming out in an environment that has to be so inspiring that it can come out, whereas when you are touring you are out there. You are putting it out there, and you are inspired by an audience or just inspired by doing the songs live. They go hand in hand, but they are on totally different ends of the spectrum.

Is it tough to go out there every night and give it your all?

That is okay. I would say the hardest part of touring is being in a different place each day and the actual journey of getting there. The actual performing is great; it is the other stuff that is hard.

How did the making of this album compare to those of your past with Sun 60?

This one was great because I was working in a studio that we weren’t watching the clock and no one was watching the clock. It was the producer’s studio, and studios are usually pretty expensive, but that wasn’t an issue. It was an environment that was super creative and everyone who was there wanted to be there. When you have that kind of effort going on, then anything can happen and things usually do. It was better than other experiences.

Did you go in with a lot of songs or did you write while you were in the studio?

Both. We didn’t just go in all at once and do the record. We actually took our time over a year. We’d work like two weeks and then everyone would go and work. They’d go and make a living for three weeks and then come back, and that was a good way to do it as well, but it is difficult to keep your focus. It was good for me.

Were there songs you had to leave off? And how do you choose?

Well, yes, there were songs I left off. I really wanted to make a record that as a body of work you could put on the whole record, and it was an entire body of work and not just one song. I really wanted to make a cohesive record. So I chose the direction of a more moody direction.

Do you fear that even though you have a really good record it may slip right past the public?

Yeah. But you know what? I always seem to slip past the public. (laughs half-heartedly) So I never seem to fit in or be there at the right time anyway. I definitely feel the pressure from the record company, I think they are nervous, but I’m not that kind of artist. This business is all about luck. It is a lot of hard work, we all know that, but I think in general there is so much luck involved that I’d drive myself crazy. Like at the end of the day, for me, I love this record and I’m really proud of it and fuck anybody who won’t give it a chance, because I doubt that anyone could have the discipline to put something like this together and be proud of it. I can sleep at night.

Did you have to reprove yourself to the record label to get this album out?

Always. Constantly. I have to go prove myself today. I have a big meeting.

On the album I found “U Were There” to be pretty emotional. What songs are really emotional for you?

“U Were There” is. That is one of my favorite vocal performances on the record. “Change (Won’t Be Good)” is really emotional for me. Those two songs in particular, and “Cashin’ In” for me has that same kind of feeling.

“Get A Life” has this up-tempo feel but is it really such a happy little song?

It is probably my angry bitter moment. It is pretty sarcastic. I was very frustrated when I wrote it and I was like, ‘I do have a life.’ But you get sucked into the things that don’t really matter in life. I think, in general, the way I live my life and the people in my life mean something to me. Sometimes that gets a little diluted and I have to do things that I don’t want to do. I don’t say that they are fake or anything, but they are harder for me to go around and do the things I need to do in this business, like meeting people, show up for things, and I’m like, ‘Why do I have to be here? And why can’t I just make music?’ That song in particular is about just keeping your life, have one intentionally and do all the stupid bullshit you have to do, but don’t let anyone take away your joy.

I think listening to “Wide Eyed Devil” everyone will make their own conclusion to what a wide-eyed devil is, but do you have a definition of your wide-eyed devil?

Everyone should make their own judgement. When I wrote that I was in a very committed long-term relationship and I am a really creative person and that was my way of imagining how crazy I could be because I was in such a great focused place. So I think that my songs mean one thing to me, and I hope that they can transcend and be universal and everyone can have their own moment with them. As far as my wide-eyed devil is being able to be confident enough that you can survive no matter what the fuck happens and you can walk the talk. Just get out there and say ‘Fuck it. Here I am.’ It is not so much sexual as it is sensual and about just living.

“Everyday Down” is my favorite song on the album and I read that you said it set the tone for the album. How so?

I believe it sets the tone for the album because that song, in particular, when I wrote it towards the end at the same time I wrote “Get A Life”, a couple other songs that didn’t make the record, and “Starlite Criminal”, and those songs represent that all the songs come together at that point. There is a central theme about being true to your nature, being passionate, not making excuses for your passion. And “Everyday Down” for me celebrates that internal feeling of life is about celebration, it’s up and down and it is a continual journey. And it is the journey that makes someone who they are. That is also about songs that make you go, ‘That song. I remember that? That song got me through this,’ or ‘That was the greatest time of my life.’ So “Everyday Down” for me culminates that feeling for me. I feel like my record is a journey and that my life, I wouldn’t say I have a career per se since I don’t make any money doing what I do, but I have a great journey. I think I will be smiling when I take that to my grave. Like touring, I’ve done all the crazy shit that you read about. It is cool to say, ‘Fuck you. I’ve done it.’ And I put that back into my music, maybe not literally, but it does creep back in there.

Is the song “Party” anything like we might find if we were invited to one of your parties?

Right now I’m not feeling very naked. Right now I’m wearing a lot of clothes, even in the hot summer, but at that time when the song was written that was very true. That was a really wild time. Stuff would just happen and everyone would just disrobe. There was this point where at someone’s barbecue or someone’s party everyone would get naked. It’d be like, ‘Hello? What is going on here?’ (laughs)

Do you feel like the song could end up being an anthem?

It should be.

I was just curious because it seems like the label should be pushing it like that. What are they doing?

The record label right now quite honestly is full of shit. They are saying radio is saying they won’t play my record. I think it is important for people to know this kind of stuff and I have to live with it everyday. I’m faced with these kinds of things, as is every artist, that if you don’t get on the radio then you have to figure out how you are going to survive and keep making records and do what you do. To hear them say, the single right now is “Everyday Down”, ‘Well, it is too slow and there are already enough women on the radio.’ What the fuck is that?

I don’t know.

Think about it. Radio people, the people at our label that have to promote to radio are salesmen and they should be able to sell anything. The record company likes the record, but, for whatever reason, radio doesn’t and I can’t worry about that. I guess my record will just have to stand on its own. Actually, the other day, you know cigarettes are not allowed to advertise anymore but if you look at the street promotions they are still out and about. Like if you are in a club, someone will approach you in the club and they give you three packs of cigarettes and sign you up, so it is very street level oriented. I am going to go the way of the street. I’m going with the power of the people. There is going to be a revolution of Joan Jones.

I’m glad I’m not in radio because I don’t get it.

I don’t either. I think that in Los Angeles it is embarrassing. There are no radio stations. It’s all oldies or there is K-Rock. I mean, K-Rock has its thing going, but, ‘Hello? Where is the other people that listen to music?’ I mean, there is more than just one genre. There are a lot of sounds.

There are a lot of artists that the public never hears. I might be partial, but, being from Buffalo, I know that Ani Difranco is amazing yet gets no airplay.

I know. Talk about taking it to the streets. She is real. She can go to her grave saying, ‘Fuck yeah, I rule.’ There are a lot of these stupid fucking record executives who get in their cars and drive around and have lunch, and this isn’t such a life crisis for them since they haven’t done the work.

You grew up in Hollywood. Did that give you a different perspective on life than most of us outside of the entertainment capital?

Growing up in Hollywood was unique in the sense that I got to grow up with a lot of different cultures. And, from that standpoint alone, I’ve only been to London and not around Europe, but it is a very cosmopolitan view and I’m so glad I grew up in that. I feel that when I leave and enter back into a city that is too homogenous, I get nervous. I think that was the biggest gift I was given. Also there was a lot of space when I was growing up in Hollywood and LA. It wasn’t so dense. People had room to do their own thing. My parents moved here because they were creative and they saw an opportunity and a new place to realize their dreams. We had a big family. I’m number seven out of eight, and that is unheard of. People just don’t do that today unless you are really wealthy. I don’t know how my parents did it. There are a lot of people today who go to Los Angeles or Hollywood to follow their dreams.

Did you always know you wanted to be a singer?

I really loved singing, but I always wanted to be a writer.

A writer of song?

Yeah. I’m not really comfortable with all the other responsibilities that come with being a singa. (laughs) I love to sing.

Who were your influences growing up?

Stevie Wonder, Rickie Lee Jones, Van Morrison, Bono, The Clash, Rolling Stones, I don’t know. It is songwriter oriented and the singers I’ve always been attracted to are those that I think have their own unique stamp on what they do.

The Rickie Lee Jones influence seems obvious in your vocal style, but does it bother you that you get Sheryl Crow comparisons?

It bothers me when I get compared to her when people just don’t think when they say it. It is like saying, ‘The Honda Accord looks like the Camry.’ I don’t get the comparison on a certain level. There are maybe three notes that we sound alike on and as a songwriter I don’t think that we write anything like each other. So, the comparisons, I don’t know. Go figure.

I think people need something to compare something unknown to.

Yeah. I don’t even have the same life as her. From that standpoint alone I don’t get that comparison. I think that journalists who make those comparisons aren’t true journalists. If you listen to her and listen to me, you’d realize we’re not alike.

Lastly, what would you like people to come away with when they hear your album?

That it was true. True in the sense of that it was a feeling and it gave them a chance to put it on and wander within their own thoughts and that I was there with them. For me, when I put music on, it is really about a feeling. It’s about ‘How did it make me feel?’ I hope that my record has that kind of impact.

+ charlie craine

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