Zumeist haben Musiker, die den ganz großen Durchbruch schaffen, irgendeine Form von Alleinstellungsmerkmal. Teils ist es die Art der Musik, Teils der textliche Inhalt oder aber auch einfach eine einzigartige Stimme. Joseph J. Jones hat auf jeden Fall eines dieser außergewöhnlichen Gesangsorgane, die ihn direkt aus der Masse herausragen lassen und dazu noch eine außergewöhnliche Biographie. Der Vater ein ABA-Box-Champion, der Großvater ein Jazz-Gitarrist der BBC – ein Leben zwischen sportlichen und musikalischen Extremen. Am Ende gewann die Liebe zur Musik und ein Plattenvertrag mit dem britischen Qualitätssiegel-Label Communion Records! Inspiration schöpft er von Johnny Cash, Kanye West oder auch vom Schriftsteller und Produzenten Richard Frenneaux, mit dem er seit einigen Jahren zusammenarbeitet. Souliger Pop, mit großer Stimme und ein auffälliges Auftreten – Joseph J. Jones und seine Musik ist wie gemacht für die Radios und großen Bühnen dieser Welt! Wir trafen den 23-jährigen Briten in Berlin zum Interview!
It wasn’t until your friend happened to hear you sing and bonded with your teacher, that you found your place in music, correct? What exactly had happened?
I started singing essentially when I was in school and messing around in a class aged 14. There was this music project by my friend, who then heard me sing and told me that I had a really good voice. I thought he was messing about and basically told him to fuck off. But there was a music teacher in the room as well, who told me that if I wanted to pass this exam, I had to sing in front of an assembly.
No pressure at all.
Exactly! So I had to do that and all the top year students and all the thugs from year 8 were gonna be there too. Hence I really didn’t want to do that. To my surprise they all stood up and clapped and that really gave me a buzz. They also nicknamed me Frank – I had sung a Sinatra song. I’m not very academic, so I thought I might as well start singing.
Can you grasp why that moment has been such a turning point? Or rather starting point? Was it the being on stage or what drew you to music?
I was always into performing and into the arts. I was an illustrator and love doing art and acting. I just never thought I could sing, but once I sang in front of that crowd I felt like all has come together and I thought that this is what I should be doing. I got a good energy from it and I suppose I liked the attention too. I’ve started writing and realized it’s not just about singing, but also about writing.
After that assembly happened, when was the first time you were performing? As Joseph J. Jones?
I started in pubs. Well during the pub time I didn’t use my full name. It was just me, Joe. And I was only doing covers, singing Johnny Cash and Sinatra songs. I was working in the East End pub scene and nobody wants to hear your music around there. Well that’s how I started – and it’s gonna end with world domination hopefully.
When did you start writing your own material?
I reckon I started writing when I was about 17. I took some guitar lessons to start with and it was a really good teacher. He taught me how to finger pick before he taught me how to strum, so he taught me the hardest thing first. Often on the back of that I started writing. With the platform of putting a bit of music down and writing on top of it. I went to about 10 lessons in a year so he said to me, if you miss another of my lessons you can never come back. We went on holiday and I missed his lesson and he never took me back.
Have you ever seen him again?
He’s a good guy. I’ve never actually seen him again though. I mean I don’t play guitar live, but I use it in writing form. Saying that I like writing with the piano better. You can get more out of the tones. Holding the pedals down creates more of an ominous sound.
Why are you not playing on stage?
I like to stand alone and really get into it, which is hard with something in your hands.
I heard the story about a lady stopping you on the street giving you a message from your granddad, who had already passed away at that point. At a time you considered giving it all up. Are you still in touch with her?
Yeah I keep in contact with her. I go to her every year to see what’s going on and update her about what’s happening. My mom is really into the spiritual side of things, like the after life and angels and stuff like that. I don’t know what I believe, but after her telling me the things that she’s told me, it’s pretty apparent to me, that there’s something a little bit extra out there. It was crazy stuff, she told me that time scale. When I’d be signed, where I would be going in terms of countries and when I’d make it. Well if that all comes true, I’ll be a definite believer.
So you’d really rather have West Ham win premier league than having a number one album? You’ve got to be joking?!
I mean I love West Ham dearly. Very very dearly. But no, I wasn’t really thinking about it, when I got asked that question. I’d love both to happen. I can’t choose, but I’m not gonna say no to a number one record. I’ve loved West Ham longer than I’ve loved music. Well, I’m married to music and football is my mistress. But I guess I would rather have a number one record, than having West Ham win.
Okay you’ve officially said that on record now.
Yes here we go, made that one clear.
What does football give you, that music does not?
Football is a bit more of an angry outlet. You can take your aggression out. It’s just a rollercoaster of emotions, it’s a bit like a drug.
What about boxing? Are you still in the ring sometimes?
I do train, but I’m not in the ring. We’ve got a gym in my garage and my dad, who used to be an ABA boxer, trains me and my mate. But I only do it to keep fit really.
Starting my research about you, at first it seemed like you come from a very kind of, allow me to say it, macho world. Skinhead culture, boxing background, hardcore football-fan. Yet your music is so soulful and emotional. How does that go together?
It goes together, because you’re almost searching out for it a little bit. Growing up around Essex and East London, it’s very usual to be a man and not express emotions. But you should really do that. It relates to mental health, but a lot of men don’t talk about it and want to be strong all the time. But I think there’s a strength within being open and I’ve always been really honest. If I’m upset, I’ll be upset. If I want to cry, I’ll cry. I haven’t cried in years, but that’s not me trying to be manly. I was always a big guy as well, and always the bigger one at the group and that’s set upon you with people wanting to challenge you as the young man growing up. When I signed to Communion I had this definite outlet of being able to write my emotions down in songs and that was a good opener for me, to chill out and not have to be so macho.
Balancing the energies?
Yeah, exactly. I also like the fact as well, that I’m not one of these guys, who are really emotional and dramatic all the time. For me it’s just about honesty and being real and seeing what you get.
I read that you try to write music as unselfishly as possible, can you explain that a bit further?
I try to let everybody relate to it. With some songs you hear, you can’t make sense of what they are. And that’s beautiful in some aspects, because it makes you wonder. But I like to let people relate to the situation. So if I’ve got a scenario that’s happened to me, I won’t go as personal into it as to name who it was or what the street name was. I’ll open it up a bit more, so it’s me, but a bit more universal.
Being relatable, without giving away the postcode?
Exactly! Giving people a chance to understand. It makes sense if you know what it’s about, but you don’t have to tell them what it’s about for it to makes sense elsewhere. It’s about writing in a manner, where people understand where you’re coming from, but they can relate a different story to it. Look at ‘Every Breath You Take’. This song is actually about a stalker, but people play it at their weddings, because they think it’s a love song. I find that quite amusing.
If you could play only one song, which one would it be?
Any song in the world?
Yes, it could be Every Breath You Take.
Oh god no. Only one song, that’s difficult. You can’t boil it down. Not one of my songs, I would do someone else’s. Probably a Sinatra song. Which one though, you really got me there. Probably ‘My funny Valentine’.