Ayron Jones, who self-releases his debut album “Dream” today, had quite a few interesting insights that we couldn’t fit in our print preview of his Saturday release party at Neumos. See what Jones had to say about working with Sir Mix-a-Lot, how hip-hop influences his music and why he wants to be known as more than just someone who can play the guitar. Be sure to check Soundposts later in the day for a Q&A with Sir Mix-a-Lot and a review of “Dream.”
Answers to burning questions after the jump.
You draw a lot of inspiration from the blues. It’s easy to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan in your playing. What attracted you to the blues?
Ayron Jones: I don’t know if it was so much the blues. It was more Stevie Ray Vaughan’s overall attitude, the way he played and the way he presented himself, especially in his younger days. I considered him to be almost the pop rock of blues being a young cat on stage bringing the blues to a new generation. His sound, there was just something about the ferociousness of how he played.
You play with just a bass player and drummer. That seems like a very conscious decision.
It’s kind of nostalgia behind what we do, especially being from the urban area of Seattle. Because Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix and a lot of the artists I looked up to did the three-piece thing, that definitely influenced me. But later on down the road I realized that the three piece thing is what stood out in Seattle, with bands like Nirvana.
Talk about what it’s like to be working with Sir Mix-a-Lot.
He’s been a huge mentor. I’ve learned fso much from him about becoming an artist. To go in the studio with him, at first I definitely was really nervous because I hadn’t had that kind of experience at that level. Once we started getting things going, it changed the way I played music, it changed the way I heard music and the way I saw music. The experience to be in the studio with him was amazing because we’re like-minded people. It was the first time I’ve ever worked with a producer where he really wanted my input. Most producers will tell you how they hear it. Mix was like, “What do you want to hear and how can I help, and how can I put my taste on it at the same time. Working with Mix-a-Lot has probably been one of the biggest honors of my life.
It’s clear that you want to be known as more than just a guy who can shred. How important are singing and songwriting to you?
Singing is actually a challenge for me, even within the studio. It’s been a challenge for me ever since I picked up a guitar. I picked up the guitar initially because I really wanted to play but I recognized that having the ability to sing, play and write was going to be the most helpful thing for me in my career. In the past few years I’ve been really focusing on becoming a better singer. That’s an area I really struggled with up until recently when I found my voice in the studio.
Mix-a-Lot told me that when he first heard you play he thought it might be three old white guys. He meant it as a compliment, but it’s there’s a truth in there: many of the biggest blues stars are white. You’re a young black guy playing the blues. Do you feel the blues and playing the guitar in general is something that young people of all colors are shying away from?
I used to really think that heavily before I had a chance to travel. I had a chance to tour with fun. back in 2011 . . . and I got to see musicians from all over the nation. It’s interesting man, because in the Northwest there’s not a big, huge black community or black population so I used to really think that young people were kind of straying away from the guitar. But my eyes changed a little bit. The best way I can answer the question is that it doesn’t appeal. For young people, they’re used to being force-fed a lot of stuff in the media that is more electronic. Young people really set the tone for the times. As young people get older the music shall evolve. I think we’re going to see more people start picking up the guitar. The color lines are starting to be blurred more and more, so I think you’re going to see young black people picking up the guitar and trying to do something with it.
Hip-hop plays a role in your music in subtle ways.
When we did this album, I really wanted to take that hip-hop element, that soul and that funk. I’m sure you talked to Mix and he talks about how the bass is really heavy. We have a punchy bass, we have a tight snare. That sort of tone was very important for me to cultivate because that’s the kind of tone that gets people’s attention in this era, this new dance age. Everything is kind of going toward that, something that has bass to it. When you listen to hip-hop, the reason you bounce your head is because the bass is bumping and the snare is kicking. I really wanted to bring that to rock music.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails