On the road
You know the story of the traveling soul singer—who packs up his guitar and hits the clubs, sometimes even the street corners, night after night, with no agenda but to simply sing a tune with some legitimate funk and a little heartbreak? He doesn’t ask for much in return, maybe just some spare change to buy a couple rounds. It’s the nomadic lifestyle that he loves—along with the music—that tugs him along, encouraging his groove to not stay grounded in any one spot.
This was the story of Incline, Calif., based singer/songwriter Jeff Jones. Originally from New Mexico, Jones got his traveling shoes fitted early in life, moving 17 times by the time he was in high school. The tendency not to stay rooted stuck around after graduation, encouraging Jones to enlist in the army’s artillery force, where he was based in Germany. It was this first experience overseas that allowed he and a few army buddies to do some soul searching.
“We would just spend all our money traveling,” Jones admits. “We’d get to wherever we wanted to go and then just busk for beer money. We called ourselves the ’Modern Day Hobos.’”
It also got him to take up guitar, an instrument fairly new to the singer, who grew-up in a Baptist household full of music, primarily keys.
“Someone was always on piano,” Jones recalls. “And there was a lot of singing. It would have surprised me if I went to someone’s house, and it didn’t have music. That would have been weird.”
After his service, Jones initially decided to go back to school for photography, moving to the sweltering heat of Arizona State University. He bailed out 18 credits short of a diploma, admitting that the high temperatures finally broke him down—and sent him running for a quick cure: the cold weather of Colorado.
The change ended up being a milestone in Jones’ music career, for it was here that he first started to really take music and songwriting seriously, viewing it as a career as opposed to a hobby.
“I wrote a lot of music then, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I started out playing only a handful of cover songs,” Jones says.
But one can only take so many requests for “Free Bird,” and Jones took to the pen and paper as well as he had to guitar, soon filling up his own song catalogues. Songwriting is currently an art the musician prides himself on—choosing only to do covers for the private events he books on occasion.
“If you don’t have any originals, it’s tough,” Jones says of the competition. “You just gotta write a bunch of songs, and if you love them, other people will love them, too … and nothing feels better than when someone calls one out.”
Jones bid Colorado farewell once the traveling bug blew in. But his next move took him by surprise, bringing about not only new scenery—but also the most permanent residence he’s had to date. He met his wife, had a son and planted some roots in Incline—going on 13 years now.
That’s not to say the world traveler doesn’t still get bitten. Jones scratches that itch by traveling with his band, Jeff Jones and the Bank—a group comprised of three Italian musicians he met on one of his travels—twice a year, for a month straight. His shows span Europe and the States.
“I’ll never stop traveling,” Jones promises. “It’s everything. Some of my best songs were written because of those life experiences.”