by Christina Cush | November 24, 2016
Fledglings: We’re Jones’n
With their Florida-infused folk-indie-pop sound Laney Jones and the Spirits collect fans and critical acclaim across the country.
Laney Jones, a fresh-faced singer-songwriter from Orlando, discovered music as a creative outlet while studying business at Rollins College in 2009. Soon after, a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and an apprenticeship with record producer Kara DioGuardi catapulted her talent to the next level. Since then, the banjo-player shared the stage with Alison Krauss and licensed her music to Disney-Pixar. The release of a self-titled album in early 2016 landed Jones on Rolling Stone’s “Top 10 New Country Artists You Need to Know.” Jones and her bandmates, the Spirits, have been crisscrossing the country, playing at folksy festivals (like High Sierra). When we caught up with Jones, she dished on her success, mentors, dream stages and goat-eating gators.
WHERE’D THE BAND NAME, “THE SPIRITS,” COME FROM?
LJ: What I like about the name “the Spirits” is its multiple meanings—ghosts, liquor, personalities. I’m learning and building who I am as an artist right before your eyes.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE BAND’S VIBE OR SOUND?
LJ: The sound is changing all the time. But at its core, the writing is honest, and the tone is soulful. I used to write folk-and bluegrass-oriented music, and for a while I studied pop songwriting, but now I fall somewhere in between.
TELL US ABOUT THE GUYS IN THE BAND.
LJ: They are some rad fellows! The Spirits are Matthew Tonner, Tre Hester, and Brian Dowd. Matthew has been with me the longest and is my main collaborator. He’s really great at all the stuff I’m bad at, so it works out well. We all grew up in the Central Florida area and love basketball and pizza.
WHICH OF THE FLORIDA ARTISTS HAVE IMPACTED YOU THE MOST?
LJ: Mark Johnson has been a huge mentor. He lives way out in a town called Dunnellon and is very accomplished in the banjo and bluegrass world. He’s worked with legends, including Steve Martin. I was looking for about a year to find someone to teach me how to play clawhammer. I couldn’t find any teachers in the Lake County or greater Orlando region. It turned out that one of the best players lived just 3 hours away, round trip. Today, I can say I play banjo the way I do because of him.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLORIDA VENUE TO PLAY IN?
LJ: Will’s Pub. It’s a pseudo-dive bar, but it’s like “Cheers” to me. Musically speaking, I grew up at the shows there, and it’s nice to go where everyone knows your name. One real hidden gem in Florida is Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, in Sarasota. It’s put on by the local radio station, WSLR 96.5, and has the best sound and listening audiences of anywhere I’ve played in the state.
IS THERE A BIG STADIUM OR AMPHITHEATER YOU’D LIKE TO PLAY?
LJ: St. Augustine Amphitheatre. I’ve played there before, but only during the day for a small crowd. I would love to go back and play at night for a full stadium.
HOW DID THAT ROLLING STONE ARTICLE IMPACT YOU?
LJ: The most tangible impact was all of my friends and acquaintances congratulating me, some of whom didn’t even know I did music until I shared the article, which was weird. My mom gave my latest album two thumbs up which is the most important review in my book.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME BACK HOME TO FLORIDA AFTER A LONG TOUR?
LJ: Some people like dry, cool weather, but I am not one of those people. I lie on my parents’ driveway for 15 minutes, and then I finally feel like I’m actually back at home.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE FLORIDA MUSIC SCENE?
LJ: I can only speak for Orlando, which has a history of pop divas and boy bands. It’s hard to shake that stigma, but today Orlando has a thriving music scene covering everything from punk to electronic to Americana, and it’s been a great hometown scene for me.
ARE ANY OF YOUR LYRICS OR SOUNDS INSPIRED BY FLORIDIAN EXPERIENCES?
LJ: I had a song on my first album about an alligator eating one of my goats on the Jones family farm. It’s a true story called “Midnight Snack.”
10 FLORIDA SONGS on Laney Jones’s Play List
- “Show Me Love” by Hundred Waters
- “Chinese New Year” by Sales
- “Sleeping Sideways” by Someday River
- “She’s Fine, She’s Mine” by Bo’ Diddley
- “What Would Tom Waits Do” by Kaleigh Baker
- “Long Way Back” by Terri Binion
- “Sun Go Down” by Fat Night
- “Sittin’ on Top of The World” by Austin Miller
- “I Want That” by Good Graeff
- “Give It Up” by KC and the Sunshine Band
To find out where Laney Jones and the Spirits are playing next, visit laney-jones.com.