John-Paul Jones Group has come together to create music that connects with their audience on a deep level. They’ve been able to share their music throughout the country with a variety of legendary artists we can only imagine seeing live in concert. 2021 will introduce fans once again to the glorious sounds of the John-Paul Jones Group with the release of their upcoming album Broke In Bridge City, which we discuss with band leader and professional guitarist John-Paul Jones in this exclusive interview before it’s available in February.
Thank you for joining us!
Thank you for having me, glad to be here!
How are things where you are right now?
Well, as of today it’s cold and lots of snow. For most of us it’s okay, we’re all kind of hunkering down practicing our social distancing.
Your upcoming album Broke In Bridge City, set to release in February 2021, is meant to give a fresh look on life in Southeastern Iowa from the perspective of a Black American, correct?
Actually, what’s even more detailed than that is I’m from a part of Southeastern Iowa where we are kind of known as Iowegian. As I was growing up it’s a very specific way to grow up so what it means to me is my entire family is an example of integration with integrity and we’ve had our own sets of obstacles, not only in Iowa but across the country that are similar and paint a picture that I feel is fairly typical of rural American Life.
This is a great way of integrating your stories into your songs. What does this album mean to you?
This album means a milestone of sorts for me, not only does it contain songs that are very personal to me, but the very act of building this album and the team around it is something I’ve always wanted to do so after 35 + years of making music. I was able to do this album completely self-produced utilizing a great drummer named Chris Barber from the UK and Angeliki Mourgela mix the album, which is great an accomplishment for me. The songs and the process was personal all the way from the songwriting, promotion design of the record covers to how we’re going to present it to the public. It’s all personal very much a brainchild of me trying to make my way within the greater music industry all from a small town or city in southeast Iowa so it brings me back to when I was a 10 year old kid when I got my first trumpet.
How long was this project in the making?
I would like to say that this project only took 6 months make but in reality I’ve been working on this project for my entire career. I have had other VHS, DVD, CD releases and played countless of live shows but the project itself took about 6 months maybe seven since our live shows were all postponed or canceled. I went into my studio Coppertop Studio Hut where I started recording songs and writing songs.
What were your intentions or hopes in terms of what people will take away from it?
I’m hoping that folks will relate to this in a way that’s not presumptuous meaning I would like to see my songs and my story which encompasses such topics as my grandparents to friends and family who’ve committed suicide to the regrets that we have in life and all the accomplishments we may have. I hope that folks will relate to it in just a plain old personal way. I hope folks will find in the stories that we tell on this album are really just recollections, some of the abstract thoughts and some of actual events. They’ll go “hey I experienced something similar to that” and it strikes a chord within themselves.
What first prompted you all to come together and start making music?
I make music because I fell in love with jazz music thanks to the one and only black and white shows that show the Nicholas Brothers in the Berry Brothers dancing. I never turned into a dancer but I was always drawn to piano and trumpet to begin with Dizzy Gillespie was by my main man for a long time and then Miles Davis but when I got my first guitar, which I paid for with my own money as a young kid, everything changed for me.
However, for this record I did not use my traditional live band to record it mainly due to covid concerns and scheduling issues. What I did as a diabetic was hole up in my studio, write the songs and I collaborated with folks remotely. I hired a studio session drummer from the UK to play the drum tracks that I wrote. I read an article which is really important about Sound Girls and about the lack of female representation behind the desk in the engineering and production segments of the music industry and it struck a chord with me because I see the same thing in the Blues industry in the Midwest where there just aren’t that many black artists who are supported and featured with in the Midwest outside of Chicago area.
I found Angeliki Mourgela, who I didn’t know much about, but she was recommended after I had asked several different engineers. I wanted a mix engineer so that I could have an objective ear to mix the record, lucky for me Angeliki obliged, and it’s been a great collaboration and one that I hope will continue in the future with Chris and Angeliki it’s a great way for me to put out a product.
Which sound would you say best represents your upcoming album?
This is pretty easy to describe. My album is a Heavy Blues album. To truly understand what heavy Blues is you have to think back to the time when Rock and Roll hit blues and they mixed up and became blues rock. This is pre before we called it blues rock there was an article I think it came out like 1969 they called it the “Birth Of Heavy Blues” and it listed such notable guitarist Jimi Hendrix first of all, Jeff Beck, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher, and Robin Trower – those guys for me are where it’s at.
2020 has been a long journey for many artists coming up in the music industry!
It’s been a long journey for every artist regardless of when you started whether you started 3 weeks ago or 30 years ago.
That’s right! How has this year changed the way you create music creatively together?
The year prevented much of getting together with my regular band consisting of Steven Patterson and David Bruce. It also saw the exit of our previous drummer Steven Jones due to health issues and bass player due to scheduling conflicts. There’s alot of talking via email and a lot less of coming over and jamming.
We’d love to discuss your inaugural Patriot’s Picnic Concert Series dedicated to helping veterans service organizations.
The Patriot’s Picnic was something that we planned last year, we actually prototyped a couple of shows in 2019 that went over real well. The Patriot’s Picnic exists because our veteran service organizations at the local level are closing down at an accelerated rate due to lack awareness and funding.
Please understand the Patriot’s Picnic was actually prototyped in 2019. Long before any thought of a pandemic… since then one of our inaugural hosted locations has closed down and put the building up for sale. The goal with the Patriot’s Picnic Concert Series is to bring awareness back to the local veteran service organizations, primarily American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars locations. These posts are trying to solely survive on membership. They also tend to be concession based social clubs that need support from their local community for events.
What is this event all about and how were you able to support this cause during the pandemic?
During the pandemic there were no shows since all shows have been postponed until 2021. The goal is to do a series of eight to twelve concerts in Iowa hosted outdoors at a VFW or American Legion and for that concert the talent, sound, reinforcement, lighting, and stage to be at zero cost for the facility and the veterans service organization at the local level.
What do you miss the most about performing for a live audience?
The people without interaction with the people recording in the studio is great but creating on the spot and improvising and going off of a crowd there’s nothing that will ever replace that and that’s what I miss the most. I’ve had pretty good success sharing stages opening before being on the same bill or being on the same day as a lot of great artists. I especially enjoy being the opening act playing a show for 45 to 90 minutes and then getting to go out front and watch artists that I admire.
Those artists do not have to be famous they don’t have to play the same genre music that I play I tend to try to relate to people on a person-to-person level so I like to meet them talk to them become friends with them and hopefully get a chance to play or jam with them it’s pretty special to share this gift of music with others.
Do you have any performances that will always stay with you?
For me as an Iowegian a native of the state, our last two performances at the Iowa State Fair (2018 & 2019) were a great experience. They will always stay with me. I have to say that another one of my most favorite shows when we played the Blues-Bikes-BBQ show to raise money for the Wapello County Sheriff’s giving program which helped fund the purchase of toys for local kids who might not have of had any gifts for the holiday.
Also the memorial ride and benefit is a huge important event that raises money for the Iowa Donor Network. We have participated in it twice and that was a memorable experience. We actually may have a DVD that will release later in 2021 of that performance.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned this past decade?
Perseverance and be unwavering in your vision even if you have to modify or be flexible in your plans keep building one brick at a time. I started out with a trumpet and a second hand keyboard then a second hand guitar then I built a guitar then I learned how to fix amplifiers and made my own amplifiers out of junk. This past decade of working hard on my music endeavors which included not only writing and recording music but raising children, holding down other businesses and career endeavors as well as building a studio, building a label, creating a sound reinforcement company and concert promotion organization within the last 10 years have taught me is don’t quit.
Who would you say were the first artists/ bands to inspire you in your younger years?
Dizzy Gillespie was a big influence on me. I was a trumpet player at first. Then at some point I thought I wanted to play keyboards, all because of Herbie Hancock and the song Axel F. I just love the keyboards that Herbie and Chick Corea played in the 70s.. However, when it comes to the guitar Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Catfish Collins, Robin Trower, Rory Gallagher really we’re the ones that kicked it off for me ,but it it pretty much starts with Chuck. Other artists that have influenced me also I cannot go without mentioning that from a music business standpoint Steve Vai & Frank Zappa had a huge influence over how I conduct my business. They were the first guys to really teach we rock and roll enthusiasts about the music business.
One very very important note about Living Color, John Butcher, Tony Macalpine, and Greg Howe… when I was coming up those artists showed me that someone who looked like me could be a RockNRoller. Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix they were LEGEBDS they had went above the status normal rock star. Vocally Rory Gallagher, James Dewar Phil lynott John Butcher, Jimi Hendrix & Buddy Miles would be my biggest coval influences. Well no, also Big Mama Thornton she is just the greatest and although I don’t sing really like any of them. Their influence with diction and inflection are always upon me.
What has been the best moment in your musical career that you’re most proud of?
To be honest with you, I’ve had a lot of moments but as of right now the completion of this album I would say is the most proud I’ve ever been.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me is to continue to create music. We will start pre-production rehearsals in anticipation of a 2021 concert series. I’m working on another concert series outside of the Patriots picnic series with my cousin Blues Hall of Famer Ernie Peniston and my good friend Kevin Byrd who’s also another Iowa Blues Hall of Famer. We’re working on our schedules and we’re going to see what we can do to create the Soul Brothers review which is being produced by by my production company and hopefully we will get a chance to bring three very unique authentic Iowa blues artists with three completely different styles but extremely similar backgrounds to a venue near you.
I am also working on a backup, if 2021 covid-19 requires us to still isolate. I’m working on a video on demand platform and we will be recording a series of concerts in 2021 to be presented later that year on one of the one or more on the video on demand platforms. We are looking at bringing our brand of Heavy Blues to a Roku near you.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!
Well, thank you for inviting me it’s been a great discussion.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I do ask everyone if you get a chance to check out the album. We will not be streaming the album for quite some time it’s only going to be in its original format and full length format has a physical copy. Eventually it might make it to the streaming platforms but as of right now we’re only releasing a physical copy so if you would like one, visit us at our website JohnPaulJonesgroup.com!
Also, independent musicians are having a tough go of it. Please support them by purchasing merchandise, requesting their songs to be played on your local radio station, start a blog, write about your favorite artists, share your artist information on your social media. Support does not always have to be monetary, help them have a sustainable future.