Emily Jones is a British wyrd/ psych folk artist that has been part of this scene for more or less 20 years. The daughter of folk legend Al Jones, she has arguably inherited his talent for songwriting and love of music. Her hometown, Cornwall, constitutes a significant source of inspiration for her songs and lyrics, that are largely derived from the magical element in her natural surroundings and the region’s folklore. Apart from performing live she has co-released “The Book Of The Lost” with The Rowan Amber Mill in 2013, a horror folk record based on cult 60s and 70s horror films. Her recent teaming up with fellow Cornwall musician Angeline Morrison promises to produce very interesting results in the near future. In the meantime, you can catch the two girls playing live at the Unorthodox Paradox festival at Fellfoot Wood, Lake Windermere in Cumbria. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/TheUnorthodoxParadox
We asked Emily some questions about her creative procedure, her motives for writing music, and how she reconciles her art with the demands of daily life. Read her answers below.
For many of us there’s one particular point in our lives, usually in our childhood or early teens, when we can be allowed to say our true connection with music began. Do you remember what your first encounter with music was, that ultimately inspired you to become a musician?
I can’t really remember one particular moment – my Dad was a musician, so there were always people around playing, right from when I was a baby…and I got taken on loads of gigs because my parents couldn’t afford a babysitter. I have hazy early memories of the undersides of tables in bars as a toddler, trying to sleep with all the music going on around me.
How did you come up with the name for the project, and what does it mean to you?
The name for this particular album, Autumn Eye, arrived overnight. I woke up with the name for it, then had to make it happen.
Tell us a little bit about the history of your project – releases, live gigs, collaborations, any particular incidents or works that hold a place in your heart, and anything else you might feel is important.
The tracks on it span a period of several years and were mainly recorded at my last house – a strange little cottage on the edge of a salt marsh, near some woods. The landscape and the house itself are very much present in the album. I loved that place, although I wasn’t very happy at the time. This collection is a gathering together of that era – a summing up, before moving on.
All of the tracks mean something to me, and I chose them carefully. For example, Bright Shadows (the last track) was written and recorded very early one morning after a sleepless night. One of those nights when your thoughts are in a dark whirl that goes on and on, and sleep never comes. It started to get light and I staggered blearily outside in my nightgown for a cigarette, and watched the sun rise. The dew sparkled tiny colours, and the shadows of the leaves were sharp and clearly defined. I stood there exhausted, but full of wonder, with cold feet and the sun bright on my face…then I came back inside and tried to capture that feeling.
We often see a lot of reviews and commentary referring to the same release, yet describing completely different things, to the point where the reader might become a little confused. If it was up to you to describe your music in the way that you see fit – and not necessarily restricted by genre classifications or labels – what words would you use?
Well, it’s just my music. This is difficult! I know what I’d like it to be – melodic, strange, surreal, sinister, beautiful, kind. Sometimes I think I might be close to achieving that – other times it all sounds like shit.
What is the process you usually go through to complete a recording, from beginning to end? I’m referring here not only to the technical aspects of recording, but also your state of mind, something related that could trigger the writing process and so on.
Songs come in a lot of different ways. The best ones are the ones that are born whole – that seem to come out of the ether fully formed, so that afterwards you can’t even remember the writing process. A lot of them come from dreams, the words if not the melodies.
I usually play a new song over and over again, on and off for a week or so, to give it time to settle in and polish itself before it gets recorded. Then I’ll lay down the bare bones of it, guitar, vocals, and gradually fill in the rest.
My equipment is pretty rudimentary – an old computer I built specially out of bits and pieces, a cheap keyboard from the ‘80s, my guitar. A few toy instruments that I’ve picked up in charity shops. That’s it. It’s more fun to do things when you’re forced to be creative and a bit cunning – picking a perfect sound from a menu of thousands seems like a very dull way of recording.
As we all know being an underground musician is not a lucrative employment. What’s your everyday life like – job, family, other activities – and where does making music fit in it? Is it a crucial part of your life or do you view it more like a hobby?
I don’t have a partner, or children. Creating things pretty much is my life. I’ve had plenty of horrible low paid jobs over the years, working in factories, stuff like that – I never wanted a career, just to make beautiful things. Nowadays I work online from home. It’s getting better…
The role that social media play in the promotion and even the survival of an underground artist today is indisputable. Based on your own experience, do you feel that this type of exposure may stand in opposition to the general idea of underground music? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the friendly, everyday communications of artist and audience have somehow detracted from your work by depriving it of its mystery and sense of nobility?
Not in the slightest – there’s always a mystery at the heart of any work of art that can’t be explained. If we could say it in words, we wouldn’t need guitars…or paint, or drums, or fabric…or cake. If the mystery could be taken away that easily – well then, it was never a real mystery at all.
Living rurally (as I have most of my life), the internet is solely responsible for anyone hearing my music at all. To a certain extent it’s a great leveller – where you live, your social class, your economic status, your appearance, none of that matters so much online. Opportunities are there for everyone with access. Because of social media I’ve collaborated with musicians across the globe, been given gigs all over the UK, and visited and made friends with many fine creative people. Without it, only the owls would ever have heard my songs. Maybe some voles.
Post-industrial is a constantly evolving organism that keeps generating new genres and cross-classifications. On the other hand many newer artists carry significant influences from the pioneers of each genre, and the sheer number of projects and albums makes it more challenging for the casual listener to assess the quality of a release. What is your personal assessment of the current condition of the scene? Do you feel it has changed since you first started making music?
I don’t know enough about it to answer this properly. There are some things I could say about the changes in the music scene in general, but it’s such a huge subject I’d probably need a whole book to do it in – and I’ve waffled on enough already…
Name some of your favourite artists, musicians or not, that constitute an influence and inspiration for your own work.
I never name influences, because it’s always fun seeing what reviewers come up with – quite often it’s people I’ve never heard of…I’ve had some great tips for new things to investigate that way.
Sorry to be awkward, haha.
And finally, do you have a message for our readers?
Hello, nice to meet you! 🙂
Emily Jones FB page: https://www.facebook.com/Owltextures
Emily Jones & Angeline Morrison FB page: https://www.facebook.com/emilyandangeline
Emily Jones Bandcamp page: http://owltextures.bandcamp.com/
The Book of the Lost FB page: https://www.facebook.com/thebookofthelost
The Rowan Amber Mill FB page: https://www.facebook.com/therowanambermill
Emily Jones – Autumn Eye
[reviewed by MS]
This found its way in my inbox one cold, rainy day, and as it is appropriately titled ‘Autumn Eye’, I thought to give it a listen while holding a cup of warm tea, watching passers by trying to hang on to their umbrellas. Quite a good idea it was too, as it fell immediately into place, and I had a very enjoyable and creative afternoon. It’s the kind of album ‘Autumn Eye’ is: effortlessly, naturally unravelling its tales in an inspired and accomplished way, claiming a place in the listener’s heart as the first note strikes. It doesn’t take much persuasion to love it, in fact the whole thing pretty much guides itself. You can just sit back and start listening, and everything else will follow.
Emily Jones deals in a very personalized brand of (mostly) acoustic wyrd folk, painted with references to natural landscapes that hold a bewitching allure for her. Like a child full of wonder exploring the surroundings of a country house, she discovers what the cynical ‘grown-ups’ are unable to see or understand. Ghosts, fairies, sprites, stories and people from the past lingering on to the realm of the living. The sun reflecting on green leaves, the outlines of a forest seen through mist, moonlight piercing through a clearing. The sounds of small animals and insects hiding around you. The excitement of exploring a new environment all alone. A whole new world beneath the surface of the visible. Given in a magical way, full of context and background, with an efficiency that makes quick business of grasping your imagination, as well as your attention.
Because apart from seeing the magic in seemingly simple things, Emily Jones can also write a mean tune. Being the daughter of well-loved folk artist Al Jones, no doubt it runs in the bloodline. Every song stands out on its own, each one expertly written, sharply executed, with not a segment too much, not a single note that seems repetitive or ill-fitted. The production is clear but not as polished as to deprive the recording of its intimacy and live performance feel. You can close your eyes and pretend you’re in a gig. The lyrics are eerie, enigmatic and surreal, drawing from folklore but also from the artist’s personal visions and daily inspirations, thus giving her a firm grasp of the alternative pop genres. ‘Pieces Of People’ for instance, a keyboard and vocals-led track, ponderous but also bright, is probably the catchiest tune of the recording, one that you might find yourself humming after just a couple minutes. While the lyrics deal with the discarded cells of the human body, presenting a vision of countless entities and remnants of people, alive or dead, no matter, appearing in rays of light and travelling around the world in currents of air. A spontaneous interpretation of the word ‘ghost’ containing just a tinge of irony and humour. Pretty alternative if you ask me.
As shown in her recording with The Rowan Amber Mill, ‘The Book Of The Lost’, a joint 2013 self-release conceptually based on 60s and 70s horror films, Jones has an affinity for creepy themes. This is frequently evident in ‘Autumn Eye’, in tracks such as the opening ‘Dark Moss And Coldheart’, with its moody, spiralling melody emitted by layers of guitar and keyboards reaching an early climax somewhere mid-track, and Emily’s shrill yet harmonious vocals singing about things you know are lurking in the dark, but don’t much want to think about it. ‘Hermegant And Maladine’, narrating about sprites and fey hiding in snowy mountains, begins with one of the eeriest psych folk sequences ever, and it carries a similar aura of dark fantasy and warped psychedelia. Its structure is more ballad-like however, as very soon the opening segment gives place to an acoustic guitar song of a lighter tone, with many twists and turns throughout. “Bed Of Mud” is one of the album’s most accomplished compositions, successfully combining many different layers to convey the succession of seasons and years, as someone is buried beneath the ground. That person’s soul expresses its complaint in the first couple verses, and after that there are no lyrics; the music is all that’s left to tell us how he or she feels. Beautiful.
Other tracks are more introspective and meditative, something that is also reflected in their minimalistic orchestration, as they mostly consist of acoustic guitar and Emily’s voice, timed here and there with other elements of sound. Like “Light Appearing”, a mournful serenade describing the coming of the sun after a storm, characterized by this feeling of exhaustion and resignation that ensues after great pain, sometimes bringing with it a glimmer of hope. ‘Tethered’ comes right after ‘Pieces Of People’ and is equally melodic and lyrical. Memorable and elegant, it speaks about the ghost of an ancestor or loved one, that has remained in his home. ‘I stayed when the others had left you, sleeping up here all alone / Tethered to you I protect you / Home’, sings the lonely ghost as morning comes and he has to creep back up the stairs, to his cold and lonely cellar. The album closes with the short “Bright Shadows”, repeating just two lines, ‘The sun is in your eyes/ And all else is bright shadows’. An expansive keyboard harmony makes a fairytale of what we have just experienced, a realm of twilight and shades; one exorcised by the light of day, but that we can return to once the night has begun its course once again, when noone is looking. Our little secret.
‘Autumn Eye’ may be a self-release, but it bears none of the amateurism and lack of direction one may expect – and why not, even justify – in such cases. Emily Jones is a seasoned artist with considerable live experience, excellent technical skill and more importantly, abundant talent and inspiration. She approaches her music in an essential manner, allowing no mediation between her and her idea; she just comes up with a song, picks up her guitar and makes it happen. And the result is nothing short of enthralling.
(Short note to readers: this hand-finished, extremely limited release is almost – or completely – sold out by this point, but you can find a digital version in the artist’s Bandcamp (http://owltextures.bandcamp.com/album/autumn-eye) ).