“Let artists show their true colors,” singer-songwriter Evan Taylor Jones urges over the phone last week. “See if fans stick around with it.”
It’s a bitter-sweet time for Jones on the road because he suffered the loss of a dear friend, DJ Big Makk, a few days prior to our interview. “He passed in a car accident,” Jones tells. “He was a good person, a loving guy. People go and pass, but we know that their spirit lives on.”
Yet, Jones is still riding high with his bandmates, as they near the end of their summer tour. The road will soon bring Jones to the Port City’s Satellite Bar and Lounge on September 9.
Staying true to self and song is the mantra the artist has stuck with since his appearance on “The Voice” earlier this year. The singing competition is judged by various celebrity musicians, who listen to “blind” auditions and choose contestants to coach/move on in the competition by turning around their chairs to secure musicians on their teams. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t turn around for Jones’ rendition of the country song “Homegrown” (originally by the Zac Brown Band). The consensus being his alt-rock, soulful voice didn’t shine through as they’d like.
“I felt like this is a guy singing a country song, who doesn’t really sing country music,” “The Voice” judge Blake Shelton observed.
“I definitely think you should come back,” judge Pharrell Williams added.
However, Jones says he won’t likely return for another audition. The nature of reality TV is anything but that of reality. Jones appreciates and enjoys (now more than ever) the creative freedom and choices often lost with story producers.
“I didn’t get to choose the song, none of the contestants get to choose their song,” he says. “That’s what [audiences] don’t get to see. There’s a lot of the behind-the-scenes you don’t see in ‘reality TV.’ . . . They tried to create a story that was ‘homegrown.’”
The country cover wasn’t new for Jones; it’s among two covers and four originals pressed on his 2015 EP “The Sunray Sessions.” Jones wanted to capture the dynamic of his band and music onstage.
“I knew I wanted to record [‘The Sunray Sessions’] live,” he says. “I like the feeling and the raw sound, and I feel like the overall chemistry and energy of the band shows in a live setting.”
While his “Homegrown” cover may seem somewhat out of place in terms of its country origins, Jones puts a soulful twist on it. It also reflects his wide range of interests and ideas for reaching out across genres.
“I like Zac Brown, I like country music,” he adds. “A lot of it now is influenced by pop, but there’s a lot of good country out there. That’s why I wanted to do my rendition of that song.”
The EP’s second cover is “Smooth Sailing,” originally by Queens of the Stone Age. As a fan of the California rock band, it was a natural choice for Jones and company.
“I like a lot of their stuff, but that was a song that stood out for everybody [in the band],” he remembers. “And it came out really well; more funky than what the original is, which is what I like.”
Along with soul and funk, Jones’ songs are given attitude with rock instrumentals. As much as he wants to capture the magic of live performances as he did with “The Sunray Sessions,” he’s thinking more of how production value will come into play for his next project.
“Making parts separate from other parts of a song to really make those parts stand out more,” he clarifies. “Definitely recording live will always be something I do, but I think there’s going to be more pre-production when that happens.”
Jones has been writing nonstop this year, trying to collect a variety of tunes to develop in the studio later on in 2017 for a full-length album. “First, I want to make sure I get a worthy producer to work alongside with,” he notes.
In addition to recording two new originals and another cover, available to watch online at http://www.evantaylorjones.com/video, he’s been road-testing them with live audiences. Jones’ powerful voice is showcased well in songs like “Over Your Shoulder,” which sounds like a mix of classic rock, soul and even a touch of twang of rock-influenced country. Yet, he’s able to slow it down and soften the edges in “Father,” a sweet song to patriarchs.
“People have really been enjoying [the new songs],” Jones tells. “They’re my favorite songs we’re playing right now, but I’ve also found time to write more songs. . . . For me, writing has become easier because I come up with the instrumentation first and now I’m finding I’m writing the hook or chorus first. . . That chorus has to be big and authentic.”
Staying authentic and true to self also means staying true to community, which is why Jones started Old Soul Community. The outreach organization’s mission is to reach and support underprivileged communities and youth with music.
“[We] really seek to improve the arts in these communities,” he tells. “What we’re seeing now is that if a community, the school, doesn’t have enough money, they take out ‘the easiest’ thing: arts. They take out painting. They take out drawing. They take out music. They don’t want to spend money on music books if they can’t pay the teachers. It’s always the arts that come out first.”
Aside from donations, Jones’ Old Soul Community raises awareness and funds for materials and instruments for these programs in need via his line of clothing patches: “O*S*C,” “Peace and Harmony” and “Rock and Roll with a whole lot of SOUL.” All three patches can be purchased for $5 or less. The funds then go back into the communities.
“We go straight to the people who actually need the money,” Jones adds, “and I think that’s most effective.”