Interview by Shaina Sheaff
Seattle-natives Ayron Jones and The Way haven’t stopped since releasing their debut album in 2013. Fresh off a West Coast tour, Ayron talked to Shaina Sheaff about how his roots have influenced his unique sound, what it’s been like working with Sir Mix-A-Lot, how he’s adjusting to all the attention and buzz his music has been receiving, and what the future has in store.
SHAINA SHEAFF: Tell me about yourself. When did you start playing music?
Ayron Jones: I’ve been playing music my whole life. I picked up a guitar when I was 13, so I’ve been playing now for about 15 years. I’ve had this band for about five years now. We started out as a bar band and started really changing our sound around to jump on the bigger stages.
You say you changed your sound around in order to further grow your audience. How has that evolved since you started playing together?
When we started out, we were a blues band. When you sit in a bar and you play for three hours you, you end up playing a lot of blues covers and now that I’ve gotten older and matured as an artist, I’ve directed my sound more to a rock tone…it definitely incorporates more of that “Seattle” sound, which is a little more raw. We’ve really evolved into who we want to be as both artists and people and that’s conveyed in our tone and our sounds. We’ve taken on this sort of blues-y, grungy sound.
I was going to ask about the that. I was really excited to hear some of Hendrix in your playing – but there’s also this obvious grunge influence and some raw soul mixed in with rock. What other Seattle artists have influenced you?
When you’re born and raised right here in Seattle…I came up during the grunge era as a kid. That sound just surrounded you all the time no matter where you went; everyone was playing something from the grunge era, so I think that overall tone influenced me the most. But I also grew up in the church and had the opportunity to sing and play this really soulful, gospel music. I use a really powerful style of vocals which comes directly from singing gospel music in the church and that goes really well when you’re trying to play some loud-ass rock music, ya know? Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, The Presidents and all those artists back then were definitely an influence…and even some post-grunge bands like Incubus and Sublime; they were just a huge influence on my tone. But also in a world where I was being raised to listen to soul music, Michael Jackson has actually been the biggest influence on me as an artist. Band-wise, it’s kind of all across the board.
So, in listening to your album and hearing all these different influences, how would you classify your genre of music?
We’ve been using this term we coined called “urban rock.” When one lives in the city, you get influences from different cultures and I think that’s the best way to put it – urban rock. It’s a little bit of everything.
What was it like to have Sir Mix-A-Lot produce your album? How did you guys work together to combine so many styles into a sound that is so unique to you?
Working with Mix-A-Lot was pretty interesting because I wanted my album to be produced as a hip hop album and I told Mix specifically that I wanted to have his artistic take on producing the music. When we sat down, I told him what I wanted to sound like and we ended up taking the channel from my guitar and he mixed in both the raw tone from my amp and a channel going into the board so he could pad on any tones he wanted to add on top of that. The collaboration created this crazy tone and people have really complimented us on the tone of the guitars and the album, itself. It’s a unique approach to have a rock musician work with a hip hop artist.
One of the things I have noticed in preparing for this festival and listening to the artists is that your music really appeals to all age groups. How do you explain that?
When I set out playing music as a kid, I set out to bridge that gap, to make music that could be appreciated by everyone. I love hip hop; it’s probably my favorite genre outside of rock and blues. And my whole thing was…how do I portray myself as both this classic rock artist that incorporates modern tones, modern hip hop? And that’s how I started approaching it as a kid; I started thinking about ways to do that. And as I matured and understood music better, I was able to incorporate those things. And I think that’s really what you’re hearing – the older crowd appreciates it because it comes from something familiar to them and the younger crowd appreciates it because it comes from something to familiar to them, as well.
Where’d the title “Dream” come from?
I’m a very philosophical and spiritual person, as I’m sure most artists are. My philosophy is that the world around us can’t be proven by science, right? Science can’t really prove that reality exists; it’s constantly being called a hologram. So what’s the difference between when you close your eyes and when you open your eyes? It’s all the same, isn’t it? And it was also very fitting because it was just the start to this amazing path we’ve been on. We’re starting to really get some momentum going into this next year.
I’ve read that you got to open for B.B. King…Seattle Times said you’d “managed to elevate yourself into the conversation on Seattle rock royalty.” You’ve been blowing up since releasing “Dream.” What’s that been like for you?
It’s been really, really fun. It’s also been an adjustment. When you come up as just some kid, who wants to play some music and be successful, you don’t think about the fame and stuff like that. I’ve been really grateful and it’s been really nice to see people responding and supporting us so well. But it’s also been an adjustment because I’m a bit of a private person and I’ve never been one to put my private life on display. I’m noticing that, when I step out the door, that’s kind of dwindling away more and more as we become more successful. So that’s been the biggest adjustment and I’m getting used to that, but it’s been amazing, I appreciate every second of it, and I’m looking forward to the future as well. My whole thing is just to keep getting better, keep learning, and keep being open to ideas from the people who are helping to guide me to where I need to be.
Who are you listening to right now?
Because my life is so chaotic, I’ve been listening to a lot of indie music. Chet Faker is a cat I’ve been listening to lately and I really love his tone. He’s a cat out of the UK and he’s got a hit on the radio right now. A lot of Drake. Who else? Eminem. Queens of the Stone Age. Gary Clark, Jr. I’m listening to a lot of people right now.
Favorite spot in Seattle?
I’d probably say J & M is my favorite spot – that’s my chill out bar down in Pioneer Square. I love everyone there. There’s two, actually. That and a place called Highway 99 Blues Club in downtown Seattle – that’s another favorite of mine. What’s really cool about Seattle is that the artists that really came up in the ranks and played bars and clubs like that, those places really support them for the rest of their careers and do everything they can to see those artists succeed. Those two places are my favorite just because I played there when I first started out and they continue to show me love and support in my career.
Best live show you’ve ever been to. Who was playing and where?
Oh my goodness…Living Color! We opened up for them at The Triple Door. By far, the best live show in my life. They are the most amazing artists you will ever see in your life.
Not to rush you, but what’s next on the horizon for you in regards to new music?
I’m working on a new album right now, just trying to figure out how I want to set the tone. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve got some releases about to happen here and we’ll probably have a new album out by the end of 2015.