“I got ‘A’ listed on my latest record on the Radio in Holland, so it’s going out to the masses which has been great you know. There are still massive Blues elements in there though and I’ll always have that Blues guitar no matter what I do”
Good news then for the many fans of British Blues musician Laurence Jones who paid his early musical ‘dues’ touring alongside top Blues musicians like Johnny Winter and Walter Trout. With a new Band, a new CD and a new beard there was a lot to talk about when I met Laurence after his recent concert at The Harmonie.
I think last time I saw you was in Portsmouth at The Cellars in 2014 (Which is sadly long closed!). You had Roger Inniss with you then. Is the live music scene in Britain dying do you think?
I wouldn’t say it’s dying. If you’re doing Rap or Pop music its thriving you know. But for things like Blues and Underground music, it’s very hard. Europe has the upper hand. Places like Holland and Germany. But the UK is where it all began for me with players like Eric Clapton, so whenever I play the UK it feels special. Luckily I’m from the UK so I’ve had a chance to build up, but some bands from Europe and America find it very hard.
There’s a completely new band now! Why is that?
I just wanted a change. To change direction as an Artist. You know, it’s always been Laurence Jones from the beginning without set band members. It was the same with people I’ve just mentioned, like Eric Clapton. You’ve got to feel comfortable, and I’m working towards a bigger aim. It takes a while to have a band that you’re happy with, and that you can do different genres with, and the band that I have at the moment really suits that ‘60’s style and it’s the only band that’s played on my albums twice.
Your early career has Walter Trout to thank I believe. I hear similar from the likes of Danny Bryant and Mike Zito. What is it about Walter that has made him such a champion of new stars?
I think Walter likes to jam with young up and coming talent because, you know, he really likes to keep the Blues alive, and that’s it really!
You are continuing Walter’s work though with championing fourteen-year-old Toby Lee?
Yeah. I’ve recently produced four tracks off his latest album. I got Toby to guest and jam. Walter said to me in the early days ‘I’m willing to help you, but you gotta promise that you’ll give back to the Blues and help young upcoming people, and I’ve stuck to my word on that’.
The album before your latest was released after you left RUF Records and ‘The Truth’ had a very different feel to it, seemingly aimed at wider commercial appeal. Was that the reasoning behind the split from Thomas Ruf’s label – less of a Blues pigeonhole?
Yes. That was pretty much it. I got ‘A’ listed on my latest record on the Radio in Holland, so it’s going out to the masses which has been great you know, and there are still massive Blues elements in there and I’ll always have that Blues guitar no matter what I do. ‘The Truth’ was very commercial, very poppy, and it was a huge, huge risk. People were telling me not to do it – but the label supported it. I’ve got to say you know that I’m still very happy that we did it. It was a huge risk – but It brought us a lot of new fans. It broke down barriers, and as a result I’m not afraid to try new things now.
The new one has got a much harder edge?
That’s what I wanted to go for. That more vintage feel, and, in general, a lot more rockier. That’s where I was at when I was writing the songs.
How did you come to decide on covering ‘Daytripper’?
Well, that was all Gregory’s idea (Producer Gregory Elias). He came to me with this great idea for doing a Stevie Ray Vaughan backing, ‘Crossfire’, and then he put the Beatles song over the top and it was just cool, you know. He had this idea and vision for me, and Gregory led it completely.
Tell me a bit about the recording of ‘The Laurence Jones Band’ disc.
We recorded it in Miami where I’d recorded before. We followed a certain sort of system and had a great time doing it. I had two years to write this album, which is the longest I’ve ever had, finishing up with around fifty to seventy songs, and then chose the best sixteen. In January we went to the Caribbean where Gregory lives to do pre-production and the vision just came out. We had a plan. In February and March we recorded the album for release in September, so it’s been a long, long time in the making and things happening behind the scenes.
It’s odd that, after a number of solo releases just with your own name, that the latest is simply called ‘The Laurence Jones Band’ and the writing credits are divided equally amongst you all. Tell me about the decision to form a totally new band, why you did it and how you chose Bennett, Phil and Greg.
it’s called ‘The Laurence Jones Band’ and when I first started in music at 16 it was called the Laurence Jones Band. I wanted to pay respect to where I’ve come from and where I’ve been on this journey. Also, so many albums I grew up listening to. Things like The Stevie Ray Vaughan Band, The Allman Brothers Band, people just know what it is – it’s Blues-Rock music. There’s nothing fancy about it – Everything you hear on that record is how you hear us live.
How did I come to choose Bennett, Phil and Greg? Well, I wanted to go for a younger-looking and more commercial band that would get across to a wider audience. Not just that. I wanted people of my own age. Phil’s been the longest member of the band, and the drummer who’s been with me through different management, different record deals. Gregory’s just left the band as he’s unwell. Fortunately, I’ve had my good friend Jack Alexander Timmis join the band now and that’s another new change of direction which I’m very excited about! It’s really an honour to get Jack on board – and an honour to get one of my best friends on stage with me every night. That makes things a little bit extra special. You mentioned writing credits, and these aren’t divided equally. I wrote the core of them, but the band were a major part of the process and I wanted them to have a say in the album because I feel that a lot of people who have their own career and own name just want them (the band) to play a certain session way, and I don’t feel you get the best out of somebody when you’re telling them exactly what to do.
Did I spot a credit for a vocal coach (Guianko Gomez) in there too? What’s that all about?
Guianko was a big secret, especially on the last album ‘The Truth’ where he vocal-coached me through every song. He didn’t do so much on the new one – Gregory did a lot of it, I think Gregory did about four or five songs. He’s just an incredible vocal coach to work with, he’s a Grammy Award Winning vocal coach. I wanted my vocals to be as good as my guitar!
New band, and New image. Are you heading into Rock territory like Oli Brown with Raveneye?
I wouldn’t say I’m going in the same direction as Oli Brown. He’s a bit too heavy for me. I preferred his Blues stuff. But I’m definitely going into rockier territory. It’s a genre I’ve wanted to be heading into for some time. There’s a massive crossover between that Blues and Rock thing.
Brexit is likely to be tough on Brit musicians coming to Europe. How do you think it will affect your own visits to Europe to play?
I can’t answer that right now. The only thing I can probably say is that everybody is going to have to charge more money because it will cost a lot more to come over. There will be a few more forms to fill out, a little bit more of a hassle, but maybe it might turn people around to appreciate more the bands that come into their Country.
What can visitors to your current tour expect? Are tracks from the first RUF Records still on the live agenda? Are you starting to see some numbers as indispensable to a live show?
We’ve got a real mix of everything on the set-list: from one of the first songs I ever did ‘Thunder in the Sky’ which does seem to be a fan ‘classic’ now, to playing about eight out of twelve songs off the new album, plus a mixture of numbers from ‘The Truth’ as well, so it’s a real mix. I like to add some covers into the show as well with Hendrix’ ‘All Along The Watchtower’. There’s ‘Fortunate Son’ and ‘Before you Accuse Me’ so yeah, there’s a good variety of stuff in the setlist.
You’ve played Bonn and Germany concerts a fair bit now over the years. How do the audiences differ over here from, say, the UK
I’d say the Germans listen a lot more. They pay a bit more respect than the Brits, who like to get more wild, and have a bit of a party. I’ve enjoyed coming to Germany since I was about eighteen when I was signed to RUF Records, and I’ve built up a following over the years. Working really hard coming over here in a little tour van and playing pubs and clubs to being signed to RUF Records and playing sold out clubs and supporting some amazing people like Walter Trout and Kenny Wayne Shepard here. It’s been cool!
I’ve seen a number of pics of you clearly loving trying out guitars. If you found yourself in a BB King situation, a fight amongst patrons over a girl at a club and the venue catches fire. You have only time to grab one guitar from the rack. Which would it be?
(Laughs) It would definitely be my number one, Blondie. It’s a 1960 original Fender Stratocaster which I bought from a little place in Denmark a while ago. A vintage guitar shop, and I didn’t go in there to choose a guitar – that guitar chose me!
What guitar do you not own but would love to have?
I would love to own a double-neck guitar like Jimmy Page has. One with a twelve-string and one with six-string cos I think it would look crazy (laughs) and be fun to play.
I’d like to finish on a theme that doesn’t just affect your music, but your whole life. You were diagnosed some years ago with Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any segment of the gastrointestinal tract. How does that affect your life, especially as a musician? And how have you managed to avoid it getting in the way of a demanding musical career?
Sometimes it requires frequent check-ups. Yeah, it is pretty bad. I guess you have your good days and you have your bad days. I recently got the news that I’m in remission with my Crohn’s after ten years battling with it. Possibly even longer. I got really ill when I was eighteen.
How do you fight against it?
I think it’s about not allowing too much stress to get to you, which is hard in this job. But you know, You’ve not got to allow stress – eat good, eat plain, and try to find something that works for you, There are so many things out there on the internet that I’ve tried to follow, but it’s a disease that is very unique to each person, so you have to find out the hard way by eliminating things that you can and can’t have over the years, and be hard on yourself. Late-night service stops at one o’clock in the morning are the hardest. It is hard. I work with the hospital. I have something called a vedolizumab Therapy infusion once a month which is the best treatment I’ve had yet, and I think has helped towards my remission. I’m working with a Doctor in England. Eating the right stuff on tour and taking it easy.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Laurence
Thank you for the interview. Cheers!