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August 2014 (e-mail)
Phil Jones is a singer/guitarist & songwriter in Kauai Hawaii who fronts a trio creating uplifting socially positive music. He also owns a recording studio & a private resort, all of which intertwine his love of Hawaii & vision for a more relaxed creative life. In the band is Hawaiian vocalist Eli Sandoval & guitarist Kirk Smart, the later has recorded with Donavon Frankenreiter & Jason Mraz.
Phil's PR describes his trio as "Dire Straits meets Leonard Cohen on a surfboard" which might be overly figurative but also is startling accurate with moving vocals against melodic soft rock guitar rhythms ... & his deep vocals caught my ears immediately. I also really liked the message of his music which immediately pulled the group out of the pile of many other bands on my desk that were promising music that was loud, riff oriented, raw, in a certain style, but anything but what I hadn't heard before. I see many bands that offer a positive worldview, but I can only think of one other - Swaybone, also interviewed on this blog - that make that more than a catch phrase or an occasional song but actually a living philosophy & musical focus.
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AJ: Let's start with the basics, whose in the PHIL JONES BAND & what's its history?
PHIL: About 4 years ago I picked up my guitar after a bit of hiatus & started writing songs again. I play with some very talented musicians on Kauai, mainly Kirk Smart, a virtuoso on any instrument you put in his hands & local Hawaiian Eli Sandoval sings with me almost always as well. A telepath/clairvoyant named Camille Copeland actually recommended to me that we sing together. He has the gift of being able to sing many octaves above me & I often getting chicken skin working with him. The latest addition to our band is Colorado born Andrew Vastola, who is a studio drummer as well as a seasoned engineer.
AJ: Continuing with the past, tell me a little about the musical world of the man himself - Mr. Phil Jones!
PHIL: My love of music began with the Beatles. I picked up the guitar at an early age & played in a garage band comprised of my best friends in junior high & high school. After college I started a band that I put together with some very talented musicians. It was a lot of fun but song writing at the time was a bit of a challenge. It wasn’t until I’d had my share of life’s lessons that song writing became an interest of mine. Today song writing is my favorite part of the process. My musical call now is to write a song when I am inspired, pull in my group of musicians, record it, tweak it & then make a video – all at my house which I have turned into a recording studio/editing bay. Over the last couple of years I have built Pure Kauai Studios, which is a fully integrated ProTools recording studio with some top-notch equipment. The system can also be turned into a mobile recording rig to be transported anywhere on the island of Kauai. If you are ever interested in recording on Kauai, give my engineer/studio manager Andrew Vastola a call. We offer a full range of services from recording any type of music project, to mixing, mastering & even voice over recording & post production.
AJ: Your PR reads: "Phil is a native Californian with a background in music that dates to his early childhood singing & playing guitar for various bands. Now, he writes a different kind of song, imbued with the spiritual understandings only years of travel & self-reflection could inspire. His songwriting is intended to spark positive change, religious tolerance, racial equality & personal evolution in a fast paced & changing world." This list of attributes you fill your music with, or issues you draw inspiration from & want to write about, is both interesting & a breath of fresh air from bands that write 'we play rock loud the way it should be' or some blanket shallow statement. Tell me more of your songwriting philosophy.
PHIL: I only write songs that are positive &/or have a message of social or inner change. I am a believer of 'if you change on the inside, your world changes on the outside'. Once this awakening occurs, it becomes almost impossible to write about meaningless topics. Even if I write a happy, upbeat tune, I try to layer some depth into it. Otherwise, it is not fulfilling to me.
AJ: Do you think or do you find that people are receptive to such positive messages in music? We often hear in the news how someone killed themselves after listening to some death metal or rap. But, we don't often hear how someone changed their because they listened to George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass', for example.
PHIL: For me, my aha moment in uplifting music was when I was in college at UCLA. I was walking to class listening to a mix tape I had made. This was right smack in the mid 80’s. There was a wide range of musical styles going on at the time. It was not uncommon for me to make mixed tapes with VAN HALEN, MADNESS & Michael Jackson all together. I was open to all forms of music. Much of it was lyrically 'crap' but highly original & fun. At the time I was being introduced to much of life, one of which was spirituality which wasn’t a big part of my life until that point. When on my Walkman comes “Gloria” by U2. I played it over several times & remember thinking these guys are onto something big. It had big guitars, great harmonies, all the things many of the other bands had but the message was so uplifting. I was hooked. I became a big fan of U2 that day.
AJ: Do you have any feelings on mainstream musicians that bring such themes like yours into their music? I'm thinking of Bob Geldoff with Live Aid, Bono, Hassidic rapper Matisyahu & particularly George Harrison with Bangladesh as examples of folks who make social/personal issues a big part of their world.
PHIL: I have come across many great musicians with messages of a positive nature including Seal, the LIGHTHOUSE FAMILY, Bob Marley, Peter Gabriel & many others. To me, they are the ones I respect. It seems a shame that other musicians would pound negative lyrics into an otherwise great song, particularly to our youth.
AJ: Your music video for "Angels" was featured in 2012 at the World Peace One’s press conference at the Rolling Stones Lounge that included many speakers such as Claes Nobel & Ray Charles Jr. Tell me more about this song & how this honor came about.
PHIL: I wrote "Angels" in about 5 minutes one afternoon. I was with my son, Bodhi, who was about 3 at the time. Bodhi is perhaps the purest soul I have ever met. He came out with a smile & is almost always peaceful. As we were spending time together one day, I thought what if, at some point when he becomes a man, he is drafted. I became sadly overwhelmed at the thought & the melody “Why, why do we send angels to war” popped in my head & I started writing. After I recorded the song, a mastering engineer/friend of mine sent the song to World Peace One and they loved it & chose it to be one of their theme songs. I got a nice phone call from Claes Nobel shortly after it was chosen.
AJ: I thought it interesting what you wrote in your PR: "'As soon as it gets too serious or we push too hard, things don’t work out.' Which seems to not only apply to writing music, but the way Phil looks at his entire life experience." I laugh to myself at this as my girlfriend is always saying she doesn't like serious people. Thus, together we're the ones that go right into the water at our Maine beaches fully clothed like kids!
PHIL: My comment about pushing too hard has more to do with my song writing. Sometimes I try to push a song into life & at other times a song flows through me naturally. If I try to push too hard, I usually run up against a brick wall. At those times I try to take a step back, breathe & maybe go for a hike or a swim in the ocean. When inspired, the words & melody tend to come much easier.
AJ: While I know this is a stereotype particularly in this small world of the internet (making this interview possible), when I think of Hawaii I think of its seclusion & tourism (of course, I know it's more than that). But, if you would please, clarify the picture for me ... what's the Hawaiian islands music scene like?
PHIL: The music scene in Kauai is much hipper than one might expect for an island of less than 70,000 people. Kauai is home, or at least a second home, to many a well known musicians or producers. Occasionally they will play out at one of our small but intimate venues. There is also a wide range of local musicians who are very talented & making their mark on the scene.
AJ: How regularly or where does the PHIL JONES BAND play? Is it difficult to find places to play?
PHIL: Given my family & business life, I am not currently playing out & consider myself more of a studio musician. Getting gigs is quite easy, however, as there are a number of small venues & occasional festivals here on Kauai.
AJ: What brought you to Hawaii? What's the difference between playing music there versus elsewhere, either on a business or personal level? Or, another way of answering this is how did coming to Hawaii change you as a musician?
PHIL: I moved to Kauai in 2000. I met the love of my life, Ashley, in California at Esalen in Big Sur of all places. She grew up in Kauai, & after visiting her a few times & her showing me the 'real' Kauai, I was hooked. I moved here 6 months after we met, we got married, had children & the rest is history. I think Kauai grounded me & gave me a different perspective on how to live on planet earth. People in Kauai tend to be much more focused on family & being good to each other, rather than perhaps money or power or status so it tends to give you a different, more grounded perspective.
AJ: You're the founder of Pure Kauai, Inc which creates personalized holiday experiences for guests to the island of Kauai. But, what I find interesting is part of your mission statement is: "to inspire our guests to co-create a unique, soulful experience on an island of incomparable beauty & wonder..." In many ways I see a connection to your music here - both your work & play are looking at creating an uplifting soulful experience. Is this just my observation, or do you see a connection of the same energy from your night & day gigs?
PHIL: I started Pure Kauai because I love to have people experience beauty & inner growth. I have been in the travel business since I was 20, first running large ski vacations & then Pure Kauai. It makes me happy to make others happy.
AJ: In 2012 the PHIL JONES BAND released the EP Raise Up. here is it available for sale?
PHIL: All the songs I have recorded are available on iTunes & I have all my videos on You Tube.
AJ: What is on the horizon for the PHIL JONES BAND?
PHIL: I am currently finishing up a video for the song “Ace” which refers to connecting with the source for grace. I really like the tune. I am also working on a cover for the song “Light My Fire” by the Doors & am planning on doing a video with some fire dancers that are close friends. Should be a bit sexy.
AJ: I appreciate your answers to my questions. Is there anything more you'd like to share I might not have asked about?
PHIL: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share with you all. Much aloha to all of you reading! I hope to see you in Hawaii someday!