The chosen interview location by Miriam Jones turns out be a quintessential English setting, a pub (good choice).

Our hostelry has just opened its evening doors. Hardy souls in from the rain are met with a roaring log fire and a choice of real ales.

Its low, cross-beamed ceiling, stacked firewood, old framed photographs, leather suite, oak tables and chairs and views onto the River Thames offer a welcome to the college town of Oxford.

“I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to English winters,” she says as we shake hands. She’s ain’t kidding as she’s freezing. Jones is a native Canadian born in Vancouver, although home has been various locations through her formative years. Her childhood was spent, as well as British Columbia, in Papua New Guinea where her father taught theology at a small rural campus. Once the rigours of university life were completed, closing out with a Master’s degree in Art, music became her calling.

‘Sign and Semblance’ (2005) was her first album and, described by Jones as being “quite folky”, was recorded in Nova Scotia.

Those rambling days became more settled when Jones married bass guitarist Jez Carr in 2007, deciding they should make a musical home in Oxford for the foreseeable future.

By her own admission, the catalogue of singles, EPs and albums have been well received, but not really stayed the course after a couple of months of Canadian radio exposure.

“I make music, put the end results into an album format and hope something happens. I charge into things, kind of blindly sometimes. Well that’s what I used to do,” she quickly interjects.

The new album ‘Between Green and Gone’, produced by ex-Fairground Attraction bass player Simon Edwards, is a set of ten songs which have a business strategy and team support she hasn’t had before. When I tell her it’s not unusual to hear during interviews how albums are released, with the artist taking a lottery ticket mentality, and hoping that something, namely luck, will happen, she nods with an acknowledged agreement.

“To some degree my music is my voice. I’m not very good with crowds of people, a bit shy really. I’m far better with words than conversations,” she continues. “Going through university I was a bit too serious and intense. I have lightened up, honest," she reassures me with a wry smile.

When we get into the album I ask about certain lyrics and the meaning of her songs, she seems genuinely surprised. “I’ve never been asked that before,” she says. I continue to ask about the composition of her songs. I tell her I like them, and she decides to open up, let me in, a wee bit.

“Yes, some of the songs are about relationship break-ups and the way they made me feel from the outside looking in.” It must be the logged fire which is warming her rather than my questions. “Others,” she hesitates, “are about me, my difficulty in adjusting to different environments. You know, friends, family a long way from home.”

As we are on a role, I ask about the origin of the album’s title ‘Between Green and Gone’.

There’s enough of a pause to tell me she’s wondering what to share.

“The title comes from a phrase in a book I was reading a few winters ago called ‘Naked Spirituality’ by Brian McLaren. It spoke to me at the time I was writing the songs.”

I get the impression there is a lot more to the album’s title and the book’s contents than we have time for during the interview.

Lyrically Jones has the ability to lull the listener into a false sense of security. In ‘Given All’, she asks (I paraphrase), “How the hell did I end up here with the promises sought and made?” Asking to be left alone comes this heartbreaking line: “Offer me your silence/Your words do only violence.” She summarises. Words can’t help past mistakes. “Just leave my shame alone.” Tough emotions, eloquently executed.

In the opening lines of ‘Train’, she pens with subtlety and craft the coming and goings of love: “Love may jump you like a thief/But when it goes it tends to creep”. Just reading the lyrics are a joy. “Is writing a chore”, I ask? “Very rarely. The process of writing songs, where it takes me, what I can describe through a song. I love the privacy and personal intimacy involved.”

I ask, “Why now, why the desire or need to get people around you on this album rather than continue on the solo track? “Well I couldn’t keep doing everything on my own. All my music has been self-financed and fan-funded. I’ve never had attachment to a record label. I’d been chipping away over the years trying to make progress with each album.”

“It can be hard trying to make connections, getting people to notice your music,” she continues. “Yeah, something had to change. In order to make this work I had made two decisions. One to stay in England, no running back to Canada, and two to get some support.”

Jones tells me about one of those moments/decisions which can define how you move forward in life, when her introversion needed to take a back seat.

“My little sister, one weekend over a holiday period, provided the required courage, trudged around London with me on the hunt for a manager”. They went through various directories and online advertisements, selecting companies who may be interested. One of the selections had their address listed as a private house. So, they bundled her CDs together and left them on the owner’s doorstep.

Instead of getting a call from the police Jones had a call from Ian Blackaby, who liked her package and suggested they should meet up. It was a positive meeting. He’s now strumming the business musical strings of Miriam Jones.

“He knew I wanted to put another album together (2010’a ‘Fire Lives’ being her previous release) On the new album I worked without deadlines or expectations. I wanted to clear the decks. To some degree start with fresh ideas, a fresh patience. To some degree I was simply wrestling with weariness.”

“I took more time working with the band, and the sound I wanted. It was a steady process, I feel we got it right with the material we had," she muses.

“Have you ever questioned if you fear being successful?” I ask.

“Well I’ve thought about it and been asked the question before. There are a lot of components in making an album/music you need to deal with.” I take this as being an acceptance in allowing people into her private space and vice versa. She offers a “mm mm” to signal we are on the right track here.

“Writing, producing albums on your own is hard,” she continues “By the time Ian came on board I’d say I was tired, a little washed out.”

I continue the theme. “Did you ever consider giving up?

“Well I certainly didn’t want to continue down the solo route anymore. So, who knows if Ian hadn’t come along?” Her weariness and explanation of the situation of old is understood.

Jones is happy with the current dynamics. Behind the scenes, as she describes the workings, are people who know the support required. Gaining exposure for the album, interviews, lining up gigs. “We are taking baby steps. Working to a plan which covers this year. The album launch in Oxford, a showcase gig in London. More gigs in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, sets at both the Maverick and Cornbury Festivals in July 2015. Yes I like the pace we are going and what’s being achieved,” she says with some pleasure.

A discussion isn’t required, but the use of “we” in present and future context as opposed to “I” is confirmation the music of Miriam Jones is a team working together these days.

Some of the albums songs get you hooked first time around, ‘Cracks’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Float’ being prime candidates. Others need a repeat listen. Maybe like wine,’Given All’ and ‘Unknown’ are better savoured at certain times of the day. Their melodies, hooks, layering of chorus vocals, supported by a cast of Hammond organ, mandolin, acoustic guitar, electric guitar confirm the care and attention in the construction of this album . The production and balance of the album is pitched just right throughout.

Last year she was on tour with Roddy Frame. When I ask about the experience of opening gigs to people that had come to see Frame, she's as courteous as ever. "I just wanted people to listen, which they did. They were very kind. After all some people see me as just a girl with a guitar". Which is true, but alarmIng when said aloud.

Packages seem to work for Jones and her musical direction. When I ask how the tour with Frame came about, she is as non-promotional as ever. “Oh, Ian’s wife somehow knew him. She gave him my CD, he liked it, asked if I could join him on tour. Yeah, I think that was about it really.” I pause, waiting for a punch line. She takes a sip from her drink. There is no punch line. This is how the tour opportunity came about. Simple…!

So, that was our interview - Interesting, diverse, challenging, private, just some of the components which make up Miriam Jones. For all my questions, I think she told me what she wanted me to know. Next stop her showcase gig in London.


Photos: Alexia Arrizabalaga
www.troubleshooteur.com
















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