|Singer and songwriter Sean Jones|
Victoria West: Please tell us more about yourself, what is your story?
Sean Jones: I was born in Etobicoke and moved to Montreal for a couple of years. At the age of 5 my dad got a job overseas in Saudi Arabia and moved the entire family over there. For 5 1/2 years I lived over there and experienced a lot of cool stuff. It’s only now I realize how fortunate I was to have had that kind of experience at such a young age. I also got to take some really cool vacations. I’ve seen much of the world and it’s definitely opened my eyes in so many ways.
I grew up listening to all kinds of music. The band Whitesnake was the first album I ever bought. Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Michael Jackson, Motley Crue, Guns And Roses, Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, Levert, Heavy D and The Boyz, Prince... nothing was off limits. No boundaries.
My parents are both Jamaican and I have a sister. The amount of support I have received from them over the years is nothing short of phenomenal. Through the ups and downs, of which there have been many, they have always been there cheering me on. Family is everything to me.
I have a degree from York University in Kinesiology. Hopefully I'll never have to use it!
Victoria West: How did you start your music career and what made you choose this path?
Sean Jones: Here’s the short version of a long story: Basically I was a shy kid that wanted attention from the ladies but didn’t know how to get it. I was humming in French class one day and my teacher asked me to come to the front of the class and sing. With great hesitation I did it and every girl was in awe! After that I was hooked!
Victoria West: Can you tell us about obstacles that you had to overcome in order to get where you are today?
Sean Jones: For me I think the biggest battle that I’ve faced, and still continue to is “doubt”. Not just from people but from myself. Believing in yourself and the art you’re creating and trying to share with the world can be trying at times to say the least. Could be the emptiness in your wallet that has you pondering if you should just give up and find a “real job”. Might be that executive gate keeper who holds the key to your art being heard or seen by the masses BUT refuses to let your dreams pass through because they THINK they know what the world needs to hear. Could be the voice in your head telling you that your time has passed. Time to pack it in and move on. I have personally experienced all of these and more. But I’m a dreamer. For some crazy reason I believe that if I work hard enough, long enough, my time will come. That I will share what I was meant to share with the world at large. It’s a constant struggle but my belief in my destiny is greater than the doubt that surfaces from time to time. I will win... and that’s that.
Victoria West: Please tell us more about your song “Stoplight” (which by the way is an amazing song), what is the inspiration behind it?
Sean Jones: So here is an interesting story about this tune. I performed last year in Dallas at a fundraising gala for an organization called Best Buddies which pairs people with kids who have intellectual disabilities. It was there I met a wonderful young lady named Lisa Smith who cannot sing because she has Down Syndrome. However, her desire to perform and love for music is so strong that Lisa actually signs the words to any song while someone else sings it. I remember meeting her at sound check. She was so excited ad maybe a little shy. But when she came back for the performance... wow! She had on a tight fitting tiger print dress and she was ready to rock the stage. And she nailed it. And as the crowd was applauding and she was taking it all in I just thought to myself: “She deserves the spotlight tonight. She deserves to shine! Tonight she is the star!” Michael Shand, Miku Graham and myself finished that song months later, and while I can’t say that the song is completely about Lisa, I can with 100% honesty say that I drew inspiration from that experience in Dallas to create it. Will be sending her the finished version shortly. Maybe I can get her to sign on it!
Victoria West: You are giving the “Soul in the City” concert series at the historic Casa Loma in Toronto every Monday night through the entire summer, please tell us more about this project, how did it start, how did you make it a reality, who helped you along the way?
Sean Jones: To play at the castle every Monday is truly amazing. It really is one of, if not the, best venue in the city. I’ve got an 8-piece band that kills and every week I invite 3 special guests to perform a couple tunes for the audience. The whole show takes place outside in the beautiful Casa Loma gardens. There is a glass pavilion that seats about 300. However, because we are now experiencing numbers of 900+ per Monday, the castle has added seating in the gardens themselves. And to make sure that those seated in the garden get to see the same show as the people in the pavilion, a jumbo screen was erected to make sure all can enjoy the show.
I have to thank Nick Di Donato, President and CEO of Liberty Group, as well as my manager Jeffrey Latimer for putting the idea together and then handing it over to me to work out the show itself. Nick was simply looking for another event to compliment his “Symphony in the Gardens” event he throws every Tuesday night in the summer. He had seen me perform on numerous occasions and believed that together we could make a night like this successful. He chatted with Jeffrey and viola! “Soul in the City” was born. It is hands down the best showcase for soul/R&B in this country.
Victoria West: You are a Juno Award winner, please tell us all you can share about this experience.
Sean Jones: It was a magical night. We not only got to perform on the show but we won Best R&B Soul Recording for our album “The Master Plan”. We had worked for 10 years to get to that level and when our name was announced as the winner I teared up a bit. We were on top of the world. I remember my phone ringing non stop for the rest of the night. People just calling to say congrats and that they’d seen us on TV. Definitely something I’ll always remember.
Victoria West: Please tell us more about your work on the feature film “Sons 2 The Grave”, how did this project become a reality for you?
Sean Jones: I met Sasha and Lynn Stoltz over 8 years ago when Sasha was doing Public Relations for the label I happened to be signed to. I heard about the film and one night was inspired to write a song for the movie. I recorded a very rough demo and gave it to them.
Movies can take a long time to finally get filmed but, when the movie was in its final stages they reached out to me about the song I wrote for them years ago. They also wanted to know if I had anything else that might be appropriate. I sent them “When I'm Gone” and they liked it even better than the tune I had originally given them for the movie. The rest is history I suppose.
Victoria West: And the song from the movie, “When I’m Gone”, what is the story of this song, what’s the inspiration behind it?
Sean Jones: “When I’m Gone” was not originally written for the movie. It was just an idea I came up with while playing guitar one night. I ended up sending it to Sasha when she asked if I had any other material suitable for the film.
Sounds kind of morbid but I’ve often wondered to myself “What will people say about me when I'm dead and gone?” If the only thing they remember about me is that I had some good songs and a nice voice, then I think I’ve failed on some level. When I was younger I really didn’t care. It was all about clubs, drinks, girls, and the spotlight of the stage. Nowadays I’m doing my best to mentor youth and give aspiring artists a chance to shine on a stage that I’ve helped build. I was completely blindsided the other night when a young man named Matte Black came up to me and explained that I was responsible for him not killing himself many years ago when I gave him an opportunity to open for me. You just never know the impact your gonna have on someone’s life.
Victoria West: What else are you working on right now, or will be working in the near future?
Sean Jones: Always working on creating new music. That just never stops. Gonna be releasing some new music shortly so that takes a bit of planning. Also working on putting together a tour and exploring new territories.
Victoria West: Where do you find your inspiration as an artist?
Sean Jones: These days I’m finding inspiration in some of the young artists I’m bringing to Casa Loma. Their talent is so raw yet so good! It’s exciting to see them do their thing and it’s equally exciting to see the crowd react to it. I love all of that.
I’m also inspired by the crappy state the world is in. So much hate. I can let it depress me or I can find a way to fight against it and inspire people to love. I choose the latter.
Victoria West: What are your thoughts on the Canadian music industry nowadays? What does it take to make it as a successful singer and songwriter?
Sean Jones: 99% of the time, if you want to make it as a successful singer or songwriter you will NEED to leave this country. That’s just the facts. There are sooooooo many reasons I could get into about it that but I would need to write an essay to express myself properly. There is a problem here. So much talent and yet that same talent has to go elsewhere to be recognized before WE as Canadians will recognize their abilities. Why??? When are WE going to be the FIRST to figure out and nurture the diamonds in this great country of ours and THEN share them with the world!!!???
Victoria West: Please share with us a memory of yours that you are particularly fond of.
Sean Jones: After singing “What a Wonderful World” to end a performance in Georgia, an 80- year old woman came up to me and told me that that song was the first song her and her recently deceased husband had ever danced to. With tears in her eyes she said “Thank you”. To this day it is one of the most touching moments I have ever experienced.
The song “Stoplight” by Sean Jones is available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. To learn more about the artist and his music, please visit SeanJones.tv.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Sasha Stoltz Publicity