Justin Jones is calling Fading Light “some of the most intense, emotional and personal work I’ve done to date.” The D.C.-based guitarist and singer-songwriter will be celebrating the release of his album with back-to-back dates at Iota Club and Café this Friday and Saturday. Concert-goers can pick up the album at the shows before its May 8 release.
Being a songwriter who draws from his personal experience for the craft, he says there’s always been that intimate component to what he does, but growth as a musician and a man has brought him to a place where he feels his writing has changed.
“It’s probably a matter of me maturing as a human being, and as a musician and songwriter,” Jones said. “[I’ve been] able to be honest in my writing and not try to create a facade of something that isn’t real – not that I’ve really ever done that before, but I’ve been a little bit more aware of what other people think in the past, and I’ve just kind of let go of that worry, and I’m a little bit more confident as a musician now.”
The lyrics that accompany his alt-country/rock tracks are drawn from his life – his relationship with his children and wife, the passing of family members. They’re his feelings, and his memories, but he hopes that listeners can relate to his takes on the experiences all people share.
The album’s songs came together around the title track, inspired by his ailing grandmother and his childhood memories of her.
“It’s been a little bit of an emotionally traumatic experience to watch her go through all this pain, and see her kind of deteriorate at the rate that I have,” Jones said.
He ruminates through the song on aging and the pain of the inevitable loss that comes with knowing and loving the people around you.
“I’m not ready,” he wails, more forcefully than his gritty tone, through a layer of the sound made by voices in the song repeating, “It hurts to know that some day I will let you go.”
Being a musician informs his experiences, and talk of what life as a performer is like makes its way onto the album, specifically his frustrations.
And he is frustrated – with the way art is devalued in a society of instant gratification, the importance of networking and other non-musical endeavors in having a successful career, the meager wages earned from time spent missing his family to play his music out on the road.
But he keeps at it. He’s driven to do so, in some unknowable way that made a 3-year-old Jones tinker with a guitar, take up playing the instrument as a child, start writing songs as a 13-year-old, and play open mics and make his way from rural Virginia to Washington, D.C. to make a career of it.
“I eventually tried to make a living doing it,” Jones said. “And failed, and tried again. And failed, and tried again,” he added with a laugh.
Fading Light marks his fourth full-length album since launching his recording career in 2004, Blue Dreams, the product of a day’s worth of recording featuring only the singer’s voice and acoustic guitar work. Fading Light is also his first full-length release on 9:30 Records after being signed on as its first artist and releasing his EP The Little Fox in 2010. Since then, he’s been touring with acts like Ray LaMontagne and Drive-By Truckers, taking his own band around North America, and recording with his side project The Deadmen.
There’s been progress, he says, but he has concerns about the pace – “There’s that saying, for every overnight success, it takes 10 years,” Jones said. “Well, hopefully my 10 years is up here.”
“I’m compelled to do it,” Jones said. “To be honest with you, if there was something else that I could do, I would do it. … I find it rewarding to play shows, but there’s more than just my personal feelings to think about. I have two kids, and a wife, and there’s just more to it than, ‘oh, that was a good time tonight.'”
But knowing what he knows now, and considering his frustrations, what would he change if he could go back?
“I don’t know what I would do differently,” Jones said. “Everything gives you the experiences to draw from, to create whatever you’re creating in your art, so having the bad times or the good times makes it possible for you to speak on them, and for them to be real. So I guess I don’t know that I would change anything, knowing the outcome now.”
• For more information about Justin Jones, visit justin-jones.com.