Interview: The Bones of J.R. Jones

Two years ago, when last we spoke with Jonathon Linaberry, who makes music under the moniker The Bones of J.R. Jones, the Brooklyn-based artist was longing to get away from the city and move to a quiet place upstate. “We sort of did,” he laughs. “My wife and I bought an old farmhouse up in The Catskills that we’re renovating and restoring. We’re up there, not as much as I would like, but there a good portion of the week. I love it up there. Heating works, water works, it’s a good thing,” he laughs. “It’s those little things that matter.”

That’s not all that’s changed for Linaberry–he’s set to release his new album, Ones To Keep Close, on May 11th, an eleven-song collection that pushes his once-jangly boundaries into new sonic territory, and one that incorporates a band for this traditionally solo performer.

“I would definitely say everything on this record is a little bigger sounding as a whole,” he explains. “I hesitate to use the word experimenting, but I definitely tried to explore a little bit more, what I feel most comfortable doing, and how I can take what I do to different genres. I think I after the last record, I was looking at Spirit’s Furnace and obviously, hindsight’s 20/20. There are always things you want to change or redo,” he continues. “I was talking to a buddy–who actually ended up producing the upcoming record at his studio in Brooklyn–about the studio experience and what it would be like for me to have a chance to actually just  be in the studio and not be rushed, taking a different approach and being a little more thoughtful and reflective, and thinking about choices rather than being forced to make choices. That process for this new record informed more of where the record sits sonically in the genre that I wanted to explore, more than anything else,” he adds. “A lot of different things influence what I do, but this is the first time I was able to write a song and know my vision for the song, and chase that vision as far as I can get it to go. I feel like the songs on this record reflect that process.”

Since the majority of his shows feature him as a solo artist, Linaberry had to rethink execution of the material in the live setting in order to do justice to the sound.Translating this record to my live show has been really interesting and rewarding, but also very frustrating at the same time,” he reveals. “There are a handful of songs that translate really well; the other ones are still strong songs, but the atmosphere that is created by what we did in the studio just isn’t there at a solo performance level, which is to be expected. There are three or four shows coming up here where I’m actually going to be playing with the backing band, which I’m completely terrified and nervous about but, I’m excited about that prospect,” he laughs. “I’m trying to grow slowly, to see what fits and what doesn’t fit and explore my boundaries.”

Recently, Linaberry released “Burden,” a duet with Americana soulster Nicole Atkins, which tackles the idea of loneliness, something a touring musician, especially one whose main gig is performing alone, deals with constantly. I did a show with Nicole last fall in Philadelphia, it was my first time playing with her and seeing her live. I’ve been familiar with her music for years, and we just kind of hit it off,” he recalls. “Of course, she had a killer set. I wrote my first duet, I shot her a text just off the cuff and she agreed to sing on it. I was amazingly fortunate that she agreed to it, let alone before she even heard the song. That’s a testament to a character,” he laughs. ”It’s about loneliness and the hope of finding someone to that with. Touring is a tough thing to do, being physically away from home,” he explains of an artist’s life. However, Linaberry did have a companion for a few days this go ‘round–his father. “It was the first time my dad tagged along, which was. a real treat. He’s such a trooper,” he says. “I think for him, it really took away the veil of romanticism about what I do, staying in crappy motel rooms, spending all your time in a club, and leaving early the next day. It was a neat thing to share that experience with him, and he’s already offered to do it again,” he laughs. “He was a good roadie.”

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TOUR DATES
5/10: New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
5/11: Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Bar
5/12: San Francisco, CA @ Hotel Utah
5/13: San Francisco, CA @ Hotel Utah
5/20: Seattle, WA @ High Dive (Matinee show @ 3pm)
6/14: Philadelphia, PA @ Bourbon and Branch (w/ Will Dailey)
6/15: Providence, RI @ Fete Music Hall Lounge (w/ Will Dailey)
6/16: Boston, MA @ Once (w/ Will Dailey)
9/8: Salt Lake City, UT @ State Room
9/14-9/16: Telluride, CO @ Telluride Blues and Brews Festival

Susan Hubbard

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