Artist in Focus: Laney Jones and the Lively Spirits

Brown University Folk Festival is ecstatic to welcome Laney Jones back to Providence, this year with her band, the Lively Spirits. She graciously took time off her tour to call in for an interview. Read all about her new sound, and pet kangaroos, below and see her on April 25th on Lincoln Field!

10500538_799085520135404_6963905488909548312_nHow did you get started in music?

I’ve always been a music listener. I had taken lessons when I was younger, but I hadn’t really started getting involved with music until 4 years ago. I was at school studying business and got really bored after my first semester. I didn’t love the major and I didn’t know what I wanted to do so from there, I started teaching myself guitar. It grew from a hobby, to a passion, to a job.

So you’ve taught yourself quite a few instruments then…

I have. I started off on guitar, played around on the ukulele, and then borrowed a friend’s banjo. It felt totally great. Of late, I’ve been mostly a banjo player.

Do you come from a musical family, or did you learn mostly from school?

Mostly from school or from my own listening. None of my folks play instruments or have taken me to concerts, but now they really support it.

So have you seen any cool concerts lately?

I saw Hurray for the Riff Raff this past summer, they’re always really great.

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I heard you grew up on an exotic animal farm, what was that like?

It wasn’t necessarily like a farm, but there were definitely exotic animals. My parents got to retire early so they sold their business and kept the land. They got some pretty weird and cool things. Instead of growing up with dogs, I grew up for kangaroos. It was crazy to some people. Like, before kindergarten, everyone has to get testing to make sure you’re ready to go to school. The person who was testing me asked what a fence was. I told him it’s what holds my Kangaroos and he thought I had an overactive imagination. I had to get psychological testing for a week at an outside facility because he didn’t think to check with my parents.

And you’re calling in from tour. How’s that been?

I just got out of school, at Berklee College of Music in Boston, this past September. So pretty much since then we’ve been on the road or recording for a new album. We’ve been getting the band together. It’s our first time together since January.

So how did you assemble the band, what was it like going from Laney Jones to Laney Jones and the Lively Spirits?

My longtime collaborator and good friend, Matthew Tonnor, has always been in the band. The other guys we mostly picked up from school and mutual friends. As a core band, we’re just starting touring. We’re going up the East coast now and it’s been really good. We’re really tight already, which feels awesome.

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How has going to school changed your sound?

I really think it opened me up to different musical experiences. Not touring with music for a long time gave me time to really focus on my chops as far as playing instruments and working on my vocals and songwriting. When you play music everyday, or do anything everyday, you get good at it. Before studying music, I still loved learning but it wasn’t my passion. When I focused on studying music, I got good in a short time, which I was really thankful for.

Other than Providence, where are you looking forward to touring or places you loved playing? 

I’ve been to Maine once on vacation and it’s beautiful. I know we’re going to head up there so I’m excited for that. Looking forward to the Cape and Maryland as well. We’ve been on a road for about two weeks and have been to some cool places already. North Carolina was awesome; there are always great audiences in North Carolina. I think it’s a good place to always play if you’re a musician. I’ve played at the Lincoln and Kennedy Center, in New York and D.C. respectively. I was so grateful to play there, if it’s named after a president, you know it’s a big deal. Definitely honorable places to be in.

How would you describe your writing process?

I really try to stretch myself. If I feel myself slipping into a habit, I try to do the opposite of it. If anything sparks my attention, I’ll make note of it. I keep a notepad with me incase I hear something that’s clever or something worthwhile. I’m always recording myself too. It’s all about being open to the creativity of the world around you.

If you could collaborate with any musician, who would be? 

Oh that’s tough! Okay, let’s see. I’ll say Bob Dylan circa 1967.

So what can Folk Festers look forward to when they see you in Providence?

We played Folk Fest last year with a different group of musicians, but I’m really excited to play this year cause we have drums and bass. It’s a little more on the side of rock and roll but it still has American roots’ elements. I’m excited to put on a good show and share some energy with the people of Providence.

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Keep up with Laney on her Facebook page and see her at the Folk Fest on April 25th!