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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jonivan Jones

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonivan Jones.

Hi Jonivan, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
In my humble beginnings, I was fortunate to have family and family friends that were not only into a lot of music but also musicians themselves.

My mother had a great vinyl collection and she would play them on her record player when I was very young, sometimes on Sundays, and I remember listening to the sounds of the vinyl and the artists and just studying those artists and songs. A lot of these were Americana, Classic Western/Country, and some great blues-influenced records as well.

A few years later, I found an old nearly destroyed guitar that was barely playable and started to try to play it. When I was about 14, an Uncle who was a guitar player and later played in a band was kind enough to sit down and talk to me about music and show me some chords and a bit of structure.

My musical influences kinda took off and broadened around that point and I started to try to write little songs or song ideas. It was around that time that I found an old Tape Recorder at my Grandfather’s home and started recording these song ideas and playing them back to myself.

I was also very fortunate growing up as some of my family would spend time camping in the Ozarks and attending folk music gatherings and some of those festivals. This happened generally about twice a year from the time I was born and I still try to make it up for some of these events. During this time, I was exposed to some great Folk music and musicians, and around the age of 12-14, I would get together with my cousins and we would watch around the fire at night as different musicians would trade songs and stories.

There were acoustic guitars, sometimes a mandolin, harmonicas, and one old very special mountain man who made knives and played a washtub bass; he even had cut a little hole in his tub to put in a sub-woofer speaker. It was a great time and place to be regardless of your age and what type of music you listened to. Eventually, I thought I could join the circle and play a song I had learned, and as I hit those chords and attempted to get the words out, my nerves choked me up and I struggled.

At that moment the folk cowboy singer-songwriter who was the lead and very revered around the fire as well as some music venues around leaned over and said “hold your head up when you play and sing, don’t be afraid” so from then on if I was Lucky I got to continue to talk to him through the years and get his bits of wisdom and experience.

A few years later, when I was living in New Orleans for work, I purchased a 4-track cassette recorder and began to record more complex cover songs and originals on tapes, a few years after that I moved to South Texas for another work assignment.

In Texas, I began recording music on my own and distributing it wherever I could under the name “Animal sound” or “animal sounds”. And it was in South Texas, Corpus Christi, and sometimes the surrounding Cities where I started playing live. I think my first ever live gig was at a roadside-style place called Sys’s Place around 2006 (closed now).

During this period, I was fortunate to meet some great local friends that were musicians and friends of musicians that split shows with me, one friend owned a record store and would let us perform there and so I had a few years where I could write and perform songs that I wrote and share that music with a little community there.

My job kept me moving so I only stayed there a few years before moving to the East coast and shortly after stumbled upon another group of great friends and musicians that would let me open their shows for them around the Hampton Roads area. The kindness and feeling of community that was shared by some of those folks are things that I still appreciate very much.

After that, I had to head out to work and live in Hawaii for a few years. I got to travel quite a bit around the South Pacific and that influenced my music quite a bit. The sounds of nature and the music and singing of these beautiful places and people stayed in my heart and I hope it does forever. I met my wife there and wrote a lot of music about that place and time.

About halfway through my time there, I found a local pub in the Chinatown historic district of Honolulu called “Hank’s” that let me play my songs and so I played live there whenever I could get time off of the ship I worked on. I wrote the song “South Pacific” directly about some of these experiences and friends there.

Next, it was on to Florida for work. I was pretty busy then, but I managed to write, record, and perform some of my music in Florida also in Seattle, and quick stops home to Arkansas. A friend that I have a lot of respect for asked me one day why did I not release and perform music under my actual name instead of a moniker and I had no good answer.

So I thought long and hard about it and realized it was time to make a change and create music and perform it from the most honest place that I could. So the only way to do this was to take it back to my roots and influences and tell more of my stories and write from some of my personal experiences.

I have so many influences from travel and the way that I grew up that I struggled with labels and genres a lot during this time but eventually I started focusing more on just coming from an honest and real place about it all and sharing music for the connection. I think that’s what it’s really all about and coincidentally it has brought me back even closer to my roots in the music and people that I grew up with.

At the end of 2019, I moved back home to Arkansas with my family and had big plans of making music and connecting with the folks in my home state, unfortunately, just as I was winding up Covid arrived at our doors, and I had to cancel quite a bit of plans. So I pursued what I could remotely, whether it was live feed/showcases or one-time vinyl runs and even my own live streams that I would do from time to time.

I got to connect with people and share the music so I’m very grateful for that, but for me, there is no replacement for performing live. It’s just a different animal than staring at a camera by yourself. So as I’m always grateful for any opportunity to connect with folks and share our music, I certainly hold live performances in a special place in the heart, as I’m sure many other musicians do.

We (A few friends/co-musicians) took that opportunity to professionally record, master, and distribute a lot of new music during the last two years and so that was great and helped get our catalog of streamed songs out there. It was important for me to have our catalog be indicative of our live sound and we did that pretty well. I think. I owe thanks to all the folks who helped make that happen, from the musicians to the audio engineer; it’s been exciting and very fulfilling.

I do work to keep a balance at this point now, as I am a husband and father and there’s nothing more important to me than being there for my family every day. Currently, we have a ton of songs that still need to be recorded and shared. I joke that we have more than a train can haul, but we do and we’re going to continue to get them out there.

I’m looking forward to continuing to pursue opportunities to share music and songs I write, to travel, and meet new friends out there in the world. It was a long road to get to this point and it was full of a lot of great experiences and some really hard lessons too.

I don’t plan on rushing anything now, just writing and singing these songs from the heart and hopefully sharing some smiles along the way.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
There were a lot of bumps and still are every day but I’ve been lucky and able to learn from most of them.

For me, the initial struggle was figuring out my role or purpose and probably some forms of validation in what I created. I spent a lot of years searching for some of that validation in the wrong places or from the wrong people and nothing against those folks but I believe sometimes it’s best for everyone when you find your own path through really difficult things.

It’s always a challenge to share and set up live music and some places are certainly more friendly to artists, musicians, and creators. I see a lot of community support happening in some places and it gives me hope for the future. I traveled so much and lived outside of the home state that I definitely missed some connections here. It all works out but it’s definitely a real thing I experienced from being on the move for so long.

I’ve been fortunate in many ways but I have definitely made a whole book full of bad decisions and paid those consequences throughout my life, I think ultimately you just have to learn to forgive yourself when you can, learn the lesson and leave people with something positive if ya can, even if it seems a minor positive.

I still struggle with whatever the concept “balance” is supposed to mean, I don’t pretend to know it as a thing I”ve attained but more look to it as a reminder to not drop the things that are important, etc.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I write, record, and perform original Americana~ Roots~style music that is influenced by Classic Americana, Rock, and Roll, Western, Folk, and Blues music.

I believe that I am known for that very raw and gritty mash-up of influences that allows us to kind of span a few areas all at once. I am most proud of the music we have created and the friends we have made during the process and after when we share it live.

Since I first started sharing music back in 2005 or so, I was told that the music was gritty or raw or wild and those are some of the nicer terms used but I’ve always listened to the folks out there that I get to connect with. Sometimes the negatives are the best and most insightful thing to let me hear or see the form of the song or sound we are creating.

I made it a point to not run away from the grit or raggedness especially if it served the purpose of telling the story or making an honest or genuine sound. So I think we took something that was real and very imperfect and then embraced it to tell the stories in the songs and to connect through that.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
It’s a beautiful place with amazing weather, and so much great landscape in the surrounding area.

Like all cities it gets busy and people can get lost or disconnected in the hustle.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Mike West and A. Jones

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