Analogue Music | Laney Jones

Laney Jones

By Matt Conner

It's the mass appeal part that's easy.

Laney Jones makes part of her living as a pop songwriter for commercial projects, and it's a type of songwriting at which she's gifted with a natural ear and skill set. It does not, however, come with the same emotion as when she heads home from a co-write to try her hand at something more personal, the sorts of songs that comprise her newest album, Stories Up High. Those are the sorts of songs that feel quite a bit more vulnerable.

On the verge of a forthcoming tour with Blitzen Trapper, Jones is preparing to head on the road with a new set of songs that have been in the works for years. These are personal songs about love and loneliness, weakness and confidence. And while some of her strong pop sensibilities are apparent on the new album, Jones is gifted in a different way to channel the muse under her own name.

We recently sat down with Jones to hear more about her journey to Nashville in the first place and why she's excited to head back to Montana.

Analogue: You live in Nashville now. Was that a musical move? And if so, how much does life feel like you envisioned before moving there?

Laney: I’ve taken an interesting route. I’ve always been doing my own music, but I went to Berklee College of Music and in my first semester there, I got into this really cool pop songwriting class. It was called “Hitmaking” with Kara DioGuardi. She writes songs for Pink and all those crazy people.

So my Nashville connection was that I got into songs for licensing, writing for commercials and stuff. So I moved here with the intention that maybe in my off-time, I could make some more money by doing that sort of stuff and just networking a different way. I love writing, but I’m still learning how to be an artist and a musician. But it’s really been way better than I even expected. I’m doing totally different projects as far as my pop project that pays the bills. And I’m really invested in myself as a musician. It’s been really cool.

My husband and I, he’s my drummer, but we both work at this Fanny’s House of Music. It’s a woman-owned music shop here in town with all the coolest stuff, so I’ve built my own studio. I’ve worked with what I think is one of the coolest studios in town. It was tough for the first three or four years, and I wasn’t sure if I’d stay here or not. But more and more, I feel like I have a community here and really do love it here. It’s so beautiful.

Analogue: The album has all these personal sentiments, which I find interesting with your pop songwriting background here.

Laney: I’ve always used songwriting as a tool for understanding life or making sense of my emotions and things. It’s a diary. One thing pop songwriting has taught me is that not everybody wants to hear that personal singer-songwriter diary kind of vibe, but I think it’s made me a stronger writer. Now, with any art, it’s a practice and I’ve practiced it so much now that the record is free-flowing stuff that comes straight from the heart. I think I had those tools to make my clarify my language if that makes sense.

Analogue: Did you make this album during the pandemic?

Laney: It’s a mix of during and before, actually. I basically didn’t want to release anything unless I was really proud of it. It’s so much effort and work to put something out into the world in a way where people will hear it, so I originally recorded over half of the record in the fall of 2018. I sat on it for a year, and it didn’t feel quite right. Then 2020 hit and I’d gone to the studio before and after the pandemic and it was the second session, the masked session, in which I’d finished up the record. Then also during the pandemic, I’d learned how to record at the house, too.

Analogue: I’d love to hear about a couple of the tracks, in particular, starting with the title track.

Laney: It was really one of those songs that popped out in 15 minutes. Funny enough, I’d watched a series on Netflix called Special. It was for one season. It was a story of love but also feeling awkward and self-conscious. I just took all those emotions and sat down at my piano and that song came out. The wild thing was that my husband, Brian, said, ‘That’s one of the best songs you’ve ever written.’ I couldn’t make sense of it. I didn’t know what the form of the song was. I didn’t know how to feel; about it because it came so easily, too, so I waited on recording it until that last session. I’d had it ready before in 2019, but I sat on it because I was confused by it. But some things are just meant to be and you have to put it out there for other people.

"With my own writing, I feel like I’m going into uncharted waters where I let it all go. I think that’s why I love doing it so much and why I think it’s important."

Analogue: Does it normally feel vulnerable for you to do so?

Laney: Yeah, you don’t know how people are going to feel about anything. That’s not to say that others are, but I’m not trying to follow a format. With pop songwriting, it’s not so vulnerable to me. I’m also working with a producer and we know the things we need to do to get it done. But with my own writing, I feel like I’m going into uncharted waters where I let it all go. I think that’s why I love doing it so much and why I think it’s important. I’m not trying to be anybody else.

Analogue: What about “Empire State”?

Laney: Yeah, the story behind that is that I’ve had more than a couple of family members deal with severe depression and suicide. Even for me, I was struggling with depression or some mental health in that aspect. I think writers really write what they need to hear, and for me, I was going through figuring that I needed help and was working through those feelings. That song is absolutely pointed to that.

Analogue: You’re heading out with Blitzen Trapper, starting in Montana. How are you feeling about heading back out again?

Laney: Well, people are kind, usually, in real life. I’m touring as a trio, so we get to recreate these songs and I think they sound really good. I think we’re good at playing live, so it’s exciting to share them. I think it’s less scary because for some reason because they’re already out there. Also, too, I think there’s less of a disconnect for people when you see someone making the music. It’s more special and you can connect to people way more.

And I’m so pumped because I haven’t played some stages as big as they are playing. I’m really excited to share music with people. I’ve played in Montana before and it was awesome. The people there are big music lovers because I think some people don’t play Montana as much. I’m pumped. Also, Blitzen Trapper, they have a great newer album out I think in 2020 and they’re always so good. I’m stoked to see what they do as well.

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