Interview with LA based guitarist Dennis Jones - a hurricane that changing the blues landscape in his path

"Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss."

Dennis Jones: Blues Rock Power X3

Sizzling hot guitar solos. Smooth and soulful vocals. High-energy stage performance. Backed by a rhythm section that is second to none, this IS Dennis Jones. Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The drums were his first passion and they still form his relentless grooves. Check out a live show, and you’ll instantly agree, Dennis Jones’s band ROCKS the blues like NO other! With original songs, some of which are sure to become classics, Dennis’s feet are firmly rooted in the past, yet his heart and soul are connected to the present. He writes songs that seamlessly blend the best of both worlds, presenting a unique and contemporary style of American rock and blues. And unlike some others, he isn’t afraid to tackle the controversial issues of today. Since 2003, Dennis has released five successful albums on his own label, Blue Rock Records.

Based in Los Angeles, Jones continues to pursue his musical goal of becoming a top entertainer in his field. With four well-regarded CD releases and the fifth “Both Sides Of The Tracks,” (2016), Jones' vision has never been more in focus. Dennis is no stranger to film either. Deep Blues from his first CD, Falling Up, was featured in a 2006 Lions Gate movie, Sea of Fear. Finally, Dennis is one of several artists featured in the much-anticipated Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn and "Mama" Laura Mae Gross. He opened for such greats as Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour. Dennis won the International Blues Competition, Memphis, 2004, as part of Zac Harmon’s band and in 2012, was honored to present the Awards for BB King Entertainer of the Year. Dennis and his band continue to work hard to achieve the next level of musical success. Increased touring opportunities and greater exposure to new fans will undoubtedly make this band a household name. The new power trio of Jones’ has long been a foundational lineup in rock ‘n’ blues like Cream, ZZ Top, SRV and Jimi Hendrix building Hall of Fame careers and cementing the format. In that spirit the road warriors honor their hard-won skills by releasing a new album, “WE3 Live” (2018), captured at the Beaver Creek Brewery in Wibaux, Montana with 13 original fan favorites from all 5 previous releases plus 1 cover.

Interview by Michael Limnios

 What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?

Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss. Each individual life experience, good or bad, is unique, yet its resulting pain or glory is often understood, and even felt, by others, as part of our common human experience. This is what I love about the blues. Blues music is also part of my heritage, and a birth right, which I cherish and want to be remembered.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues and Rock researches? Where does your creative drive come from?

The reasons I stated playing Blues and Rock are because it speaks to my soul. It’s a combination of the music I grew up with and love. I’ve been writing songs for many years. My creative drive comes from my heart and soul.

How do you describe WE3 Live songbook and sound? What touched (emotionally) you from the live performances?

WE3 Live showcases some of my best songs. It wasn’t a planned recording. They happened to have a full pro tools recording studio next to the stage and asked if they could record my show. It came out so well I decided to release it. Everyone was playing great that night, In the moment, In the groove!

Are there any memories from the Beaver Creek Brewery of Wibaux, Montana which you’d like to share with us?

The only memories from that night were we all were having fun doing what we love to do. Play well and but on a great show.

"The reasons I stated playing Blues and Rock are because it speaks to my soul. It’s a combination of the music I grew up with and love. I’ve been writing songs for many years. My creative drive comes from my heart and soul." (Photo: Dennis with power Blues Rock trio of WE3 on stage)

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Some blues purist finds the combination of Blues and Rock to be a bad thing. I think it’s the best of both worlds. Since my first album in 2003 I’ve been writing and recording Blues Rock songs. It’s natural for me to do so because it is what I am. I’m not pretending or jumping on a band wagon. I truly love it!!

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths on the blues circuits?

Some of the most important lessons are to find your audience. Be your true self. Try to write great lyrics that everyone can relate to. Be original as possible. Don’t hide in the dressing room after a set, go out and talk to all your fans and let them know they matter.

Do you consider the Blues & Rock a specific music and artistic movement or do you think it’s a state of mind?

It all depends. The industry needs to put every style of music in a category. You now have 70’s and 80’s rock artist switching to Blues Rock. Many festivals are booking more and more Blues Rock. As the blues crowd gets older I’m starting to see more of this. I love many forms of music. If everyone listens with an open mind they might find a lot of joy in all forms of music. There’s room for us all.

What has made you laugh from 'Both Sides Of The Tracks' studio sessions?

When I’m in the studio I can be very serious, but at the same time you want the music to flow naturally. I’ll always say or do something to make everyone laugh and feel comfortable. Some of my songs go from serious to fun. I've always used humor as a way to get a message across.       (Dennis Jones on stage / Photo by Bob Uecke)

"The most interesting part of my life is today, the present. All of the hard work that I have put in over the years is finally starting to pay off, and I am no longer distracted by a day job, nor by any human drama. Now I focus each day on becoming a better musician and better human being."

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?

The fact that I have had lots of experiences in my life is what makes me a good bluesman and songwriter. It’s hard to understand true happiness if you have never felt despair, and I’ve been there. Other than this, my passion for making and playing blues music certainly helps.

What characterize Dennis Jones sound and music philosophy?

My sound is a combination of all music that I played and grew up with. At any given time, any of these elements can come to the surface. I always consider the song itself as most important. A great song will last forever. But a great guitar solo in a bad song will not last.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?

Robert Jr Lockwood shared great stories with me, and Guitar Shorty shared not only great stories, but hands-on guitar techniques with me as well.

How and where did you get the inspiration for your song?

I am inspired by conversations with my friends, and just watching things in the world. A few years ago, I was talking to Cedric Burnside and Bill Wax while seated on a bus– that’s where the idea for the song, Same Train, came from. But my songs can also come from other sources, and I often think of ideas and start writing lyrics while just sitting home playing guitar.

Tell me about the beginning of Dennis Jones' WE3. How do you describe your new rhythm section and band?

Over the years, I have had several variations of included instruments in my band, e.g. keyboards, horns. But my trio combination right now feels better and more right than ever before. My new band is the best combination of musicians that I have ever played with – there is something special about the dynamic that the three of us create that I cannot explain, but fans can see and hear it. I do not have any barriers or limits on what we can do.

"My sound is a combination of all music that I played and grew up with. At any given time, any of these elements can come to the surface. I always consider the song itself as most important. A great song will last forever. But a great guitar solo in a bad song will not last."

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The best moments of my career are yet to come, though there have been many great ones already. The worst moments are behind me, and I do not wish to dwell on them.

What’s the difference and similarity between the European blues scene and US?

The only difference is where the musicians live. The blues has no borders.

Tell me a few things about your experience in Europe?

I had a great experience playing in Germany when I was younger. When I toured France and Italy more recently, the response was also really good. I enjoy other cultures – the food, the arts, the people – it was a great experience. I am looking forward to playing again in Europe in the near future.

What do you miss most nowadays from the Blackhead and the 80s era?

It was a big part of my life at the time, but now I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed being part of a positive movement in which black artists were crossing over to many genres of music.

Why did you think that the “Blues Poetry” continue to generate such a devoted following?

It’s real and it represents what we go through as humans every day.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The most interesting part of my life is today, the present. All of the hard work that I have put in over the years is finally starting to pay off, and I am no longer distracted by a day job, nor by any human drama. Now I focus each day on becoming a better musician and better human being.

"With the blues black Americans had a way to express the real hardships and daily life of being black in America. Soul music even took it a step further because by then almost everyone had a radio, TV or record player, the whole world was listening."

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

My advice is to find someone who has been doing it a long time, and ask a lot of questions. If you are not a natural songwriter, then take classes to learn, and practice with other musicians. You can only get so good on your own in your parents’ basement.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Rock and Hard Soul?

To me it’s just the time it takes music to evolve and to be pasted down and interpreted by different generations and groups of people. If I listen to Muddy Waters, James Brown, Sam Cook and the Beach Boys I can still hear all the standard blues changes. Everybody can if they listen close enough.

Are there any memories opening for the late Johnny Winter which you’d like to share with us?

Opening for Johnny Winter was a dream come true. In his heyday, no one could touch Johnny on slide guitar, and I mean NOBODY! It was hard for me not to jump on stage and play Mother Earth with him. The other experiences were enjoyable too.

Tell me a few things about your meet with Zac Harmon, which memory as part of Zac’s band makes you smile?

Zac and I remain very good friends to this day. Winning the International Blues Competition (IBC) in 2004 is one of my best memories of playing in Zac’s band. Plus every time I got on stage with Zac Harmon, I knew it was going to be a good night. Our styles were different, and that is why we fit together so well. Other good memories were of females taking off their tops to see our reactions, and people throwing money onstage, and I’m not talking change. 

 What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?

It is better to be a bad you (i.e. Dennis Jones) than to be a good somebody else. I took this advice to heart.

"Some blues purist finds the combination of Blues and Rock to be a bad thing. I think it’s the best of both worlds. Since my first album in 2003 I’ve been writing and recording Blues Rock songs. It’s natural for me to do so because it is what I am. I’m not pretending or jumping on a band wagon. I truly love it!!"

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Blues is the core of most styles of American music, from surf to rockabilly, and even soul and funk. The blues is there. I wish the Blues would continue to mature and evolve, and not always rely upon what has already been done.

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

The best jam I ever played in was on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Pacific Coast, with Chico Banks, Zac Harmon, Debra Coleman, Chris Duarte, and a few others. It was just one of those moments that I will never forget. The most memorable gig I ever had was playing a Teen Center Dance at my High School for the first time, when I was 17 years old. A more recent memorable gig was opening the Doheny Blues Festival in 2011 on the main stage, where I have seen and heard so many great blues acts over the years.

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your recording time with Guitar Shorty?

Guitar Shorty walked in to record You Took My Baby with me, for the previous album, My Kinda Blues in 2012. Shorty opened his guitar case, and then cords, pedals, and the kitchen sink fell out. Ten minutes later, he plugged in, and played the best guitar solo on that song that I have ever heard. We had dinner, I shook his hand, and we said good night.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

There was a different level of respect for the blues of the past. It was on the radio everyday not just a few hours on the weekends. My hopes for the future, is that the music continues to evolve from what it was 50 years ago. As long as I see the younger generation playing the blues and discovering their own voice. I have no fear of it disappearing.             (Dennis Jones / Photo by Brian Phillips)

"The fact that I have had lots of experiences in my life is what makes me a good bluesman and songwriter. It’s hard to understand true happiness if you have never felt despair, and I’ve been there. Other than this, my passion for making and playing blues music certainly helps." 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That musicians especially songwriters have more control over their music and are fairly compensated for the music they create. Right now we’re not even close to that being true.

Are there any memories from Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour which you’d like to share with us?

It’s always exciting for me to meet people so unique that they change the way you think about an instrument. Dick Dale was interesting. He has a lot of knowledge of the guitar and music in general a real innovator of his time. Seeing the Experience Hendrix tour and hearing so many amazing musicians playing Hendrix songs makes you realize no matter what style of music great songs last forever.

What is the impact of Blues and Soul music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

With the blues black Americans had a way to express the real hardships and daily life of being black in America. Soul music even took it a step further because by then almost everyone had a radio, TV or record player, the whole world was listening. Bottom line American and many other cultures would not be the same if not for Blues, Soul and Black music in general. Pat Boone and Bing Crosby were good singers but they had no clue of what soul was.

Which things do you prefer to do in your free time? What is your MUSIC DREAM? Happiness is…

I spend my free time with my friends and my lady, and at least once a day, with my guitar. My dream is to make a good living playing, writing, and performing the music I love, and sharing music with blues fans everywhere. Happiness is internal. People need to love and respect themselves before they will ever give a damn about anyone else. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t, and it guarantees them a miserable life. Many people focus on money and other external sources to try to appear happy to others, which only makes them unhappier. Fortunately I have learned and loved a lot in my life, and things keep getting better and better for me.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I’d go 20 years into the future to see the condition of mankind. I know a lot about the past truths and lies. I think one day in the future would be way more exciting!

Dennis Jones - Official website

Dennis Jones / Photo by Mikel amel

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