CANA — Local musician Will Jones is having the time of his life easily moving between the worlds of performance and politics.
While it’s hard for the 23-year-old to remember a time when he didn’t have a guitar in his hands (he’s been a full-time musician since January and was taught guitar at six), he regularly rolls up his sleeves and hits the trenches as a grassroots organizer for Virginia 20th District Senator William Stanley.
“I keep the two worlds separate. Morally, I was raised by a good family to be a good citizen. I’m a patriot who loves my country and wants to see people do the right things and prosper,” said Jones. “It’s truly two totally different worlds.”
Jones is the youngest in the musical family with four sisters (Ashley, Laura Leigh, Mary Alden and Caitlin Jones). His parents are Phillip and Patricia Jones.
Jones said when he was six, his father gave him a cassette tape player with large red and blue buttons to help with his guitar lessons. He borrowed a J.D. Crowe cassette to play and remembers waking his parents up at night to show them he had learned the song “Cryin Lonely.”
“It (playing guitar) was one of those things. It came easy to me,” said Jones.
Not long after, the family formed the Bluegrass group “The Cana Ramblers,” which regularly performed at festivals and on radio station WPAQ’s Merry-Go-Round program in the Historic Earle Theatre in Mount Airy, N.C.
He credits the stresses of a family band traveling to shows for making them closer and described the years as a “wonderful, cheesy experience.” His approach to fans and performance was also deeply influenced during the years among Bluegrass performers, and that music’s inherent family-like community of practitioners.
“I’m thankful for it now, especially since everyone has drifted off to their own thing,” Jones said.
He later majored in political science at Virginia Tech, where he was influenced by Nashville american artist Lacy Green. He credits his transiton to traditional country music to his Bluegrass roots giving him a firm technical foundation to start from. Jones said sister Laura Leigh’s connections in The Music City also helped him to hone his repertoire of varied musical styles.
Versitility and the rewards of making a connection with people became his common ground between the honky tonk genre and the voting booth. Both required a “roll up your sleeves” work ethic and a discipline for being genuine to succeed. Jones also worked with the election campaign of Sixth District Delegate Jeff Campbell.
“There’s no specific formula (for music). I want to get fans the old-fashioned way, starting with performing on the East Coast and moving on from there. So far, I’ve been able to do this,” said Jones.
He said his passion is to reinstill an enthusiasm for the traditonal sounds and subjects of his musical idols. Drawing from his range of musical styles is a way to “mold” to a crowd and get them to enjoy a ride thorough great songs and their stories.
Lately, Jones has founded his own group, the Will Jones Band. The group ranges in age from 23 to 60. Eddie Clayton is on guitar with Joel Woodsen on bass. Kelly Linville is the band’s drummer and Nashville veteran Bobby Hawthorn is featured on the pedal steel. They have already played at venues in Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky.
“I’m so lucky to have a band with talent as good as it gets as well as the friendship of these guys,” Jones said. “Music eliminates age. Singing for me is the most fun thing I do. As well grounded as I was in flat picking guitar, singing changed my approach to the instrument and how I play.”
The friendship, traditional music in many styles, and the power of making a connection with people keeps Jones’ avocation from being just another job.
“As a musician my job is to make them (the fans) forget about their stresses for a while and have a good time, even if it’s for a few hours,” Jones said. “You’re always changing. Music is in the hands of the fans and I think it’ll swing back to the traditional tunes.”
You can obtain more information about The Will Jones Band on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WillJonesBand.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.