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CAROLINE JONES:
UP-AND-COMER IN PARADISE

Caroline Jones isn’t afraid of talented people. Signed to Jimmy Buffett’s Mailboat Records, she’s toured with Buffett, Zac Brown and Kenny Chesney, who sang on her recent single “Gulf Coast Girl,” as did Lukas Nelson. Her labelmates include Chris Isaak, the late Jesse Winchester and Walter Becker, Def Leppard and, yes, Mark Twain, but she more than holds her own on the roster.

After playing almost every instrument on 2018’s self-penned Barefeet, produced by Ric Wake, Jones expanded her reach for “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” her Shania Twain-evoking femme-powerment single. Tracking at Nashville’s famed Blackbird and finishing vocals and overdubs in New Zealand, with additional layering at Miami’s Criteria and Palm Beach’s 432 Studios, she matched the charge she gets playing live. With a project due later this year, she’s ready to shake off quarantine and get back to the road.

Everybody must ask you about Buffett.
Actually, I met Mac McAnally almost 10 years ago. He was so generous, explaining how to produce and get set up in Nashville. Five years later, when I got my first tour with Zac, I let him know. A few months in, Mike Ramos, Jimmy’s manager, came out to a show and saw me. I didn’t know it was about the hurricane benefit they were putting together in Tallahassee, but they asked me to open.

Kenny, Zac—a lot of people were there.
It was very collaborative. I got to sing with Jimmy and a few other artists. He had me sit in on various other shows, which led to me having the chance to open for him in 2018. He’s a consummate performer and businessman. When I’d open, I’d look up and he’d be side stage, watching the crowds. I’d do meet & greets after his shows, go out and make contact with the Parrotheads. He said he’d never seen his crowd react to an opener like they were with me halfway through. But then, he usually doesn’t have openers. 

What do you think he sees in you?
Hopefully, a singular voice. Jimmy’s a rogue and a rebel; he does things his own way. Obviously, my music isn’t traditional country. Jimmy and Mac have really connected me to the idea of being an independent artist with as little intervention from businesspeople as possible. 

“Come In” packs a lot of Shania.
That’s such a great comparison! She created such great combinations: graceful and feminine but also powerful, playful and sexy. The strength of being a woman is being able to harness those things and use them for your songs, your music. Those same emotions are in a lot of my songs too.

You’re also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist.
Absolutely, but this time, I invited a few more players, and it gave us a live feel. The record [that’s coming this fall] is a little more raw. Last time, I played everything but bass and drums, so I wanted to change it up.

What’s different?
It adds energy in the tracking phase. We got a lot of the vocals in tracking, because you’re in the moment and not thinking about what you’re layering next. If you ask any musician if they’d rather play live or to a reference track, there’s no question.

You finished the record in New Zealand.
A huge part of this record is the journey I went on as an artist and as a person. It’s something my fiancé [an America’s Cup captain] and I talk about quite a bit. There’s a genuine sense of place, of community there. It’s very small-town and opened me up quite a bit. I moved across the world during a global pandemic and only knew one person.

Other than Keith Urban, is there much country music
Down
Under?
Country isn’t big in New Zealand. They see it as hokey or passé. There’s a bluegrass group there, The Trenwiths, who are three generations. They have a heart connection to the music. I’ve done some stuff with them, and it’s inspiring.

It isn’t easy to have a career as long as Keith has, with as many hits, but I think there’s a creativity there unlike anywhere. Out in nature, the open land, the ocean, the sky—that’s where you find it.

It’s an amazing path you’re blazing.
Maybe it’s like Jimmy, where there are so many layers. He brings people in with the lifestyle, the visuals, the vacation mindset. They may not realize the poetry or songcraft at first, but it gets in. He’s a wistful, idealistic soul, and I think people sense it, but there’s so much more. If I can have a career that has that, I’m happy. 

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