ACL Spotlight: Justin Jones
We’re excited to be covering the Austin City Limits Music Festival (aka ACL) this year. As a part of our coverage, all week we’ll be bringing you profiles of the bands and artists that will grace the Festival’s 8 stages.
Justin Jones grew up in Rawley Springs, Virginia. As he explains in his bio, “Rawley Springs isn’t a town — just some cabins, trailers, and campsites in the mountains just east of the West Virginia state border.” Justin started playing the guitar at the age of 11 and began writing songs at 13. Open mics in Charlottesville gave him his first taste of performing in front of audiences, and he eventually made his way to Washington, DC, thinking it would be a good stepping stone to a career in New York.
After a rough few years, during which Justin found himself lost and addicted to drugs, he turned his life around, formed a band and found joy in playing music again. Justin became the first artist signed to 9:30 Records (a label launched in 2010 by the legendary live music venue in DC) and released a collection of songs on The Little Fox EP.
Justin’s first stop at ACL was part of his tour promoting his most recent release, Fading Light, which NPR Music’s All Things Considered hailed as “a powerfully magnificent Americana album” and what he calls the most personal collection of songs he’s written. I took a listen to the album and found myself drawn into the raw emotion infused into Justin’s voice and his heartfelt lyrics, which capture well life’s ups and downs. The songs vary from slower, haltingly beautiful acoustic ballads to more upbeat, rock tunes, similar to what you might hear on a radio station like KGSR. Despite the fact that many of the songs deal with weighty themes such as overcoming adversity, Justin’s songs are uplifting and powerful.
We caught up with Justin in between his set on the BMI stage and his performance on the Austin Kiddie Limits stage. We learned Justin’s home base is still in DC, where he lives with his wife and his two daughters, ages 4 and 2. When he’s at home, Justin shifts from rockstar to stay-at-home dad for his younger daughter, who isn’t yet in preschool, while his wife runs a salon.
Justin gave due credit to his wife, who has to hold down the fort at home while he’s on the road. We chatted a bit about all the families with kids at the Festival. Although Justin has taken his girls to local gigs if he has a friend along who can watch them, he said he couldn’t imagine taking them out on the road. He admitted that his 4-year-old might be ready soon to join him at something like ACL, but that his 2-year-old would just take off in the crowd. “It would be a nightmare,” Justin chuckled.
Despite the fact that Justin’s daughters are still young, they are both aware that their father is a “rock star”. He recalled the time he held his oldest daughter on stage as he performed with Lucinda Williams. Sometimes, he even finds his girls refer to him as “Justin Jones” instead of “Daddy”. His girls both love his music and are his biggest (and, at the same time, littlest) fans, and are a major inspiration for Justin’s music. At Justin’s first ACL set, he went on stage sporting a necklace his daughter had made him, which she made him promise to wear during his tour. Justin described the necklace as an adult-sized version of the candy necklaces you can buy for kids, made out of fishing wire and large pink foam beads.
When I asked Justin about his performance at Austin Kiddie Limits and if he would ever consider making an album for kids, he said he wouldn’t rule that out. “I love kids,” he explained. Now that ACL is over, Justin and his band are heading back to DC after making some stops in the Southeast. He’s ready to get back home to spend time with his family, since he’s been out on the road since May. He also mentioned that he thought the band would take a break for a little while. “Kids are only going to be young once,” Justin opined. “You can fail at music anytime.”
Justin went on to say, “They say kids change your life. Having kids didn’t change me, but they changed the way I weigh the consequences of my decisions.” It’s clear that not only is Justin a up-and-coming musician and songwriter, but he’s also a kick-ass dad.