We had heard wonderful things about a young Stevenage based singer songwriter called KELVIN JONES, we also heard that he was supporting the mighty JAMES MORRISON on the UK leg of his tour, we thought he must be good so filled the car up with diesel and hit the M5. We arrived at The Colston Hall in Bristol ahead of schedule and were soon lead through the catacombs into Kelvin's dressing room that was adorned with lillies and a collection of small furry kittens (great to see that riders are still as ridiculous as ever!) - We got comfy and hit record, here's how it went down....
I heard you all went to the zoo earlier on today?
Yeah, that’s what grown up rock stars do isn’t it?
I think you’re only ‘Rock n Roll’ if you go around biting heads of monkeys…..or is it bats?
Bats are SCARY, have you seen them up close? The first thing I thought when I saw one up close was that I understand why Batman became now!
And so the interview began……
You started playing the guitar only 4 years ago, who would you say made you want to pick it up in the first place?
It’s kind of boring as there wasn’t really anyone who made we want to get into music, from the start, my brother bought a guitar and went on to do that thing that 90% of people do, play it for a week and then left it on the corner of his bedroom and went to university and this was my chance to be better than him so I picked it up and then started playing!
For two weeks?
Yeah, and here we are! No, I remember writing an entire song just on the bottom E string and I showed my brother and he just dissed me saying that it wasn’t a song, it WAS 10 times better than anything he ever did so…..
Was it the ‘Peter Gunn theme’ or ‘Smoke on the Water’?
Neither…..I did write a song the first time I ever picked it up, it wasn’t good but it was a song! From there I carried on and got kind of obsessed, got proper into the work of John mayer and BB King and here we are today, 4 years later!
Who made you want to start writing songs?
Well, here’s the thing, I wrote my first song and realised how much it sucked so never bothered until at east 3 years later, I think when you write songs, you;re so engrossed in how cheesy the lyrics are, especially if you’re English, everything just sounds so cheesy, in the end, you just end up writing what you feel and then you end up with a hundred terrible songs and from them, maybe, just maybe, one is okay and you start to work with it and in the end you MIGHT come up with something that you want to carry forward. So it was at least 2 years until I had anything that I could go out and play!
But when you’re a global superstar, imagine how much mileage yu could have with the older demo tracks, you could retire and just release an album every year full of old tracks that you discarded in the early days!
Here’s the thing, when you’re famous you can put anything out and the fans will be lapping it up….
You’re from Stevenage, what’s the music scene like there?
I’d just like to say that should there be any willing ladies out there, I’m still at home living with my folks, I do of course live a full on rock n’ roll lifestyle but it just happens to be under my parents roof! There isn’t really a music scene as such, I almost feel like I’M the music scene, there was a stage a while back when I’d be willing to jam with literally anyone with a guitar, it was pretty hard to find people and I ended up forming a blues band with a few friends and we must have played in EVERY single pub, www had ALL the gigs as there was no competition at all. I went to Brighton to hang out and see what was going on and I was like “holy crap”, EVERYONE here is a musician! I made my album in Berlin and the same goes there, EVERYONE is a musician, you really get the feeling that you’re not as good as you may think you are when you pitch up against all these other people!
I guess coming from a small town with no ‘scene’ as you said earlier, it makes you try that little bit harder to stand out?
Oh yeah, and that’s good, that’s what YouTube provided for me in the early days, I could type in ‘guitar player’ into the search and there were a million players who were WAY better than me and that’s why I started to write songs again as that way, I may never be the BEST guitarist out there but with my own songs, at east I have something that is unique and is mine.
Did you used to have open mic sale nights in Stevenage that you could attend and play?
Not in Stevenage, I think that I really started to explore music when I was at university where I ‘studied’ civil engineering, I was at Portsmouth and there were a bunch of pubs there that were really dirty, right by the sea and I used to visit a different one every night of the week and just play songs that I had written earlier in the day (whilst missing lectures) and playing them in the evenings to anyone who would listen to me! That was really the beginning of my musical career.
You’re nearly at the end of the tour where you’ve supported James Morrison, looking back over the dates, which would you say was the BEST night for you?
The best one for me was (lengthy pause whilst he thought) Nottingham, that was amazing, I don’t want this to sound negative at all but as a support act, you can only bring so much to the party, the crowd also have to being something along too, we played in a couple of venues on the tour where the bars were at the back of the room and I noticed that there were a lot of people chatting throughout my set (and James’s too), there were other venues where the audience were there to listen and when that happens you can really put on a good show. So Nottingham was amazing, Southend was also amazing and I have a great feeling about tonight (Bristol) as it’s half standing and half seating so you have an energy in the room as well as people sat, watching so tonight MIGHT be the best one yet!
You have a couple more dates on the tour?
Yes, Dublin and Southampton.
You’ve pretty much covered the length and breadth of the UK, do you notice a difference in the audiences depending on where and when you play?
Just the smell of the room! Yes, there is a difference, when we played in Glasgow,you soon see thatthey’re all mad, all up for a good drink, they really lived up to everything that you have heard about them and then you play in Cambridge and it’s all seated and the people there are really engaged, focussed on the music and it just creates a totally different vibe for the whole show, you need to adjust to the room.
Do you ever adjust your set depending on how you feel or how the show is going?
Yes, I always have a couple of tracks that I can adapt as I go through, at the end of my set, I play a mad solo which I don’t think I’ve played the same since I started doing it, it’s where I escape and just go mad, get it all off my chest. There’s another slot in the set where I play an acoustic track and it’s not until the moment before I play when I decide which track it’ll be, whatever the room has said to me and how I feel.
What would you say you’ve learned from touring and playing with James Morrison? Do you get to hang out with him on tour?
No, you’re not allowed to make eye contact with him, you can’t turn your back on Sir James….
You may joke but honestly, I’ve heard things JUST like that from support acts and you wouldn’t believe who they were supporting, crazy!
I really want to be able to dish the dirt on him and say that he’s such a ‘douche’ but I can’t as he’s so lovely and so nice, we share the same sense of humour, share the same stupid jokes and we hang out and sit and chat and I guess I learn the most from just watching him on stage, how he carries himself, how perfect his voice is EVERY night. The tracks on my album you can pretty much sing anytime in the day, get up at 5am, you can sing my songs, get in after a night out, have a singalong to my songs, easy! James’s songs, you need to warm up for a good 2 hours and even then, you may not be able to hit the notes that he does night after night on tour, nailing it every time! I’ve learned about his consistency, that he sets the bar so high and he never dips below it and I am now approaching it in the same way.
Have you changed anything from how you would have done things before?
Absolutely, I’ve been playing in front of people for 2-3 years so it would be weird for me NOT to be changing, I think the biggest changes have been made over the 2-3 year period but also on this tour I’ve changed how I communicate to the audiences, my confidence has increased and I now feel that little bit more comfortable in front of bigger crowds. James has also had to adjust how he is on stage and not to always try and get people up dancing, sometimes you need to just play to the people you have in front of you, you’re not at Glastonbury every night, play to the room, so I’ve definitely learned to read the room and adapt my style accordingly.
Let’s say that you’re on a desert island with a CD walkman and 3 albums, which 3 are they going to be and why?
The first one is easy, it’ll be ‘Where the Light is’ by John Mayer, without a doubt it’s my favourite song ever, it has my favourite song on it (Slow Dancing in a Burning Room) and I find it really difficult to describe what it means to me, up next it’ll have to be ‘Stop the Moment’ by Kelvin Jones, due on March 25th, it’s an INCREDIBLE album……no? okay, then I’ll say Live at the Regal by BB King which has a track on it called ‘The Thrill Has Gone’ on it which is the reason I fell in love with the guitar and the first time I realised that you could get the guitar to say things instead of you saying them so that’s another special one for me and finally, how about ‘Phase’ by Jack Garrett, that’s such a superb album but I guess it’s hard to say a new album as you never know how it’s going to stand the test of time so sometimes easierto name a classic album but then everyone thinks you’re really old…..
I see from Twitter that you’ve been busking in every town/city that you’ve played in, which one has been the most profitable?
I love it, where have I earned the bucks! Here’s what’s strange, you’d assume that the big payers would be in the larger cities? WRONG, the first gig we played was in Rhyl (North Wales) and there is nothing there and when you start playing, you get loads of people coming to stand and watch as you are the ONLY thing that is going on in the town, everyone starts calling their friends to tell them that there’s something going on and to get down the town ASAP, before long, we had a crowd of about 20-30 people around us, completely focussed on us, I played 3 songs and moved on. In the bigger cities it’s like you’re ‘just another busker’ and nobody really pays you any attention. If I’m ever poor, I’m heading to Rhyl again!
You recently toured across Europe with New York’s X Ambassadors, how did this come about and how did you find the audiences overseas?
They were looking for a support act and my manager got in touch and for some reason, they loved it and invited me along, the main difference is that their audiences are SO different to mine, such high energy shows and it was just a case of reading the room to understand how you’re going to play. The other main issue is that when I’m on stage I tend to talk really fast so I was constantly telling myself to slow things down a little and I love it in Europe, if you’re in London, you find that people are seeing 2-3 bands at different gigs on the same night , in Europe, they are so appreciative of you just being there and they are totally locked onto you and that’s really nice. In Italy they just went nuts, I had to check to make sure that they knew that I was only the opening act, very odd (but nice). Germany is also a great crowd, they sit and listen and take it all in, you feel that you’re there to be seen rather than just a distraction whilst they drink and chat.
Do you prefer playing solo or with a backing band?
Backing band, no doubt. There is this intimacy that I love when I play on my own, you can’t get that with a band and even when I play with afull band, I sometimes do a couple just by myself as they don’t make sense with a band behind me so it’s good to mix things up a little. Playing with the band is great, if I mess up for any reason, I know that I can rely on them to pick up the pieces for me and I can go on and do a 20 minute guitar solo until they all get bored…. It’s also great for the audience, sometimes, to sit for an hour, just watching one man with his acoustic guitar, it can get a little much so the band can really break things up a bit, Passenger can do it, Ed Sheehan can do it but I’m nowhere near that level yet.
We love your CAR-E-OKE that we saw on YouTube recently and wanted to suggest some tracks for future recordings;
Delila - Tom Jones
Don’t You Want me Baby - The Human League
Hit me Baby One More Time - Britney Spears
I LOVE the first 2, not really that fussed about the last one, you’ve gone all cheesy on me!
Your new album ’Stop the Moment’ is due for release on March 25th, any plans for a launch party, gig or special event?
This is gonna sound like the WORST thing that you could ever hear for a launch event, I’m going to be on the road somewhere, we’re planning on doing a Beyonce style launch, we’re just going to surprise everyone, I’m not doing a big event as the album is already out in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, we did this big countdown thing and that was fun but it just felt like it had been done so many times and to be honest, I just wanted to announce on the day that I have an album and people would be surprised and I hope their perceptions would be better as they weren’t expecting anything.
As Kelvin was doing so well answering our main questions, we thought we’d try a few quick fire questions to see how he deals under pressure, no pausing, no 'passes', the spotlights were on, here we go….
Acoustic or Electric? - Electric
Bagel or Crumpet? - Bagel, Crumpets are wrong!
Loop Pedal or Chorus Pedal? - Loop
Great British Bakeoff or Masterchef? - God, they’re both useless, GBB I guess….
Night out or Night in? - out, I’m 21!
Whisky or Wine? - Whisky
Bob Dylan or Paul Simon? - Dylan
BBQ or Picnic - BBQ, I’m the sort of person who can’t have a meal unless something has died….
Festival or Regular Gig? - Festival (after much deliberation)
Camping or Campervan - I’ve never been in a camper van so I’m gonna say camping (nothing like waking up to the smell of dog poo in the morning!)
Beach or Pool - Considering I can’t swim, I’ll have to say beach otherwise it’d be Beach or Death!
Paperback or Kindle? - Paperback
God or Google? I’m gonna say God as I’m a Christian as that’s a more epic answer! had you have said BING it may have been a different answer!
We'd like to thank Kelvin for taking the time out of his hectic rock n' roll day to chat to us mere mortals, one day he'll look back at this and think how foolish he was, letting a couple of commoners into his 'Green Room' to chat about mundane things like worrying about having to change his set in the event of the audience not buying into what he's doing.... One day!
Please take a moment or two to check up on Kelvin's social media channels, they're all listed below, all you need to do is click! You can even pre-order his new album below, how exciting!