It was clear when Joshua Scott Jones was one-half of Steel Magnolia (with Meghan Linsey) that he possessed a groovy, soulful voice that could enrapture thousands of fans. Even though the duo is no longer forging ahead together, he still holds onto his rock roots, as evidenced on his debut solo single "Honk (If You're Tonky)," the lead-in to his forthcoming set The Healing.
Despite both singers embarking on their own, there is a small possibility of a reunion in the future. "I think we’re really good together. We’re like peanut butter and jelly when we sing together," Jones tells NashvilleGab, exclusively.
However, he adds, "The thing is, when you eat peanut butter and jelly for so long, sometimes you just want some jelly or sometimes just want some peanut butter."
Before the duo parted ways, "we recorded some songs and never got them released. We just couldn’t get that ball rolling. We were both just focused on our other stuff. There are actually Steel Magnolia songs sitting in my inbox right now."
However, Linsey might have a different perspective on that front, "I just read an interview with Meghan. She said Steel Magnolia, that chapter’s closed. It was a beautiful saying. I just can’t say that. Who knows."
Jones recalls how he originally wanted to be a solo artist. "I wanted to initially always be on my own," he says. "I think we got into the duo scene. We had some success, and I think people just continued to tell us how good we sounded together. We just rolled with that, and that’s where it took us."
"Once that was all over or coming to a close, Meghan basically wanted to do her own thing. I had a lot of big plans. I wanted Steel Magnolia to be one of the biggest acts in the country or on the planet, really," he admits. "That’s the thing about a duo. It’s two people. You can’t speak for the other person. More details about that will surface, I’m sure. I think ultimately, she wanted to make her own record. I definitely wanted to make one, too. We’re very supportive of each other. We’re still great friends."
For his brand new single, Jones confesses that credit goes mostly to his co-writer Josh Alford. "I would have to give most of the credit to him. I really got a hold of it and rearranged it. I produced it and inserted a bridge, too, and brought it to life. The concept was his."
On rearranging the song, he brought a little bit of the Rolling Stones musicality to it. He explains, "When you listen to his work tape and then listen to mine, it’s just nothing like it. It was awesome. When he heard [my version], he was real pleased with it. He was like, ‘it’s funny that you made it sound kind of like a Rolling Stones track, because that’s how I envisioned it.’"
He continues, "He’s one of my biggest influences as a songwriter and as an artist. We grew up in the same area, actually. I think we’re really on the same page, musically. He’s kind of the Steve Earle of our generation, or he’s gonna be."
Highlighting his more soulful side, the track is a perfect representation of where Jones is at this moment in his life. "Megan and I were a country-soul band," he notes of where he got his soul. "I’ve got a lot of that in me. I went to Baptist church, until I was about 13 or 14 years old."
"There is a lot of soul on the record, and I think that’s a good place to be. I just feel like I made the best record I could on my own. I stand by it. People seem to love it, it seems like. I’m proud of it."
The song's accompanying music video was shot in full Beyonce-style, something that sort of came to him all at once. "Honestly, when I got [the song] where I thought it needed to be, I immediately saw the whole vision for the song. I wanted it to be a dance video," he recounts. "My girlfriend is a dancer and choreographer. I told her that, ‘look, I want this to be me and one (vintage) microphone and shot in black and white, like [Beyonce’s] ‘Single Ladies’ video. I’ll be in the middle, and I want you and another dancer dancing around me the whole time and make it a one shot [thing], but more like two-step.’"
"So, that’s what we came up with. It’s really cool," he relishes on the final product. "I basically wrote the treatment for the video and everything right then. I called my friend Aaron Thomas, the director, and shot him the idea. We went to North Star Studios in Nashville with these two dancers, and we did it in one day. We brought it to life just like we had envisioned it."
Of course, at first, he wasn't sure the treatment was clicking onscreen. "Right off the bat, it wasn’t translating, because of some of the camera angles," he says. "It just takes time. You’ve got to be patient. If you are working with the right people and on the same page, your vision is usually brought to life. It’s a tricky thing. That’s the first music video I’ve done independently."
Later this year, Jones will release The Healing. As the title suggests, the entire collection speaks to his rocky personal life over the past few years, including a rehab stint in 2011. He ponders, "The whole record reflects my mindset over the past two years of what I’ve been through. It was a concept record, really."
"It tells a story from front to back," he details further. "You have ‘Honk (If You’re Tonky)’ in the front of it, as an anthem for how I am and who I am and how I feel. By the back half, it tells the story of what I’ve been through in my personal life and in my relationships. The last chapter is ‘The Healing.’ It’s about redemption. It’s kind of a hymn. In between, there are fun songs, too. It all fits together as one piece."
All things considered, the album's creation was very much a healing process for Jones, "A lot of the songs are just really personal, and they came right out," particularly the title track, which was inspired by fog on a mountain and the eery presence of Johnny Cash.
"When I was writing [that song], I was driving down Interstate 65 coming through Brentwood, and it was a really nice day. I looked over to the left and I saw fog on top of the mountain," he recalls, vividly. "That’s where the line ‘earth meets the sky on the Tennessee hills’ comes from. ‘Our backs have grown weary but our voice pays the bills. That spark in our eyes that God was revealing made the hurt that we’re feeling lead to our healing.’ So, it is kind of a hymn. It’s very picturesque."
"I had my phone in my hand, and I started recording these phrases. Then, when I got to the piano, I finished the song with a friend of mine. It was very much Johnny Cash inspired, like the sound of it. It’s funny: when I went in to record it in 16-Ton Studios on Music Row, as soon as I walked in and sat down at the old piano, there is a picture of Johnny and June on the piano. It was really bizarre…I felt in the right place to make that recording," he says.
The final version completely captures lightning in a bottle. " It is just me on a piano and then an organ. That’s it. It’s a live track. I did that recording live, so I’m playing and singing at the same time. It’s really raw. You don’t really get a lot of that nowadays."
Don't forget to grab a copy of "Honk (If You're Tonky)" on iTunes now!
Photos courtesy of Joshua Scott Jones on Facebook