Newcomer Caroline Jones has seen a whirlwind of success over the past 12 months. Her EP Bare Feet, which released in March 2018, reached the Top 20 on the country albums charts. She spent much of the year opening shows for artists including Kip Moore, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul2Soul Tour, and Vince Gill.
2019 promises to be even busier for Jones, who has booked shows at C2C: Country 2 Country, and has a coveted opening slot on Kenny Chesney’s Songs For The Saints tour this summer. But first, the 28-year-old Florida resident launches 2019 tonight at the Alabama Theater, with a series of shows opening for Gill, which were postponed from last fall.
“He’s a hero of mine,” Jones says of Gill, “and it’s a completely different type of audience. It’s a listening audience, where they sit there and really listen to every word, every lyric. They love music.”
And as the saying goes, there is always a Nashville connection.
Glenn Worf, known for his work with artists Miranda Lambert and Pistol Annies, is a member of Gill’s current band, and also played bass on Jones’ Bare Feet EP.
“Vince’s band just comes out and there is no production and no track and no pyro,” Jones says. “They come out and play and they are extraordinary.”
On Bare Feet, her fifth independent project, she displays a casual mastery of an array of instruments including guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, keyboards, and lap steel. She penned every song on the EP.
“Guitar is my main instrument, but piano is up there, too,” says Jones. “I always considered songwriting to be lyrics and melody—and it is—but being able to play different instruments just opens up so much more freedom as a writer and performer, and by extension, as a producer.”
While unconventional, her path to country music is authentic. The daughter of Tudor Investment Corporation founder Paul Tudor Jones, Caroline graduated from prestigious arts academy The Professional Children’s School in New York. She later studied creative writing at NYU.
Though she grew up on ‘90s pop, classic rock and R&B, Jones discovered country music around the same time she took up guitar, at age 17. At 22, she met writer and artist Mac McAnally, who set up her first Nashville sessions.
“I became so interested in country music and began just studying it, going back and listening to Hank Williams and The Carter Family and just going through every single decade of country, so my favorite artists are probably Hank, Willie Nelson, Keith Urban, Emmylou Harris, Zac Brown Band. A lot of them are lead guitar players, and songwriters and producers. I’ve always looked up to artists who are well-rounded.”
By November 2017, her career took off, courtesy of a chance meeting with “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett, who signed her to a distribution deal with his Mailboat Records. That same year, she opened shows for Zac Brown Band.
“We just hit it off and Jimmy brought me out on some shows and it was just an organic process and he mentored me and has been so supportive and given me so many incredible opportunities.”
Bare Feet marks the first project Jones has worked with a co-producer on; she teamed with Ric Wake, known for his work with Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey. Wake also manages Jones’ career.
“It’s very natural and complimentary to each other. I love production and building songs and creating parts. It has been one of the most beautiful learning experiences, musically and professionally, in my life. The biggest thing I learned is how to simplify in production and in the layering process. I get really inspired and have a million ideas and he taught me how to communicate and articulate them in a clear and concise way.”
While Bare Feet is not even a year old, Jones is already focused on a follow-up project.
“We basically started the new one after we finished the last one, so we are a few songs in,” she says.
Though Jones is working with Buffett’s Mailboat Records for distribution and is booked by CAA’s Nashville office, she hasn’t committed to signing with a major label, instead opting to go about her career independently.
“I’ve tried to set up my whole career so that my music and career keep an integrity to it, and that means getting to steer your own ship, and that’s not traditionally how this industry is set up. I know not every artist wants that kind of autonomy over their music, but I always have. In this day and age, kind of for the first time where that’s a real possibility for artists, I feel like that’s the route I wanted to go.
“I’ve always been more concerned with what I’m building than how I’m building it, rather than the immediate commercial success of it. It’s definitely a longer road for sure, but it’s so rewarding. I’ll never say never, because you just don’t know what could happen. For right now I love the team that we are building and the audience we are building.”
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