Interview – Howard Jones Talks The Passion of Music


Quality art stands the test of time, and the music of English musician Howard Jones is living proof. Actively writing, recording, and performing music for over thirty years now, Jones has attained 15 top 40 hit singles and is largely recognized as a defining voice of the ’80s. Having seen his share of success, humbly, Jones moves forward all these later as an independent artist touring around the world and being hands-on with fans. Still attaining accolades, on October 10, 2016, he was invited to the BMI Awards and received an award for over 3 million US airplays of his 1986 hit single “No One Is to Blame.” Constantly challenging himself to try new things, in 2015, he released the live concept CD/DVD release Engage combining visual art and music for audiences. Compelling and different, Jones still is learning new and exciting ways to deliver his music to fans while showing no signs of slowing down. Recently we caught up with the busy musician to talk his inspiration, plans for a new studio record, touring, and much more. – Last we spoke, back in 2014, you were in the midst of the Retro Futura tour. Since then, you have consistently toured and released Engage in 2015. Seeing you have been extremely busy, what serves as your inspiration after all these years?

Howard Jones – It’s because I love what I do, I love playing for people, and I love touring. I enjoy being in the studio as well, but that’s not such a joyful experience as being out on the road in front of people and playing for them. It’s always great to be able to do what you feel you are best at. I think that’s a very fulfilling, lucky position to be in, that you get to do what you really love and you feel it’s the thing you are best at. Also, because I meet so many people out there on the road, they tell me their stories, and they tell me how much the music means to them, that is so encouraging for me to keep doing what I do whilst I still can. I realize that I won’t be able to do this forever. At the moment I can, and it’s going really well. I should be doing it as much as I can. That’s really quite a long explanation (laughs). – It is a good answer, fans can be a source of inspiration and, also as you said, you love what you are doing. Speaking of Engage, it was in fact to be a vision of a live performance. The CD/DVD is out now. How do you find fans are responding to it?

Howard Jones – I am not too sure really what people think of it. Because it was conceived as a live show, that was really the best place to consume it. When I did the shows in London, LA, and NY, you definitely saw the effect that it had on people, it was quite moving to see it. That’s what it was always intended to be, that live experience, and that was where you really got it. Whether that translates well to the video, that’s more like a souvenir of the show. I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve done, so I really have to go on how I feel about it. I really enjoyed the whole process, we are still playing 2 or 3 songs at least from Engaged when we go out. That was the very first time I played it for people and you just saw the reaction, it was really incredible. The best way for me to do it again would be to do a tour in the future and play it live again so people could get the full effect. – It is a very fun release. It also allows fans to indulge themselves in your discography a little more, or to understand everything a little more. It is very true, that in the modern world, people are more interested in live shows than perhaps a studio album. With that said, do you think you will release a new full-length studio album at some point in the future?

Howard Jones – Yes, I am constantly working on new things. I am sort of a third of the way through a new album now. I am hoping that I am going to have enough time, I can’t really predict when I am going to finish it. It will be done when it’s done. It’s really important for me to be working on new things, you have to be going forward. I supposed that the difference now is I very much think, “How is this going to work live and how will I present it live?” It feels like that is much more of an issue to me now, is how the songs are going to work when you play them for people on the stage. I think it’s very important to make new music and record music, that is still going to be very important to people. I really feel that it is that live experience where you really get the full impact of the artist that you like. It’s always quite a few steps removed when you listen on your headphones at home.

D-TOX Records – It is true, there is something special about a live performance. That said, it will be exciting to hear new music from you. You certainly have stayed true to providing wonderful live performances through the years. You are very personal and interactive with the audience. How would you describe the emotion you feel when bringing your music to life in front of an audience?

Howard Jones – It’s this connection that you form at that particular place and time, every audience is different and reacts differently. Going with the vibe of the audience is such a fun thing to do and make a connection with them. That’s what I am thinking. I am thinking it’s good to take risks and to try something different every night, such as, say something you haven’t said before or reveal something you haven’t said before, or play something slightly differently or make up things. I am into making up stuff on the spot of the moment, that’s one of things I have been trying to develop, which is a lot of fun. Make it based on where you are, who you are speaking to, and what’s happening in the local city you are playing in. I am trying to take more risks. That’s obviously the thing that makes it really exciting for me, so that’s the way I’m heading. – Excellent, that makes it exciting for your audience as well because that sort of improvisation and that personal touch to each city makes it more endearing to people.

Howard Jones – I am making more of an effort these days to find out more about the town I’m in, the city I’m in, and what’s going on. I try and walk around, get a feeling of the place, and be able to relate a bit more to the audience, because they deserve that. – Agreed, and it works well. You have plenty of more touring lined up for the rest of 2016 into 2017. You will be in Australia, returning to the USA, and then back to the UK come March. How do you manage to keep up with such a busy touring schedule?

Howard Jones – I supposed I get bored at home (laughs). I can’t wait to get out on the road, I love that life. It’s constantly challenging and exciting, it has its ups and downs, and problems. It’s challenging and I like that, I enjoy the difficulty of that and trying to be great every night, living very closely with your band, and your crew. It’s life at the sharp end (laughs). I come home and I’m ok for awhile, but I just can’t wait to be out there again doing it. I’m afraid that’s what it is, it’s not something that I dread at all, it’s the thing that I love, I just can’t wait to do it.

Howard Jones live at The Paramount Huntington, NY 3-19-15 –That is fantastic to hear that you enjoy it so much. Some artists do not like to tour so much, but that is great to hear that you do.

Howard Jones – Yeah, and I find ways of making it even more enjoyable; going out to see the sights of where you are and talking to people and visiting as much as possible. Walking around and getting a feel for the place, I’ve learned to do that more. That again makes it more enjoyable. – It sounds like it would. Amidst touring, you have been very generous in recent years coming to the Long Island, New York area. What do you like about the area, and it is possible you would consider becoming a resident of the area?

Howard Jones – It’s where it all started with me in my contact with the United States. LIR where the first people to play me, they jumped on my very first record. They supported every record that I’ve released, it was where I made that first initial connection. It’s always got a special place in your heart. The gigs we did at Jones Beach, it’s like there is that special connection, we’ve kind of grown up together right from the beginning. There are people that have been there since the beginning, I think that will always be the case.

I’d love to have a place on Long Island. It’s to do with family stuff, where my kids are. I’ve got a son in Manhattan, it would make sense to be close to him, but then I’ve got my other 2 kids who live in London, so it’s trying to get that right really. At the moment, I am living here in the UK and we will see how it goes. – Understandable, the Long Island area certainly does love you. Recently, former LIR and current SiriusXM First Wave DJ Larry the Duck mentioned that you were thinking about buying a home in America.

Howard Jones – I am constantly thinking about that really, he’s absolutely right. I am sure I have mentioned that to him. It’s funny cause there are so many places in America that I arrive at and think, “I’d love to live here” (laughs). Eventually we will have a place in America, I don’t know where we will end up, probably to do with the family. Long Island is definitely a possibility.

Howard Jones live at Retro Futura Tour 8-23-14 Pennysaver Amphitheater Farmingville, NY – Maybe Long Island will see a lot more of you then. Previously, we had spoken about how the music industry has changed through the years and how artists are taking a more independent route now. That said, you went independent some years ago. What advice would you have for aspiring young musicians learning the business?

Howard Jones – The situation is it is really possible to be very independent, to run your own career, to make your own records, to put them up online, to put them on Spotify, get them on iTunes, have a big social media thing going, and book your own shows. It’s definitely possible if you have the energy and you’ve got the drive. There are many people who are doing that and making it a success. There are fewer and fewer who are in the top sort of super star position. When I started, there were a lot more people, there was much more middle ground of artists that weren’t Michael Jackson. It’s important if you feel that’s where you belong right up there with Bruno Mars and all those people, then you will have to go the traditional record company route. You have to realize that you will be owned, your decisions won’t be your own.

If you want to be independent and you want to call the shots yourself and you are not bothered about being known all around the world, but you are still doing what you love to do, then it is really possible to do that. It’s just choosing which route you want to take. I know it’s one that I prefer, which is being in control of my career and self controlling things. Making the decisions and taking the responsibility on oneself, we are in a time where you can do that. That’s what I encourage people to do and see how you get on.

If you are destined to be a super-star, it would be very clear very quickly because you would be selling everywhere and people will be chasing you. It’s really important in the initial stages to be independent and work out how this music business works for yourself, then go from there. See if you are comfortable with that or not, we do live in a time where it’s unique, in a sense, that you can establish yourself independently as a band or an artist, where you had to be signed to a major label when I started. That was the only route, it’s a very exciting time for people.

Howard Jone’s award for over 3 million plays of “No one is to Blame” at BMI Awards. Obtained via Howard Jone’s official facebook page. – It is an exciting time for anyone who wants to be creative whether it be music, film, or in writing. Some artists may have not had the funding, but now can show creativity through the internet as you stated. There is a different side to the coin as well. With that ability for people to do that, there also comes a lot of lesser quality material being put out there.

Howard Jones – There’s a long tale they call it, of people having a go. Quality will always rise to the surface, we have to keep believing that. If you do something really well, then you will collect people. You can apply that to music, if you are really good and you go out and do shows, you do a fantastic show, then everyone is going to want to come to the next one. If it’s not very good, then they won’t. You put the effort in, you develop your talent, you get really good, then things will go forward. – That is some good, sound advice right there. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. You stated in our previous interview you are not a fan of Horror, but you do like some Sci-Fi such as The Planet of the Apes series. I am interested, have you seen any new films that you have enjoyed?

Howard Jones – I am watching Narcos at the moment on Netflix, which is not a film. It might as well be a film, it’s so well done. I am quite into the long series. I’ve been watching Stranger Things as well, a sort of extended film if you would like to call it; great music and production values. That’s what I am enjoying.

Netflix – Stranger Things is on the Sci-Fi/Horror side of things, and it has received a very good response.

Howard Jones – I absolutely loved that. Particularly the soundtrack, it is all analog synths, it’s so up my street. I totally enjoyed that as well.

Tour Dates:
11-2-16 Canberra Theatre Canberra, ACT, Australia
11-4-16 Enmore Theatre Newtown, NSW, Australia
11-5-16 Rooty Hill RSL Club Sydney, NSW, Australia
11-6-16 Jupiters Theatre Broadbeach, QLD, Australia
11-8-16 Main Room, The Gov Hindmarsh, SA, Australia
11-10-16 Wrest Point Hobart, TAS, Australia
11-11-16 Palais Theatre Saint Kilda, VIC, Australia
11-12-16 Main Room, The Gov Hindmarsh, SA, Australia
11-13-16 Astor Theatre Perth, WA, Australia
11-21-16 Wellmont Theatre Montclair, NJ, US
11-22-16 Music Box Supper Club Cleveland, OH, US
11-23-16 House of Blues Chicago, IL, US
11-25-16 The Warehouse Carmel, IN, US
11-26-16 Tally Ho / Tally Ho Theatre Leesburg, VA, US
11-27-16 Cat’s Cradle Carrboro, NC, US
11-28-16 The Orange Peel Asheville, NC, US
11-29-16 City Winery Nashville, TN, US
12-1-16 Variety Playhouse Atlanta, GA, US
12-2-16 Cuban Club Ybor City, FL, US
12-4-16 Fort Lauderdale, FL, US
12-5-16 Key West Theater Key West, FL, US
12-7-16 Parish Room, House of Blues New Orleans, LA, US
12-9-16 3ten Austin City Limits Live Austin, TX, US
12-10-16 Gas Monkey Bar N Grill Dallas, TX, US
12-11-16 Dosey Doe – The Big Barn The Woodlands, TX, US
12-15-16 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
1-16-17 Billboard Live – Tokyo Tokyo, Japan
1-17-17 Billboard Live – Tokyo Tokyo, Japan
1-18-17 Billboard Live – Osaka Osaka, Japan
2-11-17 80’s Cruise 2017 Fort Lauderdale, FL, US
3-8-17 The Exchange Sturminster Newton, UK
3-9-17 Grand Pavillion Porthcawl, UK
3-10-17 Public Halls Harpenden, UK
3-11-17 Theatre Royal Winchester, UK
3-12-17 The Old Market (TOM) Hove, UK
3-16-17 Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre Taunton, UK
3-17-17 Artrix Centre Bromsgrove, UK
3-18-17 The Picturedrome Holmfirth, UK
3-19-17 Palace Theatre Newark, UK
3-22-17 The Atkinson Southport, UK
3-23-17 ARC Stockton-on-tees, UK
3-24-17 Playhouse, Whitley Bay Whitley Bay, UK
3-26-17 Òran Mór Glasgow, UK
3-28-17 Union Chapel London, UK
3-29-17 The Stables Milton Keynes, UK
3-30-17 The Lowry Salford, UK
3-21-17 Lancaster Grand Theatre Lancaster, UK

Keep up with Howard Jones: | Facebook | Twitter 

Purchase Engage:

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Purchase Howard Jones music:

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Feature image artwork credit: Simon Fowler


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