Ben Jones is an England-born musician who’s fallen in love with Austin. Though he’s far from home, the Austin community has become his lifeline.
Jones grew up on the working-class English island of Sheppey. His mom was a bartender and his father was an electrician. In the town, Jones said, “Everyone knew everyone.”
Family ties were strained, but he found a lift within his music education connections. After secondary school, he studied music production and gained insight into the layers of the music world.
Inspired by writers like Randy Newman, Bob Dylan, Stephen King and the Beach Boys, Jones found his love for music at the age of 13 when he started writing songs. His first song was a love song about a girl. Jones recalled, “We held hands on the playground.”
Jones’ newest album “Souvenir” also centers around love and is his most “honest” work. The album unfolds layers of love, loss and recovery.
Almost a year ago, Jones found himself in a dark place.
At one point, he began to consider ending his own life, and it was his Austin friends who lifted him out of the valley.
His life, for a while, was simple: take meds, get out of bed, sit on the porch, eat, and start a new day.
Coming out stronger, friends-become-family by his side, his writing unfolded into the most honest record he's ever crafted.
“The (album) is reflective, not buried in clever writing. I didn’t allow myself to think too much about it. I just cared about the story the songs were telling.
“It feels like a snapshot of a three-year journey where you go through an emotional (experience), and it tells the story of where you end up.”
Losing a love slipped him upside down. However, in the process of growing through hardship, he found himself surrounded by love. He also developed a much more present side of himself.
“Too many people take themselves far too seriously, and think it’s about their art being celebrated. To me, it’s not. That’s nonsense. My job is to entertain. It’s not that I don’t consider myself an artist. It’s just that label is so fucking pretentious.”
Jones arrived in Austin in 2014. The city “exceeded his expectations.”
He said, it’s this “unbreakable community” he’s bonded with. Even with the two Threadgill’s leaving, and constant landscape changes, there’s a home where he feels rooted.
The then, band without a name, circled through Austin meeting a taxi driver who would randomly change their lives forever. William, an “eccentric man,” took them under his wing.
“As an English person, I am wary of strangers. He paid the check for our food, exposed us to Austin and essential music venues. We were hungry, and this opened up a lot of doors for us.”
Miles away from Sheppey island, Austin is his home for the long-haul. “You can’t break this community. They stick together. They don’t stop supporting the people (artists) who want to stay.”
The unnamed band became the Beat Root Revival with Andrea Magee.
Jones feels that whether working with his band or producing solo work, the stories within his lyrics evolve over time.
“They are like characters. It’s like acting. You can embody a character. It grows with nuances.
“I love that that’s what makes it alive. It doesn't just become this time capsule. It becomes real and alive.
“Like when Dylan sings his older songs these days, he doesn’t sing them in the same way he wrote them. It allows the song to breathe.
“That’s the whole point of art. It means different things to different people.
“I can instill it with meaning, because that’s my job. That’s the job of a songwriter.
“My job is to make someone feel less sad for three minutes or light and happy or scared- -whatever the objective is.”
- Reagan Ashley