Cherie Jones, the 25-year-old behind JONES, is London’s newest import prime to be the next pop sensation. Armed with a penchant for haunting hooks, organic chords, and deep-seated grooves, the singer penetrates the pop surface with a power for storytelling born out of times as an outsider observing others.
This past year saw the young singer unleash her debut EP Indulge with the help of XL regular producer Rodaidh McDonald (Daughter, Savages, and the xx). The refined results gained praise from people across the internet including fellow Brit Sam Smith, who described the EP as“f**king beautiful” to his 6.3 million Instagram followers.
We caught up with JONES before the holidays to discuss the classic root of her sound, her love for ’90s music, and what we can expect from the future pop star as she prepares to release her debut album.
Let’s start by getting into your background. What were you like in high school?
Growing up, I was always a little bit of a—I don’t want to say a loner—but I liked to be in my own thoughts quite a lot. I was always writing stories, and I guess I started writing songs when I was about 15. I always loved music. I always loved being creative—like drawing, and designing things. So, it was just a creative, introverted childhood, I would say.
You’ve described yourself as an “observer.” Have you always been that way or was that something that developed as you began writing music?
Yeah, [I] definitely always have been that way. From a young age, I used to like people watching and analyzing people’s behavior. People my age, people older, people on the train, people in parks. Just always kind of observing and figuring out what people were about. As I got more and more into music, I decided that was going to be my career path, the two just merged naturally.
You grew up in the ’90s like me, so I have to ask: Any favorite ’90s musical moments?
Oh my god. It’s really embarrassing, but I loved Britney Spears and I loved the Spice Girls.
That’s not embarrassing! That was very normal.
That was my life! I had posters on the wall. I used to want to be Baby Spice. That’s definitely what I was about.
So did you see Spice World then?
Yes, I did! I loved that. I still have the box. I have like a special edition box. That’s at home somewhere.
Let’s talk about your music. How would you describe your music to someone who maybe hasn’t heard it before?
It’s kind of soul-pop and alternative. It has a lot of influences from pop music, from soul music, but also kind of electronic, more left-field sounds. So, it’s kind of like a merger between electronic and organic music. I’m trying to write stuff that feels kind of classic. So modern, but classic at the same time.
I read you grew up on Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross and that you are a big fan of Lykke Li and Little Dragon. How have they influenced your music and are there any other big musical inspirations that you look to?
I do really love Lykke Li. I think she is an amazing songwriter and her music is also kind of dark. I just find it really beautiful. She’s definitely an artist I look up to. I also love Tame Impala. I think the melodies that they come up with are always just so infectious and clever, and the songwriting is really clever as well. I really like Coldplay. Most of their albums, like particularly the older stuff, is really good. I’m a big fan.
You shared your debut EP Indulge in 2015. Are the songs an accurate reflection of what we can expect from your music going forward?
I think, definitely the songs on the Indulge EP, with “Deep” and with “You,” they were quite early for me. They kind of hint towards… I guess I was developing still, you know? You’re still finding your feet and your sound. “You” is quite experimental and electronic, and “Indulge” kind of brings it all together. I think they’re a sample of where I was at the time. My new song “Hoops” is probably the closest representation of what my future music will sound like.
“Hoops” is your most recent single. What does the song mean to you?
A lot of people have thought that it’s a sad song about desperation, but for me, it’s just more about that moment when you realize oh god, I’m just doing too much here. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It’s not balanced. And I think when you acknowledge a problem, that’s when you can fix it. You can either let something go or you can work on it. So for me, it’s just kind of acknowledging what something is.
Speaking of your EP, Sam Smith called it “f**king beautiful.” What was it like getting that kind of praise and have you spoken to him since?
I haven’t met him actually! I hope to meet him one day. I think he’s really great, really talented. And he seems like a genuinely nice person, which is important. I was writing a song at the time and somebody said, “Check Instagram now!” I just got this huge shock. You just do your thing and don’t really know who’s aware of you. I’m really thankful! It cheered me up definitely.
I know Salute remixed your newest single “Hoops.” Is there a Wet remix coming soon?
Yes, it is! I’m really excited about that. It sounds great.
Are there any other upcoming collaborations we can look forward to?
I can’t really say yet because I don’t like to jinx anything, but there are some really exciting collaborations coming out this year. Some really, really great people so I’m just going to have to say stay tuned.
You worked with incredible producers on your EP including XL Recordings' regular Rodaidh McDonald (Savages, Daughter, the xx) and rising producer XO who has caught the attention of Diplo, MNEK, and more. How were these experiences and did you work together on more songs for your debut album?
With XO, it’s quite different than working with Rodaidh because I actually haven’t met him yet. We should be doing some new stuff together in the new year. But, we worked on “Hoops” together. I wrote the song and he did the production. We did the thing where we just exchanged emails. He came up with his ideas really quickly and I just instantly loved it. With Rodaidh from XL, we’ve gotten together quite a few times and done a few songs. He’s really great. He has a great ear and knows what needs to be done. And obviously, he’s worked on so many great acts before. So as soon as I heard I was going to be working with him, I was just really excited to have that opportunity. So, they’re both really good in different ways.
Your debut album is called New Skin. Where did the title come from?
“New Skin” was a song I wrote in 2015. To me, the song was a therapeutic one. It’s about realizing that as you kind of grow up, you develop another layer to yourself. It can be bitterness, or it can be sadness, or it can be jealousy and wanting to shed that to get back to a place of being happy and being pure. So, I wrote that song and I continued writing but that name, that title, always stuck with me. It speaks a lot about what the songs on the album will be about and the period of life I’ve been going through.
Your music has a very cinematic feel to it. Is there a TV show or certain director who you would love to have use your music?
Oh, that’s a good question. It would be something kind of dark, and cold, and creepy. Maybe like a Tim Burton movie. Or, maybe something like Drive.
Do you have any plans to perform in the U.S. anytime soon?
Yes, I do! I’m very excited. I got the news that I’m going to perform at SXSW in March. Hopefully we’ll be doing some other shows as well when I’m over on that side of the world.
Please try to come to New York.
That’s definitely one of my dreams. I would love to.
Are there any other artists or albums you think we should absolutely look out for in 2016?
I really love HONNE. I think they are great songwriters and musicians so I’m looking forward to their album release. And, there’s another British duo called Aquilo. I think they’re amazing and will definitely be looking out for those two in 2016. I actually did a writing session with Aquilo and it went really great.
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