IN CONVERSATION: GUY JONES


Guy Jones is a musician in the most extreme sense of the word. Through years of practice he has developed an intricate understanding of music and its theory. Exploring countless musical avenues from self-teaching the Cello to being a fully fledged rockstar in their band LibraLibra, Guy has experience in each corner of the industry. In their latest venture, Guy takes on the role of teacher as he brings 1-2-1 bespoke sessions to South Lanes Studios. Alice sat down with Guy to get a deeper understanding of who they are and a flavour of their taste as Guy brings an update to the latest edition of Behind The Playlist. 

How did you get into music? 


I didn’t get into music properly until I was 15 or 16 when I moved to the UK. The first friend I made had a guitar, so I started teaching myself. I’ve spent any moment I can playing or recording ever since.

I was raised by a single mother who worked as a journalist, which meant she had to travel for work when I was very young. She recorded bedtime stories onto cassette tapes where she would insert Batman into literary masterpieces; she would also record classical music from the radio. I think this is why I love music influenced by Bach and romantic era composers, baroque pop and anything highly emotive. There is something about music that has the ability to pull your ear from chord to chord that was imprinted on me very early on. My mum isn’t a musician but she is extremely creative and now teaches cooking lessons which is funny to me because there are a lot of comparisons between producing a song and cooking. Even the way we describe music is linked to food “spicy chords”, “sweet melodies”, “jazz is a dish best served hot” and generally finding a balance of flavours and elements where one thing doesn’t dominate the others but they work in harmony. She’s also an avid gardener and I think the idea of doing a lot of work on something that doesn’t yield a result for a long time is very similar to the process of learning to play music. 


What were your early inspirations and what inspires you now? 


An inspiration that has affected me from when I started playing music is Elliott Smith. Joe (from LibraLibra who I have been making music with in some way or another for about 11 years now) told me recently that you can hear Elliott seeping into everything I write however, this is also due to my later obligatory obsession with The Beatles and Beach Boys who influenced Elliott massively as well. I’m a sucker for interesting harmonic movement. 


These days St.Vincent is my favourite pop icon. I’ve always admired artists who do it all and St. Vincent writes and produces amazingly and is a savage guitarist to boot, the full package. 


In terms of songwriting my process has changed wildly over the years. These days I’ve settled on a very specific, old school process that any song worth its salt should work as just vocals and piano. When I started doing this I would sit at my piano and record myself improvising. I find a chord progression that tickles my ears and then sing gibberish over it, looking for syllable sounds that feel good in my mouth and ears. I’ll do this for up to half an hour, forget that I am recording myself and to get in the moment. Later, I’ll listen back and mine for gems and if I find something I’ll start refining it. I tend to approach writing music as an art form very differently to writing music as a craft though. I enjoy both but they serve different purposes and different audiences. The process of writing music is essentially improvisation in slow motion. 


What has your experience been like in LibraLibra?


LibraLibra has been a wild ride. We launched our first single in 2018 so the pandemic hit as we were gathering momentum but we have continued to write and work and I’m so proud of our unstoppable dedication to the project and the amazing opportunities we’ve had. The biggest moment for me lately was getting our song played at the end of the No Dogs In Space podcast. Markus Parks has been in my earphones daily for about 8 years now so hearing him say nice things about our music meant a lot to me. Getting some Radio One plays was great because our music isn’t the typical thing you hear on Radio One makes me especially proud. The recent Kate Bush resurgence is proof that people are hungry for something a little more adventurous in the pop world.


I’ve always sought out collaborations with people whose work I admire and LibraLibra is no exception, I have learnt a hell of a lot from everyone in the band. My role is a bit different in Libra to other projects in the sense that I don’t write the vocal, lyrics or melody. Our songs are born from some sort of noise or small loop usually started by me or Joe. Once something catches Beth’s ear her vocal parts start coming quite quickly and my job is to understand the story we are trying to tell as it unfolds and to serve that story as best I can. 


What made you realise that music theory needed refreshing?


The realisation that so many people are afraid of theory. They’re afraid it will mess up the magic of what they do… I know this because I was this person for many years. Everything I did was intuitive, I had no understanding of theory. The more I started to learn the more I realised I could use theory as a tool to get the sounds I wanted quickly. Going through this process without a teacher meant I wasted a lot of time trying to learn stuff that doesn’t help you write music. A lot of theory is used to analyse music that is completed. The theory I teach is for composers, producers and improvisers. You are creating the thing, creating the framework of which notes feel correct from moment to moment. Classical music education has done a lot to deter people. The idea that someone can play the most difficult piece of Rachmaninov but without sheet music they go blank makes me so sad. For me, improvising and creating my own pieces is the greatest joy of music and my mission is to share this with people and to make them understand there is no such thing as a wrong note, there are only sounds that create emotional effects. I love to think about the neuroscience and psychology involved with music. Music sounds different to each person, our culture, physiology and experiences all affect the way we hear music and understanding this is key to understanding sound. Music is a language of emotion and my aim is to teach people to speak it fluently. 


What advice would you give to someone who wants to start making their own music?


Start. Now. Go! 


Ok here is a little more to get you going…


The first thing I do with a student who is completely new to music is to put them in front of a piano and I say “Let’s play a game. Press these keys in any order you like until you find an order that sounds pleasing to you.” I might also say something like “all these white notes sound pretty good together” (This helps them find a collection of notes in a key but also leaves room open for them to accidentally stumble on a mode if that is what their ears want.) Then I leave the room for 20 minutes. This is the teaching equivalent of throwing  a baby into the deep end of the pool when learning to swim which seems harsh but just like babies have an inbuilt and evolutionary understanding to hold their breath and kick their legs, humans have an inbuilt intuitive understanding of music. My goal is to help people realise this. You would be amazed that almost everytime I come back and the student is smiling and they are making music and most importantly they are enjoying it…you DO a painting or you MAKE a sculpture but you PLAY music. Music is play, it’s an art form baked into our DNA and I believe if someone likes music enough to want to learn it then they already have everything they need to play. All you need to understand music is the ability to hear it. Everything else is just learning to get out of your own way. This is art and art just is. 


Once you’ve got a sound you like, try to find some more. The two principles of writing and playing that come up again and again are; ‘tension vs release’ If you have a balance of those two things you are golden. The second principle is “Something Old, Something New” as long as you give your audience something familiar enough to catch their attention and you combine it with something new enough to keep it then  you will have an audience. I’ll be going into these concepts in detail in my Artist Development classes.


How can people get involved with your workshops/lessons? 


You will be able to book in for the workshops soon through South Lanes Studios website. These classes are the culmination of 16 years of non stop exploration, I’m really excited to share this with people. I am also teaching one to one lessons from South Lanes. You can book in through the website and access my calendar for booking free consultations here: https://calendly.com/guyteaches/consultations. My approach with every student is completely different depending on their goals. What is right for person A might be completely different from person B and I see my lessons more of a collaboration than anything else. 

 

BEHIND THE PLAYLIST - GUY JONES


What’s Your Current Most Played?

City of Mirrors -  BADBADNOTGOOD 


I’ve always been an album person. I love to hear a body of work in its entirety but this track from the album Talk Memory is a fast favourite. Love the string arrangements especially. Reminds me of some of my favourite composers Debussy and Ravel but with that jazz twist.  


Favourite Brighton Band?


Lucy, Lucy - Congratulations


Lately I am loving ‘Congratulations’. I have an eclectic taste in music and I’m always impressed by a band that manages to offer diversity in their songwriting whilst maintaining a strong sense of identity. For a band this young, I think Congratulations have already done an amazing job of carving their sound and I think it will only get better with time. Their live show is not to be missed. I’ve picked ‘Lucy Lucy’ as my song but I know they have a single out next week so that could very easily become my fave. Go check them out!


South Lanes Selection?


I Knew I’d Find You Here - Sam Clines, Caleb Harris


I’m loving this track. This year I’ve been fortunate enough to start working as a sound engineer at Folklore rooms, above The Quadrant in town. One of my favourite shows I’ve done sound for was Caleb’s band. I’m a huge Jose Gonzales fan and you can really hear his influence on that track. Caleb actually covered ‘Crosses’ at the end of the show which is a big fave of mine too. Caleb’s songwriting and Sam’s production are an absolutely winning combination. I’m looking forward to seeing Caleb again at his show at Folklore on the 19th of August. 


A Track You Could Never Get Tired Of?


Creature Comfort - Arcade Fire. 


The song as a piece of music is a total bop and can be listened to as fun dancy ear candy, however… If you listen to the lyrics it’s a heart wrenching story that shines a light on the way music can comfort us in dark times, an acute commentary on fame and the desperation of people to have it. Powerful stuff. 


A New Band You’re Loving - Your One to Watch

Free In The Knowledge - The Smile

Is it cheating to pick The Smile? They’re new… I’m probably not gonna get any points for discovering them but I think it’s some of the best stuff Thom York & Johnny Greenwood have done in ages. 


Your Teenage Obsession


Monkey Wrench - Foo Fighters


My teenage obsession was the Foo Fighters. I loved Nirvana first and then found out Dave Grohl was in Nirvana and had his own band. So it all started with Kurt, but my obsession shifted to Dave and my bedroom wall was basically a shrine to him made out of badly printed pictures. I remember when I was 14, skipping class to go down to Fox Studios (In Australia where I’m from) where they filmed live concerts for Channel V which is like Australian MTV. The gigs were open to the public and this one ended up breaking records as the crowd was huge and we were right in the middle having arrived several hours early. The set was insane and I could pick any song they played but ‘Monkey Wrench’ was already a favourite of mine and it was especially great on the night. That song always takes me back to that moment, the day I decided that some way or some how, my life would revolve around live music. About a year later I started teaching myself guitar. 


A Golden Oldie


Nobody’s Fault But Mine - Nina Simone


Nina Simone is the queen of my soul. The first time I heard a Nina Simone song was on an unmarked compilation CD and I didn’t know who she was, I wasn’t even sure of her gender but something in that voice cut deeply and immediately into me in a way not many others ever have. 

 Listen to Guy's Playlist here 

 

Guy's Instagram - @guy_jones_official

Guy's Contact Email - guy@southlanesstudios.co.uk

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Written by: Alice Hingley of South Lanes Studios
 
Alice's Instagram - @alicehingley
Alice's Contact Email - alice@southlanesstudios.co.uk
South Lanes Studios's Instagram - @southlanesstudios
South Lanes Studios's Email - info@southlanesstudios.co.uk

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