CELEBRATING THE 40 YEAR OLD ‘NEW SONG’
A CONVERSATION WITH HOWARD JONES
Howard Jones is back on tour, celebrating 40 years since the release of his first single, “New Song”, back in September of 1993. We had the opportunity to discuss his career and music-making process from a musician’s point of view.
In 1983 synthesizer technology was still relatively new, and Jones recalls how performing on stage with them was a balancing act, frantically reprogramming them at the last moment and between songs, all the while hoping that nothing would go wrong. These days, everything is done with software, and he is able to emulate those old sounds much more easily and reliably.
On his current tour, Jones is sharing the bill with Culture Club and Berlin, and he has a slew of North American dates before he heads back to England in October to kick off the 40th anniversary celebrations. On both tours he is using a five-piece band, which combines guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. With this combination, he can get all the sounds from his previous albums, and in the rare event of a software issue on stage, he can simply move to the piano and do the song from there. He is also performing some of the smaller shows using just an acoustic trio (keyboards, guitar, and bass).
Starting out, Jones didn’t give much thought back in the early days as to whether he would still be around 40 years later. “Well, I was really not looking that far forward. It was very much trying to keep it going at the time, you know, because it was so difficult to get a record deal . . . I was just thinking, well, how am I going to keep this going for a few years.”
One thing that is apparent is just how much Jones is enjoying still being active. Once he is done the UK tour, he has plans to visit Japan in December, and then will be starting work on the new album in January.
Jones is an accomplished piano player, but his writing doesn’t always start from there. He will often come up with beats and sounds using software first, and then flesh out the rest of the song using the piano. Using the equipment in his home studio, he records the foundation of a song, including vocals and keyboard parts, before bringing it in to a professional studio for finishing.
Most musicians can remember clearly the first moment when they realized that music was going to be an essential part of their lives. In Jones’ case, he remembers hearing a song called “Puppet On A String” on the radio when he was nine years old, and going over to the piano and playing the melody by ear. He had been taking lessons since the age of seven, but wasn’t particularly enamoured with his piano teacher, but once he heard that song and was able to play it, “They couldn’t keep me away from the piano, then I became totally obsessed, so yeah, that was the moment”.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Howard Jones is enjoying every aspect of his career with the perspective that a 40-year career brings and he continues to have a passion for writing and performing.