Seattle-born guitarist and songwriter Ayron Jones (August 23, 1986) is currently riding high on a wave of positivity and success. His explosive single Take Me Away, which tells the story of his childhood abandonment at the age of four, draws on a variety of genres from rock to R&B, but adds a new twist to the tale.“I felt stuck in my own prison of isolation and solitude,” he explains “I had such conflicted emotions… music was my release, and from the darkness I could create something beautiful.”
Jones has played alongside artists of the calibre of BB King, Jeff Beck and Run DMC and consistently plays sell out shows. He is an independent artist but has some big collaborations on the way for his new album, which is currently in production. “I’m excited for this next stage of creativity,” he says.
Guitars Exchange catches up with Jones shortly after quarantine has lifted. “Staying at home forced me to compose and has made me work more internally. But this morning I’ve just been with my three kids, and that’s about it man,” he says before our interview kicks off.
GE: You once said that one of the defining moments of your life was playing in a bar and watching people stop outside as you played ‘Georgia On My Mind’ Can you define two other key moments of your career?
AJ: Yes, playing Carnegie Hall back in 2018 with the Zombies, Patti Smith and a whole bunch of other prominent Hall of Famers, and then when I opened for BB King, because it was always an ambition for me to share the stage with him.
GE: You started playing guitar at 13; what was the make of your first instrument?
AJ: It didn’t have a brand, I lived up the street with this cat and his nephew, a ‘theoretical gangster’, and he gave me his acoustic guitar. It had a bowed neck, and it was really hard to play.
But playing that acoustic gave me a lot of dexterity in my hands so when I went to the electric it was just like butter, it was an easy transfer. Then later on that year, at Christmas, I got a Squire strat with a Champion amp.
GE: You said you never had a formal lesson – did that help or hinder, do you think?
AJ: A little bit of both, I’ve had to learn theory in reverse; I had to learn the names for the thing I was already doing, but there are more pros than cons. I learned from a perspective that you don’t normally get if you have some guy teaching you, so I can adapt and change in a way that perhaps more formal players would have a harder time doing. Specifically I use a hybrid grip as opposed to using a bar grip for a power chord and that allows me to play the chords and a solo at the same time. So I use my thumb on the root note. Take for example an 8 major on the fret, I normally hold down on the root with my thumb and play the five and the octave with my ring finger; my little finger holds down three [strings] and then the other five, and so on. Like Jimi Hendrix.
GE: You have previously said Hendrix is one of your big influences can you name any more?
AJ: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and then specifically guitar wise there is Freddie King, BB King, Roy Buchanan, and then growing up in Seattle of course there were Grunge influences – Mike McCready, Kim Phale from Soundgarden, and of course Kurt Cobain; they all shaped my sound and the way that I play.
GE: What is it that motivates you to write music and perform?
AJ: Interesting question, man. I have a need to express myself. Even before I picked up guitar I tried to express myself through violin, piano and drums - they helped me to say what I needed to say. Also I love people to death and I noticed the power that there is to bring people together through music.
GE: What do you do when you are out of inspiration?
AJ: I read – I educate myself on songwriting forms and patterns and that is really inspirational. There are a million different ways you can write something, with different intervals and cadences, that help you work out how you want to tell your story. So it always helps me to simplify things and go back to the basics.
GE: Turning to your latest single ‘Take Me Away’; what has it been like for you to see such a private issue becoming ’public property’?
AJ: I think a lot more people have similar issues but perhaps can’t express it. Many people, especially in this country, have been raised by their aunt or someone else when they have been abandoned. I know that I am not alone. The response to my song has been really wonderful; very positive.
GE: Has the release of that record in particular changed you?
AJ: I wouldn’t say it has changed me, but it has been a gradual process. I had an independent career before that, that was going really well, and that was a big reason I ended up getting signed by Big Machine and John Varvatos Records, so mentally I have had an easier time adjusting to the changes.
GE: How do you deal with being increasingly well known?
AJ: I haven’t really changed but I have noticed that people see and relate to me differently. I have core friends and family, and I know that they are not going to treat me differently whatever success I might have in my life. My wife and kids help keep me grounded, sane and stable.
GE: You once opened for Guns n Roses at the Gorge; how did that come about?
AJ: I had just signed with In De Goot entertainment and Bill McGathy said he was going to try and get me an opening slot for Guns n Roses. And then I had done some stuff with Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, so that helped make it happen. It all came together in a really special way.
GE: You have said that Dr Dre was a big influence on you; do you rap?
AJ: No, I dabble with syncopation in my songs but I am not a rapper. I was inspired by Dr Dre’s production, his arrangements, his use of bass and drum. I liked all the work he has done with NWA, Snoop Dog, Eminem – I think Dre kind of paid homage to white rappers Beastie Boys; Dre infused rock n roll into the grooves. Whichever artist he has worked with he has always come out with these killer beats and grooves.
GE: Does the guitar have any place in rap music?
AJ: I believe it does. It is not as noticeable as it was in the 80s and 90s but I still think it has a place and can be prominent.
GE: You’ve explored rock but said you’d like to dive into jazz in the future – is that happening?
AJ: As I am growing as an artist I am noticing how much jazz has been an influence on me, even without me noticing. It is a work in progress and is increasingly influencing what I am working on.
GE: Turning to guitar questions, you seem to favour a Fender Strat at the moment; is that right?
AJ: Yes, and if I had my choice, I’d choose an HSS.
GE: If you were on a boat and it was sinking which other gear would you grab?
AJ: Oh man, I am such a basic cat. I lean now towards the Marshall double stacks, JCM; as long as it has a humbucker I can rock with it. But when it comes to tone I think it starts in the hand and your gear merely helps amplify that.
The interview closes with Guitars Exchange asking Jones what plans he has for the future? “We are going to finish this record and hopefully drop some more singles; I am hoping this Covid gets out of the way and I can get back on the road, because my first love is the stage,” he concludes. “I have some collaborations that I can’t reveal just yet, but I’ve got some pretty heavy cats that I’m going to feature on this record.”