BETTER LATE THAN…LATER: TIM JONES SALVAGES SONIC GEMS ON SOLO DEBUT
BY: JIM VILLANUEVA
Tim Jones, one of the four main singer-songwriters in the hard working six-piece Truth & Salvage Co., recently revisited a healthy helping of songs he’d scribed prior to the formation of his band, gathered them up, laid them down and put them out on his solo debut album, Sure Got Late Real Early, available now on Oakwilde Records. In all, 11 songs populate “Side One” and “Side Two” of Jones’ CD and as value added, fans will be treated to seven addition tunes listed as “Bonus Tracks.”
Truth be told, Jones phoned me real late and well past our appointed time to talk, but not unlike the songs contained in his solo debut – recorded in Los Angeles between 2007-08 – the nearly hour-long conversation we eventually had was well worth the wait. Jones is a man and musician with many stories to tell; his songs are sojourns into the past, told by a troubadour yearning to tell the truth.
Tim, good to speak with you again. We first met and spoke at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival out in Indio, CA in 2011 where we talked about Truth & Salvage Co.’s self-titled debut. What’s been the most significant change in your life since we sat on the grass and chatted at Stagecoach?
First, I love that festival. I’m hoping that we’ll to do it again in the future. Since then I got married, bought a house in Nashville and I ended up putting out this record from 2007. Truth & Salvage had released our debut album May 25, 2010 and “Heart Like a Wheel” and “Old Piano” were on that first record and there was a rerecord clause on that record that we couldn’t release other versions of those songs until five years after it came out. So, hence now I was able to put it out.
That gives us a good timeline on this record and by the way, congratulations on the marriage. Speaking of significant changes in life, let me take you back even further. Was there a moment in your life; perhaps a song that came on the radio, a show that you went to or maybe an album that you stole from your folks or bought on your own, where looking back now you can say that was the pivotal moment where you knew music was gonna play as important a role in your life as it obviously has?
Yeah, you know there are quite a few. Definitely, my cousin had the 45 for “Heartache Tonight;” The Eagles song. This was definitely 1980 or ’81 because I went to my very first concert in 1982 with my dad on the Billy Joel tour. My cousin had this 45 of “Heartache Tonight” and we used to put it on whenever we would come and see him in Kentucky and we would just play it over and over and over again and finally he was just like, ‘Well you guys just take it, just take it, I can’t stand to listen to it anymore and every time you come here you just play it over and over and over again.’ He was a little older and we always thought he was super cool. My brother was four years older than me. That was definitely like a song that impacted me because it felt like kind of evil and kind of like naughty in a way where like somebody was gonna hurt somebody and that there was this other side of life that was dark and rough and somehow I was attracted to that. And yeah, I think it just sounded good, that drum beat.
That is such a great, specific story. So you wore the hell out of it, I guess.
Yes! Well when we took it home – and this is kind of a great metaphor for life – we’d be like, ‘Hey, should we listen to the record?’ And we’d listen to the record. Then, eventually once it was in our hands and we had the ability to listen to it whenever we wanted it kind of lost its luster. It’s kind of an interesting metaphor for life when it’s something that you can’t get a hold of, that’s slightly unobtainable, it seems to sound a lot better. But I’ve been asking myself that same question a lot lately as to why I ever started playing music in the first place and what makes me still attracted [to it] and enjoying it. It’s a great question to ponder.
For someone who hasn’t picked up a Truth & Salvage Co. record yet but is gonna grab your album, what section in a record store do you think they would head to first to find this CD?
Well Truth & Salvage would be the boy band poster child for the Americana section. The over 30 poster children for Americana. This record is not as Americana as Truth & Salvage. There are definitely some songs that are more in that genre but I guess most people would still consider it Alt-Country or, I don’t know, just rock and roll, I’d hope to say. I can’t pinpoint it into any other genre. It’s not Indie Rock, it’s not Country Rock, it’s not Alternative, it’s not Hard Rock. I wish that a long time ago I could of figured out a genre I could have just put myself in. I could have said well it sounds like Waylon Jennings or it sounds like The Civil Wars or it sounds like The Old Crow Medicine Show, then I’d say life would have been a lot easier for me if I could have done that.
Getting back into the record; I guess you could say that you’ve sort of reclaimed or taken back a couple of tunes that Truth & Salvage Co. maybe stole, high jacked – I’m kidding of course – (Jones laughs) – borrowed shall we say. You mentioned one already, “Heart Like a Wheel.” Another is [the Katy Perry co-written] “Old Piano,” though on this album they’re titled “Got a Heart Like a Wheel” and “An Old Piano.” Why did you want to revisit these two cuts?
Well I changed the titles purely for ASCAP…and licensing purposes. I really wanted to put them out because I had recorded them first with my business partners [and] it was kind of a promise that I wanted to keep. Honestly my business partner Bonnie Froman and her mom were the ones who first invested in the label; she passed away shortly after we started the label and I really wanted to keep the promise to her that we were gonna put out the record.
Now because of the fact that we’re on the phone and not face-to-face I have to set up some of these questions with a “I’m kidding, nudge-nudge, wink-wink” when I ask this: Did the fact that Katy Perry performed at this year’s Super Bowl play any factor in the timing of the release of this record?
(Laughs) I wish that there was any kind of a connection or hype that I could bolster off of her success. Maybe if I put a sticker on the front of it that said, ‘Featuring a song [“Old Piano”] barely co-written by Katy Perry’ than maybe an extra five people would buy it. She’s a really cool, talented girl. I can’t say enough good stuff about her. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I can’t say enough great things about her and what she does. You know, I’m not always a huge fan of every song she does, but most of them I still really dig.
You can’t deny the talent. You can like or dislike a song, but talent is talent. Let me ask you about some of the songs on Sure Got Late Real Early. “24 Hours” is the first track and single. Talk a little bit about that one.
Mike Brown was in town in Los Angeles. He made a great record called American Hotel. He came over to my house and was playing that piano piece and I started singing along and we recorded that song in about two and a half hours and then we had [folk rock singer] Lissie come in and sing on it as well.
“Damn You” is a damn good song. I guess it’s about the perennial push-pull of relationships. Is this autobiographical?
Yeah, you know it really is. There are two or three songs on there that I can directly link to. There was a girl I was dating in Los Angeles who was the quintessential Los Angeles party girl. She was super beautiful, she worked for this fashion company that was like Britney Spears outfitter and she knew everybody. She did a lot of cocaine and we had a blast together but it was constantly me struggling to, I wouldn’t say control, but to feel like if I gave something that I was gonna get something in return of the same kind of feeling. And I do think that she really liked me and even kind of loved me but the allure of the party life was always stronger than anything I could offer. For a kid from Indiana, that was a hard lesson to learn.
Another song I want you to talk about is “Special” which is pretty special and it features another special guest; a pretty fair singer and drummer that isn’t Don Henley, though it does have a pretty cool Eagles vibe. Talk about you and [Truth & Salvage Co. bandmate William Smith] Smitty working on this one.
I had written almost that whole song right around my thirtieth birthday, around 2005. I kept playing it for Smitty and I thought there was just something missing and I couldn’t figure out what it was in the chorus…and Smitty came up with the word ‘unconditional.’ That was the whole song, that when somebody loves you unconditionally, that’s the most special kind of love that you’ll ever feel.
People get into relationships and they start to try to change each other, and that’s not what attracted them to each other in the first place. And it’s certainly not what’s gonna keep you together is trying to mold somebody once you’re in a relationship, right?
Yeah man. Yeah. I’m a firm believer that marriage is a lot of compromise, but you certainly don’t want to get into a marriage thinking that someone is gonna compromise more than you’re willing to compromise and that you’re gonna be able to make them be someone that they’re not.
The song “Absolutely” and several other songs have the whole Laurel Canyon kind of sound written all over them. How much does the environment in which you write influence the songs that you pen?
I mean that record will forever be a Los Angeles record. Most of it was written in a little Hollywood bungalow. I did almost all of the overdubs and a lot of the vocal tracks at my friend’s house in Laurel Canyon. I think that there is no way to extract one from the other; I think they are intrinsically tied together, the environment, the situations, the characters, the sound, the feel – that was Los Angeles.
The CD jacket that I have here in front of me lists the songs under “Side 1” and “Side 2.” Are you a vinyl record collector by any chance?
I am. I’ve probably got about 500 records. Even since I made my first records I always envision the records as being “Side 1” and “Side 2.” I always had to fight to put vinyl out with labels [but] I think now they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s put out some vinyl. We’ll sell a thousand copies of it.’ I would love to have this record out on vinyl at some point…but it gets kind of expensive to put out vinyl…you have to make a separate master for it.
You said you have about 500 pieces of vinyl, well, Tim, I think I got you beat by about 4,500.
Oh man! Yeah, I mean I’m not bragging about my collection. You should see [Black Crowes singer, Truth & Salvage Co. self-titled debut album producer] Chris Robinson’s collection, though you might have him beat as well.
I’m definitely a vinyl junkie and I’ve still got, not one but two, turntables hooked up and ready to roll.
Do you remember the first album you bought?
The first full-length record I bought was Billy Joel’s The Stranger, but it was a cassette tape. We always had vinyl records as a kid and my first vinyl record that I fell in love with was Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler and John Denver’s Poems, Prayers & Promises. There was a Sonny & Cher record too that I liked cuzz she was so darn pretty.
What about your first concert?
My dad had taken my brother and I to go see Billy Joel; we wanted to go see Men at Work but we were too young – I was only seven and my brother was 11 and he wasn’t gonna let us go to a concert on our own, and he didn’t wanna sit thru a Men at Work show. Billy Joel was coming a month later and he liked Billy Joel and he thought that would be enough to satiate us and still be a cool dad but not have to sit thru a Men at Work concert.
Getting back to the album here; it also includes seven bonus tracks. Man, you really emptied the vaults here, didn’t you?
(Laughs) I did, I just dumped it all out. You can only put 80 minutes on a CD and there’s 79 minutes and 53 seconds, I think, so I’m just seven seconds shy of hittin’ the max.
Finally, what’s next for Truth & Salvage?
We’ve got a couple of dates booked in September. We’re gonna write another record, hopefully by the end of this year, and we’re looking forward to recording a new one in 2016 and then we’ll play some shows. I don’t know that we’ll ever be out going and doing 200 dates again or hitting it super hard unless, by some stroke of luck, we become secret, overnight 10-year successes. Nobody really wants to get back in the van and do the grind of driving 500 miles a day and sacrificing all of your family and friends and your health. Not that we don’t love all of our fans out there and love to spread the good word and live the rock and roll life for as long as possible but I think there’s just a reevaluation for anybody that does it for long enough. If you’re still somewhat under the radar it’s a lot harder to do when you want other things in your life, like a home and family. I think there’s a certain point where you want to prioritize what you want out of life and as much as I love rock and roll music and success, the allusion of the grandeur of the cover of the Rolling Stone doesn’t have the same weight as it did for me when I was 25…or even 35.
Well as someone much wiser than me has said, the only constant is change. Well Tim, this conversation was well worth the wait, man.
Man I’m so sorry again, I’m such a bonehead. I apologize and I really appreciate you taking the time and talking with me.
**To hear more audio of my extensive conversation with Tim Jones, please “LIKE” Facebook.com/CurrentClassics and look for a link to an upcoming episode of my weekly Current Classics podcast. Listen HERE.