Booker T. Jones Interview


Booker T. Jones spoke with Joey Spehar of The Morning Mix about his new record Sound The AlarmSound The Alarm is Jones' first album released on Stacks Records in over forty years.  Booker T. Jones left Stacks Records in 1969 but has chosen to return to release Sound The Alarm.  Jones commented on why he left the label and chose to return after nearly forty years.  "I wouldn't say I walked out.  I went to California from Tennessee and started meeting new and different musicians out there."  During his stay in California, Jones diversified his musical ventures recording everything from jazz to rock to R&B.  "[I recorded] a little more rock with Stephen Stills and continued to play R&B with Bill Withers.  But the reason for leaving was two-fold.  The company had become pretty corporate and they kind of abandoned our old colloquial style of just walking into the studio and writing a song.  The other thing was I just wanted to branch out more.  Forty years later the company is back and it's got its old muscle.  There's new people but they're great people and the spirit's revived."

Booker T. Jones has become an icon in the soul music scene.  It wasn't just Jones' solo work that brought him to fame, his band, Booker T. & The M.G.'s got the ball rolling in the 1960's.  When Booker T. & The M.G.'s started to make music, the soul music scene in Memphis was considered a preserve of black culture.  Booker T. & The M.G.'s, which contained two white members, was one of the first racially intergrated rock groups of the time.  Booker T. Jones' comments on recording in the then racially intolerant south.  "The music was so much more powerful [than the racist voices].  The only real problems we had were just legistical problems like getting food, checking into hotels and things like that.  We really didn't have a big problem with that."

Jones' latest record, Sound The Alarm features a large variety of special guests such as Mayer Hawthorne and Gary Clark Jr.  Jones' talks about how he brought in guests to record on Sound The Alarm, specifically the track "Austin City Blues" which features Gary Clark Jr.  "It was wonderful, there were a lot of different experiences.  Some of them were very similiar to the old way we made records.  But we used technology, we used the internet to connect to singers in Britain.  People flew in from all over to play on the album and we were able to sample sounds.  It was exciting actually, I'm really happy actually [with the album].  I reach out to most of the people [brought in to record].  For instance, with Gary, I heard him playing up at iTunes in Cupertino and I really loved his sound.  I wrote that song for Gary, but I knew Gary's roots and the type of thing he'd be comfortable playing."

When asked what his favorite track on the new album was, Jones answered the title track "Sound The Alarm."  "Sound the alarm expresses the centiment I'm hot at this point and I'm not questioning it I'm just enjoying it and that's the order of the day.  I'm here, I'm back, I'm enjoying, and it's happening."  Jones' comments are fitting and reflect his recent return to Stack Records to release Sound The Alarm.

Booker T. Jones has been making records for over fifty years now.  With the music industry constantly changing decade after decade, for an artist to withstand the test of time adjustments have to be made.  Jones' comments on the changes he has made over the years to remain a viable and important artist.  "The one thing I did that I think did help me turn the corner was I went back to school.  Around 2004-2005 I realized I was an old school guy, I was recording the old school way with analog.  I needed to learn digital audio.  So that was turning point for me."

When asked about what music he finds himself listening to now Jones' stated "You know I have so many different tastes.  Jason Isbell was a guy who introduced me to the Drive-By Truckers and then he left the band.  But he's one of the people I enjoy."  After recording for over fifty years, Booker T. Jones still continues to branch out in the music industry.  When asked what the next  step time for him, Booker T. Jones replied "I'm following my path and it's led me into some directions that I hadn't expected.  Right now I'm doing arrangments for this album [Sound The Alarm].  I'm writing and working with so many people and producers down in Los Angeles.  I'm also working with the symphony. I've always loved the orchestra so that's one other thing I might be doing." 

Booker T. Jones' new record, Sound The Alarm is out now.

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