Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Caroline Jones is a force to be reckoned with. Her sophomore album, Antipodes debuted on the iTunes Country Chart at No. 4 and her sassy single “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” quickly climbed the charts to become Jones’ first Top 40 country hit.
Caroline joins the Zac Brown Band on their latest tour, Out In the Middle, coming to the Paycom Center May 20. She spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about her new record, touring, and what inspires her to make music.
OKG: How is the current tour with the Zac Brown Band going? What are you enjoying the most?
Jones: Well, this is my second year actually touring in the Zac Brown Band. I opened for them starting in 2017 for three years. And then last year I joined the band as a special guest. And we just kicked off the “Out In The Middle” tour. This will be our second run next weekend. We kicked it off in South Carolina. And what I'm enjoying about this tour in particular since I've done many tours with Zac Brown Band. Now we have the Robert Randolph band out with us. Robert Randolph is obviously an extraordinary musician and artist himself, but we have a super band, and without giving too much away, at the end of the show where we have the entire Robert Randolph band on stage as well and a horn section back upstairs. So the show's in three acts this year. It's a brand new show that they've never done before. It's very entertaining, very exciting and each act is very unique from the others.
OKG: Being on tour, what does a day in your life look like right now?
Jones: I think the most hectic part right now is balancing my solo career and my own shows with the Zac Brown tour. The Zac Brown Band tour itself, as you know, we're extremely spoiled, they're doing it at the highest level. So we wake up at the venue that we're playing that night, and we get to have time to rehearse and see the city, relax and recover, work out, and do whatever you choose to do during the day. We have vocal warm-ups at night and then the show, so actually, in the tour, you get into a really nice rhythm. I've actually grown to really love that, that lifestyle and learn how to stay healthy and excited every night.
OKG: What inspired Antipodes, your sophomore album, and what's your favorite song on this record?
Jones: Well, this album was mostly inspired by me meeting my husband, my now-husband, and we met at the beginning of the pandemic. And then a kind of unique set of circumstances led me to move with him to New Zealand for seven months, where a lot of this album was made. And that's why it's called Antipodes, which means the opposite end of the world. New Zealand was hugely inspiring, and falling in love with my now husband was hugely inspiring. My favorite song on this record is probably the last song, it's called “So Many Skies,” and it's a duet with Matthew Ramsay from Old Dominion. It was co-produced by Zac Brown, and it's just an extremely special song that details my love story and my husband's life before he met me and my life before I met him. He sailed around the world, so there's a lot of that imagery in it. So it's just a very, very special song.
OKG: How does it feel to have “Come In (But Don't Make Yourself Comfortable)” become your first top 40 hit?
Jones: It's exciting, and it's very, very gratifying. I'm an independent artist, which is very unconventional in country, and so my business partner and I have been building this team for the past five years, and I really owe the career that I have thus far to touring. As you mentioned, this is my first real radio hit. And so it's very validating, very gratifying. It makes me really grateful for the folks that believe in me and the folks who worked so hard every single day to try to get my music in more people's ears. You know, it's like having a startup. It's really exciting when it starts to catch fire.
OKG: That's such a great song; it's so catchy and a lot of fun. You've worked with an impressive list of mentors over the years. Who have you enjoyed working with the most?
Jones: I couldn't possibly choose. But you're right. I have had the honor and the privilege to be mentored by and be on tour with Jimmy Buffett and Zac Brown Band and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and Kenny Chesney. All of them hold such a special place in my heart. I mean, Zac Brown is really the first mentor, the first superstar, to take a chance on me and take me under his wing. But Jimmy is just as influential. I toured with him for two years, and I signed my first distribution deal with him and put my record out on his record label Mailboat. So they all have a lot of wisdom to offer, and they all kind of teach by example. Touring with Kenny was also really influential for me. I learned a lot from that. His whole team has a real family vibe and I really enjoyed that as well.
OKG: What do you enjoy doing when you're not touring and making music?
Jones: Well, music is both my job, but it's also my hobby and my passion and my life's work. It's my favorite thing to do. For a long time, I didn't really have a life outside of music, but now that I'm married, I do have more of a life outside of music. We really enjoy being in nature. That's my biggest thing. We really enjoy hiking. Actually, we were just out on the boat for the night. And we really enjoy nature and traveling, traveling not for my job but traveling for joy and for fun to expand your horizons and I've been doing that a lot more since I met my husband.
OKG: What advice would you give to aspiring singers and songwriters?
Jones: Gosh, that's a big question. I think my biggest piece of advice would be to figure out who you are. And that's not an easy task but figuring out what your goal is, what your end goal is, because your path in the music industry is very dependent upon your end goal. And many people who don't have an end goal end up fulfilling the end goals of whoever they go into business with, and that's not always the most fulfilling path for them. So think about what kind of career you want to have, what you want to be known for, who you are, and what your strengths are. People call it a brand now, but I don't necessarily love that word. But whatever “brand” means, what is your brand? What do you stand for? Who are you? What is it? Most people are only going to know one or two sentences about you, like, ‘Oh, have you heard of Caroline Jones, she's XYZ,’ you know. So figuring that out, and then being really intentional with the kind of art that you make and the way that you present it in the world, and the kind of business deals that you sign around it. I think it gives you a lot more creative autonomy and power in your career.
OKG: What are some of your goals for your career?
Jones: My goal is to be able to make records and tour the records that I love and that I want to make for the rest of my life. On my part, that requires a lot of attention to detail in my craft and building up my craft as a musician and not just a performer because, you know, the fame part lasts for most people not that long. So to be able to actually have an audience that will come see you like they're coming to see Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, The Zac Brown Band, the kind that will come see you in 20 or 30 years, you really have to have a catalog, you have to have a dedicated fan base, you have to have a real character to your music and to what you stand for.
OKG: Tell me about your creative process and what inspires you.
Jones: My creative process is very intuitive. I would say that I've always written from my heart from my personal life. Now it seems a little more because I'm so busy. It used to be that I was always writing and always recording. And now I'm much more intentional about when I write and when I record. And I actually love that because it forces me to focus more when I do write and when I do record. I feel like, for a long time, I was experimenting with my sound and trying to figure out who I was musically, and now I know a little more. My creative process now, I would say, is a little bit more intentional, one thing at a time. If I'm touring, I'm touring, or if I'm writing or recording, separately, if that makes sense.
OKG: We are really excited to welcome you to Oklahoma City on May 20. I look forward to seeing you, and I know it's going to be a great show.
Jones: Yes, it will be. I'm excited for everyone's set. I'm really excited. I haven't been to Oklahoma in a few years, so I'm really excited. I think the last time we played Oklahoma was with Kenny, actually, so I'm excited to come back.