Way more than “A Thousand Miles”. A trip to Bali and back with Zoey Jones
“I realised however, that mainstream pop wasn’t for me, and that to go down a more chilled, jazzy, electronic, deep house kinda musical world…it felt a lot more intimate, meant more to me as an artist and suited me as a musician.”Zoey Jones
For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere it’s reached that time of year when the weather calls for as little clothing as socially decent, a pint of something very cold, and a deckchair placed comfortably with a view of Neptune’s back garden. It’s little slice of heaven if you can avoid moving even an inch, for if you do you’re liable to go the way of the abandoned ice lolly and become a very sticky, very sorry sight almost instantly. Aside from a bucket hat the other thing this weather calls for is a good, solid, undeniably cool soundtrack.
There are many ways to approach this of course, you could do what I did as a kid and reach for Primal Scream, or Ian Brown, for a massive, paisley tainted rave on our yearly trip for a dip in the Atlantic. Or you opt for something much slicker, like Air, Télépopmusik, or Groove Armada which will forever remind me of those snippets of sound that drift out of effortlessly cool bars around the Mediterranean.
But let us leave European beaches for a moment and look instead to the westernmost island in Indonesia, one who’s name is probably most familiar to you, Bali. For here is where today’s artist has spent a good chunk of the last few years after a time playing with a Jazz band in Hong Kong. They are an artist who holds many titles, that of DJ, singer, songwriter, and producer who’s music would certainly find a place on the latter of those summer playlists. They have even started up their own label in the last few years, called Love Struck Records. But before we get too deep into what she’s been producing, I better introduce you guys, as unlike Bali this artist’s name is perhaps less well known to you. Or maybe you’re well into Electronic House or Deep House and have crossed paths, I don’t know your story!
But in any case, please allow me to introduce Zoey Jones. She’s had quite the ride since she bought her first set of decks back when she was only 18, finding herself DJ’ing in various countries in Asia, fronting that Jazz band I mentioned, and ultimately pegging it to Bali before the lockdown restrictions properly hit. But I’ll let her talk you through her life story and instead chat about the music!
Thus far Zoey Jones has released two albums and a whole swathe of singles dating back to 2012.
Drawing on her experience doing Jazz covers of famous tracks the most recent album “Songs from The Naughties”, released back in 2019, is a collection of Jones’ favourite tracks from the era repackaged in her own brand of Brazilian Bossa Nova. The album opens with a cover of Air’s “All I Need”, a staple summer tune if you ask me, and continues with laid back arrangements of The Pussycat Dolls’ iconic “Don’t Cha” and finally comes to a close with Estelle’s ultimate party banger “American Boy”.
More recently Jones has focused on music that is similarly laid back, but has opted for a far more electronic, dreamy, deep house approach. You can hear the beginnings of this shift in 2018 with the release of “Calling You” featuring Portuguese DJ and producer Rui Da Silva, who rose to prominence in the underground House scene in Lisbon throughout the 90s. The track is spacey man, like the repetitive nature of the genre really shines through and the intertwining beats are trance inducing for sure, making the track perfect for a basement rave.
Two years later however, we hear her sound get lighter, looser, more suited to the expanse of a beach front in Bali than that of a warehouse rave. This is most noticeable in the 2020 single “A Thousand Miles” wherein the vocals and the music weave in and out of each other, barely separated, a union that is encouraged by the soft edges of both Jones’s voice and her accompanying soundtrack. This step towards finding her sound is even more evident as time moves on, take the original mix of her latest single “Be With Me” (2022) for example, where you’re eased into the light vocals and muted beats in such a way that the world melts and you can consider your responsibilities totally erased for a while!
The production of this latest track is also far more confident, a step which was also apparent in the more up-tempo of the 2022 singles “Us Two”, featuring French House DJ, Sebb Junior. This single is a classic soft summer house track with a beat that’ll keep you dancing on that much needed road trip to the coast. Anyway, it’s clear that from where she began Jones has come a long way, both musically and with regards to air miles, so with that said I encourage you to read on and learn about her journey straight from the source!
Hello hello! Firstly, thank you ever so for chatting with us today we really appreciate it. We shall start this little chat off very simply, would you mind introducing yourself for our readers?
Hi! Thanks for having me! Sure, my name is Zoey Jones and I’m an artist, singer, songwriter, producer and DJ in the field of electronic/ deep house, soulful and downtempo music . I’m originally from the UK, and have I’ve literally just relocated back here from being abroad working, travelling and gigging away for years.. it’s nice to be back!
Alright let’s get into it, so your first album “Don’t Think” was released in 2012 and is for sure totally different to the following 2019 album “Songs from the Naughties”, as it’s a much more stripped back album that focuses less the music and more on your voice! I was wondering how long you have been creating for, and what spurred you to get into the music industry?
I always wanted to be in the music industry, I just wasn’t sure how. I started off as a professional dancer and found myself quickly moving towards music after competing and reaching the semi-finals in the original pop idol competition. After this experience I had the bug to peruse and succeed. I realised however, that mainstream pop wasn’t for me, and that to go down a more chilled, jazzy, electronic, deep house kinda musical world… It felt a lot more intimate, meant more to me as an artist and suited me as a musician. I bought my first set of decks at the age of 18, dabbled with producing music on video games and started writing my own songs.. ‘Don’t Think’ was my first album and looking back felt a little experiential and I could have done a lot of things differently in marketing etc… (back then was very different to how the industry stands today for indie musicians.), however, I still got booked to perform my debut of this album at the world renowned pop/rock festival ‘Rock In Rio in Lisbon’. Performing my songs for the first time at such a huge festival was incredibly nerve racking but one of the most memorable and exciting experience.
‘Songs From The Naughties’ (released nearly a decade later) was the start of me expressing myself as the artist I am today… (goes to show things do sometimes take time and will naturally unfold as and when they are meant to be) ‘Songs From The Naughties’ obviously a Bossa Nova cover album from a curated list of my fave songs from the naughties! I recorded that album with my jazz band in Hong Kong at a fantastic studio called Gig studio and used the fantastic Telefunken U47 mic… the oldest, highest quality (and the most expensive) mic in the world! :). One of the songs from this album was licensed to Cafe Del Mar’s album ‘Vol 26″.. this was a huge dream of mine to be an artist on a Cafe Del Mar album…!
“Songs from the Naughties” reminded me of the concept behind Nouvelle Vague’s 2004 self-titled album! I was wondering how you chose which tracks to cover, and what drew you to using the classic Brazilian genre Bossa Nova to remix them?
My vocal performances in Hong Kong and Asia were mainly alongside a jazz band (Keys, bass, drums etc). We would perform at many fancy events and bars. We would always have a huge list of songs to sing and perform. A lot were requests from the clients, a lot of clients had the same requests! I was sick of singing (&hearing) the same music requested by clients and other artists playing in other bars and events (amazing old time classic songs, but incredibly over used and over played!) so I decided to reinvent some of my old faves and educate the audience with new songs (or old songs revamped) it was popular at the time also to reinvent old songs or even jazzifying new ones! The songs were getting some lovely reactions, so I decided to record them and put them on a record.
At first glance your Spotify is a neat collection of two albums, however if you flip the switch on the discography tab from “Albums” to “Singles and EP’s”, oh my God, I was greeted by tracks dating back to 2013 and running through until literally today! This is where I really noticed the switch from laid back, soft tunes like the 2019 single “Ready to Run” to tracks with more of a breezy beach club vibe to them, like “Just Let Me” (2020). What, if anything, spurred the change to using more electronic music to back your vocals? And also, how did you come across the DJs and Artists who have produced mixes and tracks with you?
Yes, everyday fine tuning my sound. I write songs and tell stories of my journey through life, which is quite normal as an artist. This will affect the sounds and dynamics I will use in the production also… I’ve always loved electronic music but the magic is the journey and evolution of my writing, storytelling and sounds.. It should (I hope) express many sides of myself and my world… there are always many directions to explore, stories to tell and emotions to express through different songs and sounds. With regards to DJs I think when you have been in the industry for a long enough time and you know yourself as an artist, your genre and your niche, you gradually meet the right people who are similar to your vibe and genre and who you are supposed to work with.. often artists reach out to me or I reach out to them, or we have met on a gig or something..
This more funky, spacey beach chic kind of sound is also prominent in your 2021 single “Us Two”, which was also remixed this year by Seb Junior. This track in particular was discussed in an article on the website “Honeycomber”, specifically it’s storyline which is set in North Bali, and was inspired by your experience of the landscape there. I was wondering if you could chat a little about how you came to live in Bali, and what drew you to moving out of the UK? Also, since moving there, how has your sound changed, if at all? And finally, what is it about living on the island that has most influenced your recent releases/projects?
Oh, living in Bali definitely influenced my writing and musical sounds. Especially being there during the pandemic and coming out of a tricky time in my personal life. The drive to make peaceful, uplifting positive, chill out music seems incredibly natural and I think was healing for me, and also to reach others around the world who were struggling with lockdown and giving them a taster of the peace, beauty and freedom by the sea in the tropics, and bring my listeners to paradise island with me when they listened to my music…I ended up in Bali by accident. I needed a place to lockdown and found myself getting the last flight into Bali before they locked down. I was living and gigging in Hong Kong prior to lockdown. At the start of the pandemic I had to leave HK and was unable to return. So found Bali as my new part time home, which tuned out to be the most amazing place to be locked down in. It was so quiet and just absolute paradise to be there, I ended up having a huge rest that I only then realised I needed. I focused on writing, creating, music videos and building my myself and my brand as an artist and musician.
We have your most recent single titled “Be With Me (VIP Mix)”, released on the 24th June, congrats! How are you feeling about it? It’s a single three ways with the original mix, the extended mix, and the instrumental, all featuring on the single. What was the inspiration behind this latest couple of tracks, and for those who haven’t had a chance to play it yet, how would you recommend listening to it – what kind of atmosphere would be most fitting? Also, with the more tracks you release there is definitely a heavier presence of production in them, do you feel you’re getting more comfortable with your sound?
Yes, absolutely and thanks you for noticing.. that means a lot! 🙂 I’ve been working a lot of my sounds, productions and niche during the past few years and definitely know my audience and the direction I am heading in. The more I release my music and the more feedback I get from my fans and listeners the more I know what works and what my listeners want to hear (and also what I want to make and produce). Be With Me (VIP Mix) is still lounge, but definitely a slightly chunkier version of its original mix and definitely more dance floor friendly, seems to be getting picked up by a lot of DJs who are playing the song in their earlier sets. It’s always good to hear such lovely feedback and DJs are excited about playing my work.
Lyrically I was most intrigued by your 2020 single “A Thousand Miles”, which is a super mellow track with a fantastic message about separation during the pandemic, which I realised only after reading the description below the track’s music video on YouTube! I whether you could chat a little about your writing process, whether it’s the sound or the words that come to you first?
A Thousand Miles is definitely another favourite of mine. I love the moodiness of this one and I always love having many vocal layers and harmonies in my recordings to warm everything up and create a more moody, deep, sexy sound.
My writing process depends, usually I find it more inspiring and easier if I have some cool, sexy chords progressions to write to. If lyrics come from nowhere without a melody I rarely use them, I’ll write them down somewhere just in case I need a quick lyrics for something, but I usually use work I write on the spot in the studio especially for a melody of mine or chord progression in particular. I think melody and the vibe of the song are generally much more important than lyrics usually as It is more universal. However, all the elements are super important and that what makes a good song! 🙂
I was wondering if you could chat a little about your influences? What kind of music did you grow up loving, and more recently, what artists have you been listening to? Are there any in particular that you would recommend listening to to accompany your latest release “Be With Me”?
When I was younger, I grew up listening to a lot of old songs, Jazz standards and music from the musicals. My mum would always hum and sing standards whenever she was pottering around the house As a teen, I quickly fell in love with house and electronic music including bands such as Air, Moloko, Zero 7, Groove Armada, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx and labels such as Cafe Del Mar and Hed Kandi.. I would definitely say that these acts and artists were my first influences in music. Today, I listen to a lot of Spotify playlists were I discover new music and sounds mainly within the RnB, Soul, deep house genres. There is so much amazing music out there these days, i’m constantly inspired, but my vibe definitely routes from the late 90s- early naughties era! The songs that inspired me to write ‘Be With Me’, were actually Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” (For the chord progression) and Miguel Migs /Lisa Shaw- “I Can See It” where I was inspired by the BVs and general Deep House vibe of the song.
Aside from a pretty steady release of singles you have also found the time to set up your own record label titled “Love Struck Records”, what inspired you to start your own label? Where did you get the name from? And since starting your own label, what, if anything, has changed about your sound?
Yes, I have always wanted to have my own label and decided during the pandemic that it was definitely time. I was releasing a lot of work and to have it going through my own label was just taking my music to the next level in my opinion. The name was again inspired by the ’90s/’00s era. I think it’s a very suited to that time. Love Struck Records, really reflects the sounds that made me who I am today as an artist and musician. I release elegant sounds and artists with the House, Deep House, chill out and electronic music genres.
You mentioned earlier that you bought your first decks when you turned 18. Can you talk a little about your experiences as a DJ and whether that’s something you will be pursuing more in the future?
I was always so in love with house music and the mysteriousness of the night life where dance music really came to life. So every moment I had, I practiced. I never did a live gig though until quite a few years later at my debut in Portugal at the MTV boat party and WWA World Wakeboarding Championships, where I was the resident DJ for the week! It was quite a debut to say the least! I always focused mostly on singing and song writing and had DJ’ing as a side thing. I didn’t want to compete with the heavy weight club DJs. But when I arrived in Asia, I realised there was a huge gig market for female DJs as there are so many bars, rooftops and beach clubs. I became a full time DJ and toured Asia gigging at some of the top Beach clubs, bars and clubs within the region.. I still get booked for DJ gigs, but only now bookings are starting to come in after the pandemic lockdown period!
Alright that is all I have prepared for you today, thank you so much for your time, and now is the time to cover anything I may have missed, or shamelessly plug any upcoming gigs, merch, singles and such things!
Oh a little plug.. yeh of course..:). ‘Be With Me’ has a new Remix by the amazing, Swedish grammy nominated DJ and record Producer StoneBridge. It will be released on the 26th August! Keep your eyes and ears peeled.. this is fantastic dance floor friendly remix! Thank you for having me. Its been a pleasure to answer these questions for you.. 🙂
Listen to Zoey Jones on Spotify
Huge thanks to Zoey for the incredible glimpse into her world! Readers can find more on Zoey’s website, along with links to her social pages. If you haven’t checked out some of our previous guests, there’s so much more to discover here.