Canada has become one of the biggest hot spots for new talent. We've seen so many big names come from that area, after they have first come to the states and made a name for themselves. Today, we connect with an amazing artist who is making just as big a name, but doing it right in the heart of Toronto. Meet Sean Jones!
To be perfectly honest, Sean is not new to the industry. He's definitely been doing his thing in the music front. Venturing back more than a decade, he released his introduction to music alongside the members of In Essence. Soon after, the group disbanded, all going their separate ways. He's since been earning much success as a solo artists. He's been celebrated with awards from Much Music and has received a coveted Juno Award.
Jones has garner rave reviews from throngs of fans, as well as a host of celebrities, having opened for the likes of Sarah McLachlan, and Natalie Cole. He contributed the song "When I'm Gone" to the feature film, "Sons 2 The Grave", and he's got an amazing concert series / residency going on that is literally knocking the socks off the music world. He’s proving without a doubt that he represents the Soul of Toronto!
Check out our exclusive below!
U.G. Digital Mag: I truly appreciate the time you’re taking out today. it says a lot that you find the time to talk, and it’s amazing because you’ve done an amazing job with your overall branding and just getting yourself out there. I love connecting in general with independent artists because I feel like you really get it a lot more than say some of the more established acts. You have to work so much harder to earn it and maintain it. How has it been as an independent for you?
Sean Jones: I’ve been in and out of “the machine”, as I call it. We were independent at first, then got signed to BMG/Sony. We were there for 2-3 years, and then the wheels fell off, in terms of the merger. They weren’t sure who they were necessarily going to keep. It turned into a little bit of a battle. They dropped us, and kept our second album. The group took a turn for the worst, and we broke up after being together about 12 years. I was alone for about two years and then I signed my solo deal with Wide Awake Entertainment. Things didn’t go well with that. That was 3-4 years. I got out of that, and now I’m independent again, this time with good management. The management makes a huge difference. If you have great management, you can pull together a lot of things. You don’t necessarily need the big machine to get the fire going.
U.G. Digital Mag: I agree with that. What makes our conversation that much better is that you’ve been in that machine, and then you’ve been able to step back as an independent. If you have the right management, you can get a lot accomplished. This issue has a lot to do with the independent artists and how the game is shifting overall. Many would like to be independent more than anything right now. There’s a lot more opportunity to make a lot more money as an independent.
Sean Jones: Oh 100%. It’s good right now too because if you have the right people, and create your own team, you can create something where the only thing you need the majors for is the ditribution. That’s a partnerrship though. It’s not about them telling you what to do. You say what you need them for, and it’s a whole different ballgame.
U.G. Digital Mag: So many labels are back to doing the 360 deals, so you stand to be more successful as an independent, but it just requires so much more work.
Sean Jones: Don’t get me wrong, I learned a long time ago that 100% of zero is zero. Sometimes trying to keep it all for yourself and trying to do it all alone versus getting with a label, sometimes that’s not the best idea either. It’s about being smart and understanding your power.
U.G. Digital Mag: Looking at your career, and the things you’ve done, you’ve been extremely successful. I’d love to hear more about your residency with Casa Loma…
Sean Jones: Yes, Casa Loma, it’s a beautiful castle in the city of Toronto. They gained new ownership, and they had a night called Symphony in the Gardens. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra would put on a concert in their gardens for two hours. People come in droves, and they get to listen to the orchestra in this beautiful setting. The owners wanted to do something a little different. They had seen me perform, and were fans of my music. They knew my management and came up with this concept of me being there but performing soul music. They brought it to me and i thought it was cool. We call is Soul in the City. I bring in my 8-piece band and throw down covers, interpretations, and original music for the crowd. Everyone is well just because they're coming to a castle. It’s classy, but at the same time It's not stuffy. We have a DJ every night. There’s also a glass pavilion with tables for people to sit, eat, drink, and enjoy the show. It’s up to 900-1000 people coming out on Monday nights. They put tables in the garden, but they couldn’t quite see the stage, so they put in a jumbotron. It got even crazier with that, so they then built a Gazebo for me to go out and perform. They also have TVs in the pavilion for people to see when I’m not in there.
U.G. Digital Mag: So many more people are getting into LIVE music, and the artist being backed by a LIVE band. I see why it has become so popular.
Sean Jones: It’s a perfect venue and it’s summer time. You don’t see LIVE music as much anymore, and when you do, it’s not as good, or you can hear the backing track. I bring 3 guest artists who come on stage and do a few songs. You only pick great artists who can actually sing and perform. People appreciate that. They appreciate a LIVE performance, and when you give them that, they become your true fans. There’s a lot of other stuff going on, with auto-tune, and people rising quickly to fame, but with this, they will become your fans.
U.G. Digital Mag: Did you picture yourself before, doing a residency?
Sean Jones: I did. We wanted to do this, and had been doing a lot of corporate stuff. We were looking for a home for it. We didn’t think of a castle, but I’ve been fortunate enough to come across the right people and it all fit. We’re on our second year and it’s growing. We have almost 1000 people coming out, and that’s incredible.
U.G. Digital Mag: How much longer do you see this going?
Sean Jones: It all depends. We booked all of this summer, and then we do our last show for the Film Festival. From there, we can do it again next year. We’re looking to take the concept across the world. It’s not too many others doing it like we're doing it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Definitely. The good thing is it opens so many other doors for soul music. There’s a lot of talent in Canada, but it’s not necessarily promoted the best. This is good, especially for that area.
Sean Jones: It’s excellent. I hashtag everything with #soulmusiclives. The "powers that be" here in Canada, many of them anyway, don’t believe that soul music thrives, or that people will pay to see it. Every week, we have new artists doing it. It’s about changing the mindset of the gatekeepers. Unfortunately, the problem is many artists leave for the states, and that’s where they become successful and gain their respect. Then they come back and their accepted. That’s never how it should be, but that’s how it is. We’re not really trendsetting, and we should be.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’ve always just thought that someone from there would really bring it all back and build something in Canada for the artists coming behind them.
Sean Jones: Yea. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened. We’ve had great success from Glenn Lewis and Nelly Furtado, all the way to The Weeknd, Drake, and Justin Bieber. Canada is the hot spot with so much talent, yet, we still have this problem. I don’t know how it will change. I know it will, but it will take some powerful people stepping up and speaking out. It’ll take a brave person who hears something fantastic, and will push it right here. Until someone steps up, we’ll be behind the ball.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think what you’re doing will open more doors. Maybe I just haven’t stretched my mind around it all, but when I think of a residency, it’s usually people who are on the tail-end of their career. You’re fresh, new, and a big part of the current generation.
Sean Jones: I never thought about it like that. It’s been more of an opportunity for me. If you can deliver LIVE, it’s the best way to gain new fans. With the right team, you can push the message even further in gaining those fans. Every show, I check my instagram and it goes up 30-40 people. At some point, it’ll be a critical mass. I’m excited about it all. Everyone around is excited with what we’re doing. We’re bringing in lots of people.
U.G. Digital Mag: In terms of things resulting from the residency, how did it help you in terms of putting your album together?
Sean Jones: You know, the funny thing is it came out June of last year, and it seems like it was so long ago. It was being done well before the residency came along. We were looking for dates, and it was shortly after that where Nick (from Casa Loma) and my manager came up with the idea for the residency. If we couldn’t get radio play, which is extremely tough in Canada, the residency would help with that. It has helped to get my name out to the masses. Last summer, I did 11 shows, and I had some people come back like 7 times. We don’t change the show so much, and some people came back repeatedly. They really enjoyed it that much. In moving forward, I started working on new material. Knowing this would come up again, it was another opportunity to test new material to see what works, and what doesn’t work for an album. We’ve been doing that. I just released a single called “Stoplight”. I never tell anyone it’s mine right away. I play it and see the reaction first. When we played "Stoplight" for the first time at Casa Loma, people loved it.
U.G. Digital Mag: One of the other things that I’m sure helps is the fact that so much has moved to the internet. With radio, there’s a lot of internet radio shows, and that’s growing tremendously. It’s a little easier getting play that way as opposed to the bigger names. That will open lots of doors.
Sean Jones: It’s funny because I was just talking to a few of my producers out of Vancouver, and they were saying to push out as much as I can in any way. If you can get a radio promoter, or digital team, then go ahead. Try everything. Try one song, and if it doesn’t work, try another. You never know what will hit with Spotify, Apple Music, and so on. It may catch the ear of a casting director, or anyone for that matter. You just don’t know. The internet is powerful, and you can push out your music if you’re smart about it and really have some impact. Now because it’s so easy with things like Tunecore, and online distribution systems, there’s a lot of people doing it. You have to distinguish yourself because of that because it’s easy to get lost in all the crap.
U.G. Digital Mag: What timeline are you working with for your next project?
Sean Jones: Honestly, there really isn’t a timeline. In my head, I said we would drop a single in the summer and in the fall drop an EP, but I don’t know anymore. I dropped "Stoplight", and then another will come soon. That should give me enough time to put together a better plan as far as the next release. There’s no real timeline or date. I just want to keep delivering music. It’s the best way for people to understand who I am.
U.G. Digital Mag: You also wrote “When I’m Gone” for Sons 2 the Grave. How did that come about?
Sean Jones: I was talking to you earlier about Wide Awake Entertainment. They’re the ones who connected my with my publicist. I had heard that they were getting this movie together. This was years ago, but through that I as able to come up with a concept. When Wide Awake went belly up, we all lost contact per se, but then it was really interesting. Years later, I had written “When I’m Gone”. Out of the blue, my publicist called me about that movie, and was looking for music. I sent them that, as well as another. “When I’m Gone” actually made it, and apparently it’s in one of the most pivotal moments of the film. I think it’s great. The song is powerful, and I’m glad people get the chance to hear it.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’ve heard so many powerful things about the film, and have talked to much of the cast. I know it will do very well, and be another opportunity for you to be heard. It’s amazing that you had that opportunity.
Sean Jones: I feel very fortunate. You tell a lot of young artists not to burn bridges, and I’m so happy we stayed in contact. I respect them for their hard work, and their tenacity ingetting this film done. With music, you can drop a new record every year. It can take so long to put a movie together, and I have to give it to them. They never gave up.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. And like you said, not burning bridges. The industry is so small, and messing up with one person can kill everything else. You don’t know who knows who.
Sean Jones: Absolutely. You never want to do that, unless you really have to. There’s always an exception because sometimes when people burn you so badly, you can’t go back. But you try to walk away amicably. You try to leave on the best note possible.
U.G. Digital Mag: What else is going on?
Sean Jones: Just working on new music. That’s most important thing to stress. We’ll have another spot after Casa Loma. At that point, it’ll be more Sean Jones and less covers. We do a lot of covers and interpretations right now, and I throw in a little Sean Jones. I want to transition into doing more Sean Jones. We’ll be doing more through online distribution with releasing new music. We hired a social media company, so people will get a chance to hear me. Apart from that, I’m working on some acting things as well. There are possibilities in the air. We’ll keep our fingers crossed (laughing). I’m working hard for that but singing is my passion. It’s all entertainment for me, so I’m working hard. You’ll see me on the big screen, I’ll say in the next 5 years.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s amazing. In terms of words of encouragement, how would you like to end this for your fans?
Sean Jones: You have to follow your passion, and you have to love it. You won’t do anything if it’s just about the fame. You really have to love it. It doesn’t come quickly. It takes time, and you have to put in hard work. You need to love it, otherwise you’ll give up really quick. I just ask everyone to keep that in mind.