Kaiti Jones has been making a name for herself in the Boston music scene and gathering fans and admirers up and down the Northeast corridor. Kaiti’s pure vocals are impossible to forget; the way she knits together her songs is impressive. As Kaiti indicates in this interview, she’s on the brink of changing up the way she presents her songs and may be moving into more adventurous productions. Sounds very exciting for sure! Kaiti recently sold out a show at the legendary Club Passim. Advice: follow this musician. She’s going places….quickly.
Get to learn more about Kaiti on her website.
Here’s a video of a beautiful song called “Honey, I Do,”
Kaiti Jones will be appearing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, October 18, 2019.
From what I have read about your background, you literally grew up surrounded by music and musical instruments. I take it that most of your earliest experience with playing music was classical training. What were the most important lessons you learned from studying music as a child?
I started studying Suzuki violin at age three and a few years later took up piano lessons as well. Suzuki was instrumental in teaching me to use my ear, to listen for patterns in structure and melody that as I think back on it now set a foundation for my own composition. While I didn’t always appreciate the rigorous and prescriptive nature of my classical music upbringing, it laid a foundation of theory and musicality that I know has allowed me to approach new instruments and musical frontiers with more ease. And, of course, it’s still fun to pick up my viola or to sit down at a grand piano all these years later and still be able to work out a song. The muscle memory, though admittedly weaker than it used to be, is still there.
You studied creative writing in college. Do you view songs as mini-short stories?
I often say I identify first as a storyteller and second as a musician. For me, songwriting is ALL about the story. I think that’s what drew me to listen to folk/Americana music – what I heard was often so simple melodically/chord wise but with incredibly sophisticated lyrical narratives. In college, my focus was creative nonfiction, particularly the personal essay. I guess you could say songs are mini-essays? Ha! Short stories and essays are my favorite genre to read, and I’ve actually been dabbling in writing some short stories. Time will tell if I share them!
When you start to craft a song, do you move from a phrase or a concept or a character (including yourself) to figuring out what the tempo and feel for the song should be? I guess this is a version of the age-old question: words or music first?
My writing style is a bit bizarre in that I tend to get music and words at the same time. Ninety percent of the time I get inspiration for a song it’s when I’m driving around in my car, and suddenly I’ll get a line or two of a song in my head, clear as day, complete with music and lyrics. From there I usually identify what the theme of the story I want to tell is, and I riff off that theme in various directions and meanings to fill out the song.
You participated in the NewSong competition in 2018. What was that like? How many musicians apply for that? And how many make it to the final round?
NewSong was a really neat experience and one I’m still enjoying the fruits of. A friend out in L.A. encouraged me to enter the songwriting competition, and I did so with little to no expectation about how it would turn out. To be named one of 8 national finalists was a tremendous honor. I got to spend the weekend in Asheville, NC with some amazing songwriters with whom I’m still connected, performed for a full house at Asheville’s Isis Music Hall, and this summer my place in the NewSong music community earned me two rad gigs in Manhattan.
Your first full-length CD, Vows, was met with some acclaim. Some have alluded that your voice and style could translate over to the pop music category. What are your thoughts on Pop vs. Singer-Songwriter? Never mind about what others think, how do you categorize your music?
I often say in another life I would love to write songs for pop stars. I love a good hook and can definitely be prone to peppering my songs with a poppy melody or two. However, there’s a groundedness of the singer/songwriter, folk niche that I try to keep as my north star over just chasing a catchy melody. Additionally, in recent years I’ve been shifting toward more Americana and even indie rock instrumentation, and away from poppy production. I usually tell people I am a singer-songwriter of the folk/Americana persuasion. I’ve never been much good at being concise.
Do you aspire to work full-time as a touring musician or are you content doing occasional gigs and spending your time and talents doing other meaningful work?
Ah, the eternal question! I am incredibly privileged to be able to pursue so many different things that give me joy, purpose, and meaning, and that conversely allow me to create beauty with and for my community. Right now, I’m balancing my musical pursuits with my career as a macro social worker in the nonprofit/youth development world. I love both parts of my vocation and for now, I’m making it all work. We’ll see what the future holds!