Kirsten Jones goes deep for the Mad Mile

The best things come to those who wait. No one knows the meaning behind this old adage better than Toronto singer-songwriter Kirsten Jones. But with a little help from friends including Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy and Bob Egan and The Jayhawks Gary Louris, Jones’ excellent new record The Mad Mile just might be her breakthrough moment.

Kirsten Jones will be performing at Moncton’s Plan B Lounge on Monday July 11.

Although Jones music would certainly fit in comfortably at country radio, there is something far deeper to Jones’ music than the typical fluff associated with country music nowadays. There is an honesty to tracks like “There’s A Right Way (To Break My Heart)” that is both simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking.

Though this should not come as a shock to anyone, there has never been a shortage of Canadian bands making music that would be fit into the Americana genre in the United States; Blue Rodeo and The Skydiggers come to mind, for example. Yet here in Canada, we tend to slap easier labels and genres such as folk or roots or worse, pop, upon these artists due to the lack of other labels to stick to them. If Jones has her way though, she is going to see that the Americana music genre becomes a commonly accepted would cross the border and be an accepted term on Canadian soil.

“Americana is a genre that technically doesn’t exist in Canada,” Jones starts.

Asked why she feels that this has been the case, Jones lists multiple reasons:

“I am guessing that the term Americana is just too closely related to the word America so right off the bat, it is not a very international genre. Yet people all over the world are making music that is technically rooted in Americana. In the United States, Americana is its own entity. There are radio stations that exclusively play artists like The Jayhawks, Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris.

“But I have found that you really have to be careful about how you label yourself and your music no matter where you are because you can inadvertently position yourself outside of different musical worlds and genres almost by accident. If you say you’re a folk artist, country radio won’t touch you and vice versa.”

“Ideally, I would love to unite the Americana community here in Canada and have a whole lot of us tour together and stand together. Right now, I do not feel that it is a very united community.”

Though she admits that celebrated folk artist Patty Griffin was a huge influence upon her career, another name that continually comes up during the course of our conversation together is the name of The Jayhawks. The legendary Americana group helped steer Jones down the musical path that she currently walks and having the chance to birth The Mad Mile with The Jayhawks Gary Louris was nothing short of a dream come true for the artist.

“Going into the project, I had hoped that he would have the same sensibilities that I have and found that we worked together extremely well and agreed on nearly everything,” Jones gushes. “Gary kept us focused and helped make the recording process a lot of fun.”

The Jayhawks Gary Louris is not the only one who has been drawn in by Jones music. Earlier this year, Jones placed third in the Americana category of the International Songwriting Competition, the third consecutive year that she has been among the finalists. Despite not having brought home the top prize, Jones is still wowed by her good fortune.

“The International Songwriting Competition is the only songwriting contest that I have ever entered and is incidentally the only one that I wanted to win,” she says.

With more than 15,000 song entries in the competition, finishing in third place is indeed no small feat for any artist, let alone a Canadian one playing Americana.

“It is not as though Emmylou Harris is calling me to collaborate,” she laughs when asked whether she has experienced any run-off success as the result of the competition. “I do see the competition as a great way to help me break into the Americana market in the United States, however. Those are the people that I am looking to connect with.”

Article published in July 8, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript