While others holed up at home, binging Netflix, and picking up strange hobbies, singer-songwriter Caroline Jones got engaged and rode out the pandemic from the safety of Auckland, New Zealand, with her fiancé. The Florida native spent seven months living a completely different life than her Nashville day-to-day, drawing inspiration from the spanning landscapes and writing intimate tracks as they came.
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“It was certainly unexpected,” Jones tells American Songwriter over the phone. “My fiancé had been pursuing me for a while. He’s a sailor, so he is away from home as much as I typically am touring. If we hadn’t slowed down, this wouldn’t have happened.”
She sees the opportunity to record from home, honing her instrumental techniques and breathing new life into her songwriting, as additional silver linings. “I’m more selective than I used to be,” says the artist, who is admittedly not one for co-writing. “I only finish songs if I think they are really good. Whereas, when I was a teenager, it enthralled me, writing one or two a day, but they weren’t all great. Now, I intentionally craft my best songs.”
Released March 12, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” leads the way into a forthcoming follow up to “Bare Feet” (2018). Co-produced with Ric Wake (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Trisha Yearwood, Celine Dion), the uptempo tune is a twist on her more traditional country influences, including Dolly Parton and Shania Twain. Cleverly titled, the entrance track follows suit in a long line of independent countrywomen that don’t have time to waste on useless men.
“It’s hard to find a good colloquialism that hasn’t been done before,” Jones laughs about her tongue-in-cheek tune. She cites Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, and Brad Paisley as pioneers of country music’s characteristic play-on-words technique. She points to the lyric line I put up with you/ but you ain’t gettin’ in my pants, saying, “I just couldn’t pass up an opportunity for that kind of sassiness.”
Directed by PROJECTBLACKBOXX (Jennifer Lopez, Steve Aoki, Noah Cyrus) and produced by Alley Long, they filmed the music video in what Jones swears was “the only American or Western-ish bar in Auckland.” A shimmering set places her on stage surrounded by a crowd only possible in New Zealand because of their negligible number of COVID-19 cases. As the rowdy bar crowd erupts funnels into a choreographed line dance, boots stomp along to her electrifying bridge, rotating between guitar riffs and fiddle.
As the video highlights, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” is one of the more country-leaning songs the artist has ever recorded. She feels that stylistically, it’s not indicative of the whole album. Similar to Bare Feet, the forthcoming project boasts a broad spectrum of genre influence. She’s excited to share songs like “Getting To Me” and “Someone That Isn’t You.”
“I love every one of them and continue to be proud of my diversity of sounds, though it’s not as popular in current popular music,” she says. “But the fact that I wrote them all makes the album cohesive, and I had so much fun experimenting.”
Before the pandemic, the talented multi-instrumentalist toured with country icons Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffett, The Eagles, Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill, and Vince Gill, among others. She teamed up with mentor Zac Brown to co-write her previous single, “All of the Boys,” after touring with the band for three consecutive years.
Jones has also worked closely with Jimmy Buffett, who wrote the beachy hit “Gulf Coast Girl” for her, which also featured Kenny Chesney, Lukas Nelson, and Mac McAnally as “The Pelicanaires.” The collaboration eventually landed her a record deal with Buffett’s Mailbox Records.
“Jimmy and Zac—their seal of approval and mentorship opened the door for me; I owe my career that I have thus far to live shows and touring,” says Jones. “As an independent artist those opportunities were a dream come true and have led me to my most authentic vision of who I am as a musician.”
Watch the music video for “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” below. Keep up with Caroline Jones here.
Photo by Laura Lait