Recently, it dawned on the prolific rock ‘n’ roll guitarist, Ayron Jones, that people, even in his home city of Seattle, don’t really know who he is, as a person. In the Pacific Northwest and beyond, Jones’ name is increasingly synonymous with musician and six-string shredder. But who he is, where he comes from, his perspective—those are much less prevalent than the dynamics of his sonic potency. Now, though, Jones is set to change that. The artist, who rose to national popularity in 2020 with Billboard-charting hit singles and an Instagram shout out from the notorious podcaster, Joe Rogan, is set to release his newest LP, Child Of The State, on May 21. The record’s autobiographical debut single, “Take Me Away,” which already boasts about one million YouTube views, serves as a window into Jones’ life, beginning with the very first lyric: The day my fuckin’ mom abandoned me / was the day I learned to lie.
“Those abandonment issues really shaped my life,” Jones says. “It’s hard to explain when something like that happens to you at such a young age. You don’t know what you’re going through.”
Jones, whose mother was 19 when he was born, grew up without his father, made money in often nefarious ways. His mother struggled with drug addiction. Later, an auntie took Jones in to live with her family. It was there where he discovered the power of music. He remembers hearing stories of him at three years old, glued to the television, watching James Brown and getting his “toddler boogie on.” He went to church regularly and heard the music there. His auntie’s husband was also a musician, a touring percussionist. He served as the father figure in Jones’ life and demonstrated what a career in song could offer.
“I looked up to him,” Jones says, “as a young man who didn’t have a father in my life.”
Despite a difficult childhood, Jones found his spark. He knew that no matter what happened around him, he could control one thing: himself. He could control his own perseverance and, so, that’s what he focused on.
“Having faced all these adversities and still being able to create something beautiful, it’s a very complicated dichotomy,” Jones says. “On one end, there’s this incredible void and pain that will never be filled. On the other, there’s this beautiful perseverance and something made in contrast.”
One of Jones’ earliest and most profound musical inspirations was the Texas guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Along the way, Jones got his own guitar and started practicing enough to test the literal durability of his fingers. He played in the Emerald City seemingly as often as he could, going from gig to gig even multiple times a day, playing rock clubs, blues clubs as well as open mics and coffee houses. In 2010, Jones began working with the now-immensely popular artist, Janelle Monáe. But after a while, he was faced with a choice: play in the band and relocate to Atlanta or work as a solo artist. He chose the latter.
“I made the decision to pursue being an artist,” he says. “I wanted to do this full time. As much clout as I was getting as a guitar player, I knew there was still a lot of growth necessary.”
While some put their head down in sadness, Jones put his down and plowed ahead. He honed his signature gravely singing voice, perfected his chops both as a songwriter and as a guitar player. For many years, Jones was a star in the making. Now, his time seems as if it’s truly arrived. Thanks, in part to that multi-year grind and devotion he allowed for himself.
“After high school ended,” he says. “I would try to find ways to play wherever I could. Sometimes those rooms can get really loud. People are talking in restaurants or cafés, ordering stuff. The cappuccino machine is loud and hissing. For me, I had to sing over all these people to get their attention. But I always wanted to be an attention-grabber.”
Until this year, Jones experienced his most prolific career year in 2015. He worked with rock Hall of Famers, Mike McCready and Duff McKagan. He dropped an album, played the historic Gorge Amphitheatre, boasted big name sponsorships. Nevertheless, Jones didn’t quite break though—not like he has today. In the meantime, to fortify himself and his art, he leaned into his family.
“Living in my ego,” Jones says, “slowed my growth. At one point, we were really close to a record deal but it didn’t work out. I was so disappointed. I felt like I had to restart everything. But, in a way, it was more like opening up a new road. It was important to start to figure out who I was supposed to be.”
Now, Jones says, he’s found his “frequency” and, as a result, his popularity is increasing by the day.
“I’ve always kind of hidden,” Jones says. “The kid with the attitude, the black and gold [jewelery]. I hid behind that image. But this record is a lot of me opening up and letting people in to see who I am as an artist and as an individual.”
Jones’ new record is astonishing. It rumbles, shakes. It includes thick riffs, lighting solos and raspy intimacy (see: the single, “Mercy”). In many ways, it also fits within the lineage of other heavy Seattle rock groups like SoundGarden and Alice in Chains. And, in a way, that’s very much on purpose.
“People like Mike and Duff,” Jones says, “those cats epitomized what it means to be from Seattle and play music. I’m excited for people to see me as the artist I am today. It’s always been about the next person up.”
Photo by Alyssa Gafkjen