Caroline Jones is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 Country Artists You Need to Know” and Billboard’s “15 Country Artists to Watch.” Known for her signature country-pop sound, Jones lives and breathes music, and has been mentored by some of country’s biggest names including Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney, and Zac Brown, with whom she co-wrote her new single “All of the Boys” and has joined on tour for the past three years. She is a true student of her craft, with an evolving love for lyricism and storytelling, both in the studio and onstage. Her influences range from musical heroes like Mariah Carey and The Eagles to contemporaries like Alessia Cara and the 1975. Though rooted in country, with multiple performances at the iconic Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Caroline enjoys experimenting with all genres — which fans can get a sampling of on her new All of the Boys EP, out March 27. The EP will see new mixes of “All of the Boys,” including a dance mix and a coffee house version of the song.
What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?
It really amazes me how, using the same guitar and chain, two artists can sound so uniquely themselves. It’s a testament to the human soul; it comes through the player’s hands, whether they know it or not. The best players know it, clearly, and it is unmistakable. Each player’s melodic and rhythmic sensibilities are so, so different. I’ve had different players play parts that I’ve created, down to the exact note, and there’s just such variance in feel. A player’s tone is as singular as the human voice. No two exactly alike. It’s beautiful, really.
Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?
My guitar collection is pretty special because it features some really exceptional boutique guitar brands as well as classics. For acoustics, I use Godins and Taylors. The Godins are acoustic-electric so they have a unique sound that I love, and the Taylors just sound very transparent and balanced and natural. Robert Godin has been so good to us as well as Tim Godwin at Taylor. Beard Guitars makes gorgeous, top of the line resonators, which I use in certain staple songs like “Tough Guys.” Beard made me a custom resonator with a gold foil bridge pickup and Fishman acoustic pickup, so I get that screaming electric slide tone with an acoustic dobro tone, which is a very special combination.
Nechville banjos makes acoustic-electric banjos, and I have a 6 string and 5 string that sound pristine. I’m a Fender girl and a Strat girl in particular. I love old Strats (my co-producer has a 1963 hardtail) and I love the new, off-the-shelf Strats. They sound glassy to me, which I love. I think Fender is doing an amazing job of modernizing its brand and product lines right now. I also love how they are engaging artists in their campaigns.
My current favorite chain is a 1966 Fender Bassman amp (AA864 circuit) and Fender reverb unit. I run it through a Two Rock cab, so it’s a beautiful blend of a vintage head and modern cab. I absolutely love the sound. Fender has sent me a bunch of their new pedals, including the Reflecting Pool, which I love. It’s become one of my favorite reverbs, along with the classic Strymon Big Sky. Xotic’s EP Booster is my clean boost of choice because it adds a great sheen without much distortion or dirt. I tend to love cleaner guitar tones, like Mark Knopfler or Vince Gill.
RELATED: Caroline Jones talks about touring with Lee Brice,
Sara Evans, reuniting with Zac Brown Band,
and her writing and recording process
What about strings?
D’Addario. I play in a bunch of different tunings — open G, open F, open E, open D, down a 1/2 step, down a whole step — so we have a large variety of gauges to maintain proper tension.
Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?
For cleaner or wetter tones, we use solid state amps such as the Yahama G100-210 II with two 10 inch speakers. It creates a sound that you just can’t get from a tube amp. Also, we record a few amps simultaneously with isolation using the Rivera Silent Sister.
How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?
At big gigs, when I am the opening act in arenas, amphitheaters or stadiums, I use the Fractal Audio AXE FX III. It keeps my tones consistent, but more importantly, allows me to change tones dramatically with complete efficiency and seamlessness. And since I have such a variety of guitar tones in my songs and my records, this flexibility is really important. For acoustics and the resonator, we also run through the Fishman Aura Spectrum and Aura Jerry Douglas pedals live, which mimics a studio micing setup.
What does your practice consist of?
Songwriting and practice have become synonymous for me. It’s my creative time, and my time to hone my craft every day. If it’s a show day, I’ll warm up my voice and guitar for a couple hours. If it’s a normal day, I’ll take every afternoon to spend time with my instruments and my craft. I always start by practicing a new pattern or skill and end up writing a riff that evolves into a song. I love the master classes on Pickup Music. I have learned so much and also become a fan of so many of those great artists and musicians.
What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?
Focus on your music, your artistry, and your heart. Play and write and sing what you love, not what you think other people love. Dig deep into your soul. Take the time to learn from your heroes and be inspired by them, but understand that it is your musical voice and perspective that the world needs you to express. It takes time to develop that and courage. Focus more on your craft and your passion than social media numbers or other people’s approval. It’s only a matter of time before you will find your audience.