We are turning the corner into something new.” That is the bold declaration of intent from acclaimed Toronto r ‘n b singer/songwriter Sean Jones, and it affirms his determination to bring a fresh and contemporary vibe to the classic soul sound that has inspired him in the past.
Sean first made a mark in the Juno Award-winning vocal r ‘n b group In Essence. That showcased his serious skill as an expressive singer, and since commencing his solo career he has been diligently honing his songwriting chops.
He has been collaborating with some of the best songwriters, producers and musicians in Canada, and the new material they’ve been coming up with has Sean majorly pumped. “I feel so good about the modern direction we’re taking,” he enthuses. “We’re making it fun, energetic and danceable. The way we record is still organic, but we’re adding production touches that make it contemporary.”
Jones’ new songs are stylistically diverse, and he refuses to be constrained by genre barriers. This reflects musical inspirations that span many decades, he explains. “I love the classic soul of Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway and Al Green, but I’m a child of the ‘80s as well. As a kid, I grew up listening to rock, r n b, and reggae. I loved the way Prince kicked down boundaries, and I love that about Bruno Mars now too.”
Sean is co-writing all the material for his next album, with the exception of a ballad called “Unconditional.” He notes that “Michael Shand is the musical director for Johnny Reid and a member of my band. He writes with his fiancée Mika Graham, and we’ve written 40 songs together. I’ve also just written a song with [soul diva] Divine Brown and her writing partner and I’m really excited about that one. It’s built around acoustic guitar and voice and is powerful and sexy.”
Sean is also excited about his flourishing creative relationship with young Toronto producer David Henriques (Coalition Music). “His production and mixing on the new material is just awesome,” says Sean. “It is right up there with anything on the radio these days.”
Jones is currently in a prolific writing phase, noting that “I’ve been putting off going back into the studio as I keep coming up with new songs I like even more!”
The recently released song “Stop Light” is an ace example of Sean Jones’ new sound, and it has genuine “song of the summer” potential. It’s a vibrant and catchy tune with a sexy vibe fitting the subject matter of a drop-dead beauty – “everybody freezes when you walk into the room.”
Another cut already recorded and scheduled as a future single is “Smoke.” This up-tempo and super radio-friendly track is a real barn-burner, boasting an infectious melody and rhythmic groove, as Sean laments that “she set me on fire, I’m just chasing smoke.” The saying “where there’s Smoke, there’s fire’ certainly holds true here.
Look for these two gems and other new material to be introduced into Sean’s sets during his ongoing “Soul In The City” summer residency at the historic Casa Loma in Toronto. This series premiered last summer, to phenomenal success, as Sean recalls.
“We play outside, in the glass pavilion in the gardens of Casa Loma. The tent gets packed, and then the gardens as well. By the end of last summer, up to 900 people would come out to the shows. It was a magical time.’
And just check this out for a star-studded list of Sean’s guests there last year: Molly Johnson, Divine Brown, Johnny Reid, Alan Frew of Glass Tiger, Jully Black, Eric Benet and more. Jones promises to “kick it up a notch this year” with his eight-piece band in tow.
Sean Jones is an energetic and charismatic performer, and he crafts these shows to “give the audience a ride,” taking them from soulful ballads to full-blooded funky r ‘n b workouts. A true natural onstage, he explains that “I live for those moments.”
His dynamic performance style has brought Jones invitations to open for such artists as Natalie Cole, David Foster, Sarah McLachlan and The Tenors.
In 2012, Sean was an opening act on David Foster’s Man In Motion tour, in celebration of Rick Hansen, and he fondly recalls one highlight. “I was scheduled to sing the title song, the hit from St. Elmo’s Fire, and it ended up with David Foster playing piano and the Tenors coming on to do backing vocals. So here’s Sean Jones backed by David Foster and The Tenors. A good moment!”
Great moments are destined to come Sean Jones’ way in the near future. Following this shining talent’s musical evolution will be an exciting journey.