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Justin Jones talks about 9:30 Records and hitting the road

justin jonesJustin Jones - performing here at the 9:30 Club's 30th anniversary show - is the first artist on the club's new label. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By David Malitz

Justin Jones has been part of the 9:30 Club family for a while but now he’s taken on the role of favorite son. After eight years of slinging drinks while also pursuing his own music career, the 31-year-old singer-songwriter is the first artist signed to 9:30 Records, the new label recently launched by the iconic local concert venue.

“The Little Fox EP” - a collection of rustic alt-country songs that aren’t lacking for memorable melodies - is available now and Jones will play an RSVP-only release show at 9:30 on Thursday night. This new venture isn’t being done to position Jones as a chart-topping superstar - 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz has freely admitted as much. Jones is ready to step out from behind the bar and hit the road. Not that his current job is all bad, but dealing with the drunks can wear on you a bit.

“It’s like communicating with a child, almost,” he says. “When you’re telling a kid not to do something and you have to tell them 10 times and each time you say something your temper escalates. And eventually you’re just like, “I SAID YOU CAN’T [EXPLETIVE] DRINK ANYMORE!!!”

Click Track talked to Jones about the new label, life on the road and who he'd like to join him on 9:30 Records.

So you’re the sort of the new face of the 9:30 Club. How do you feel about that?

What’s even weirder than that is that I’ve bartended there for the last eight years. I joke about that with people who work at 9:30, too. Because there was this press release for [the 30th anniversary show] that said - (laughs) - something about “the future of the 9:30 Club, Justin Jones.” So I always kind of [mess] with people when I come into work. “The future is here!” (Laughs.)

The music industry is supposedly struggling but that’s mostly the major labels. It seems like a decent time to start with some new ideas.

I feel like years and years of mistreating artists and consumers has come back to haunt [major labels]. [Bad] contracts where artists get signed to a label then the label never does anything for them. I feel like a lot of labels sign a bunch of people, don’t put a lot of work into stuff, then if something catches on they dump their money into that one. I’ve had many friends signed to different labels and none of them are happy. So I was excited to be a part of starting a new thing.

(His dream 9:30 labelmate, after the jump.)

Do you have any specific goals with the new label besides the usual - getting your music to as many people as possible?

Seth and I have been talking about starting a label for a long time. I had a meeting with (marketing group) Thirty Tigers and they wanted to distribute “The Little Fox” - that was back in March - so that kind of gave us a reason to start the label, or gave it that initial idea. Of course I want as many people as possible to hear my music but mainly I just want to provide for my family and do what I love to do. There are so many people who don’t know what they love and just kind of work. And I feel sorry for those people. I know what I love, I just have to work and not succeed at it. (Laughs.) I just want to be able to succeed at it. Success is ... I would be happy if I could support my family playing music.

That would mean a lot of time on the road. Not many people are making lots of money by just selling records. Is that something you want to do?

Oh yeah. That is definitely a part of it. Seth being a live music promoter, that is something he specializes in. How to capitalize on touring. He’s got the inside scoop on that. Being a promoter he knows how to negotiate that stuff better than I would. (Laughs.) I fully intend to go on the road. I’ve been going on the road for five years. But completely independent - booking my own shows, not having any publicity, no radio. Occasionally getting some radio station to play a record. Really bare bones. About a year ago we started to break even. And the last couple tours we did we made some money. So hopefully that trend will continue and we’ll actually be making the money we’d be making at our normal jobs. Because we made a little bit of money but we still lost money compared to if we were actually working.

It’s weird to do that math sometimes.

It’s like a paid vacation that is gonna feel like that work, but is also really fun. I mean, touring sucks. The shows are great. Everything else is terrible. Drive six hours, play for 10 people, get $20 and your bar tab is $80. It can be a drag.

So if you had to pick the next act to be signed to 9:30 Records, do you have any favorites you’d like to see joining you?

I haven’t really thought about it, there are a lot of great singer-songwriters and bands in town. I have another band [the Deadmen] I’d love to see on there!

I was just going to say, if you say your other band, that’s cheating. You just played your first show!

I know - but I think we’re ready!

By David Malitz  |  September 15, 2010; 2:49 PM ET
Categories:  Be specific  | Tags: 9:30 Records, Justin Jones  
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Next: Clicky shuffle: Random songs for Thursday morning

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