You might not realize it, but the guy responsible for leading hordes of East Nashvillians to shake their collective money-makers at The 5 Spot's incredibly hip Keep on Movin' Monday night dance parties was once scolded by his friends for writing, well, downer tunes.
"When I first moved here, I was super into really heavy Americana songwriters, like Townes Van Zandt," says Jacob Jones, DJ of Keep on Movin', founder of Electric Western Records and solo artist. "My first album is much folkier, and I maybe took myself a little bit too seriously."
Jones, who once worked at neighborhood watering hole 3 Crow Bar, would often hang out (i.e., drink) with one of the bartenders, Wayne Hanan. "He used to rat me out for writing sad, slow songs," says Jones. "He'd say, 'Why don't you write something people want to hear?' " As a joke, the two talked about naming Jones' next record "Good Timin' in Waynetown" — "Waynetown" being a raucous locale with lots of booze and little tearful country crooning. Somehow, it stuck. The songs, heavily influenced by the '50s and '60s records Jones spins on Monday nights, are soulful, hip-twisting rock 'n' roll numbers, embellished by Jones' smooth tone and the occasional twangy lead or full horn section.
Born in Indiana, Jones came to Nashville five years ago after a three-year stint in New York City. He'd played in a Brooklyn-based band that was, he says, moments away from a contract with RCA — sadly, says Jones, the label went instead with a little five-piece called The Walkmen. Amid the grit and grind of city life, Jones and his friends found themselves aching more for the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
"There was a huge sort of alt-country thing going on," Jones says, "and we'd all say, 'It's so much better down South.' So my roommate and I said, 'Fuck it, let's move.' We ended up in East Nashville, right near Five Points."
Jones released his first record, Bound for Glory, in 2009, around the same time he founded Electric Western Records — now the home of local songster Derek Hoke. The Keep on Movin' parties followed soon after, and the influence of, say, Chuck Berry began to edge out that of classic country.
"For this record, I wanted to write about different topics," Jones says. "About love, going out, partying with your friends, having a good time."
Not, Jones explains, in a Ke$ha way or anything — though he may or may not brush his teeth with a bottle of Jack — but in a way that recalls old clubs where girls in orange mod tunics and boys with slicked hair would shimmy the night away, dancing being their only objective.
The record features a cameo from special guest Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes on the single "Play It Loud, Ray!" Jones was working on the track at the Bomb Shelter in East Nashville, and he mentioned to the engineer that he wanted a Tina Turner-esque voice as backup.
"[The Bomb Shelter's Andrija Tokic] rang Brittany, who worked at the post office at the time," Jones recalls. "She called in sick to work, drove to Nashville and hung out with us all day, singing and drinking beers. Three months later she wasn't working for the post office anymore, to say the least."
To celebrate the release of Good Timin' in Waynetown, Jones will head to The 5 Spot to play a full set at the Hoke-hosted Two-Dollar Tuesday, alongside a horn section and some friends from Los Colognes and The Wild Feathers. Just dust off your dancing shoes — between this and Monday night, it's going to be a serious humdinger double-header.