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WB Jones created the band Free Willy by assembling some of the best musicians in Texas. His songs are a collection that spans more than 40 years. Some were recorded and most were not. Jones was inspired to go into the studio after hearing some local Texas musicians perform and his audiences are happy for the work. We caught up with Jones and found out what makes him tick.
Tell us about ‘Remember The Alamo’ and how you came to write this album? Why the name?
I picked the band name and album title a day or two before I had my first project planning meeting with Jim Taylor, the owner of The Mixing Room, a recording studio in the woods of Deep East Texas on the outskirts of Nacogdoches. The title track has no connection to the conflict named after the ancient fort, but rather is a tribute to the romance, and the music, that are recognizable as having originated in the San Antonio region of Texas; specifically the River Walk in recent days. All of the songs were written over a period of almost 40 years. For instance, I wrote “Not Your Everyday Love Song” for my first love while a junior in high school, and “Meant To Be” was penned about two months before my wedding in 1983.
Give us an example of what your songs represent.
My other songs showed up at various “lucid” periods of my life between then and several months ago (I didn’t finish the lyrics to “Remember The Alamo” until June of this year, two months before we released the album). All of the songs represent some part of who I am, but I understand that each listener hears and applies their own meaning to the songs, depending on their unique history and culmination of individual life experiences. The goal is for each song to create a “music video” in the mind of the listener, similar to the phenomenon of creating a “movie” in your head when you read a novel. I should mention here the obvious fact that “American Medley” is merely my “arrangement” of “The Star Spangled Banner,” borrowing the melody lines of “America The Beautiful” for the intro/break/ending and converting the “mood” of the song to a peppy jingle. Additionally, I’ll mention here that “As A Man Thinketh” is my musical tribute to a poem written by James Allen (circa 1900), combined with a Proverb from the Bible; both have had a tremendous and lasting impact on my life through the years.
What is the secret to a good collaboration like with the one you obviously formed with Jim Taylor? How did you meet?
Jim and I met in the fall of 2016 through a mutual friend, Steve Hartz, who learned of my interest in recording an album through my frequent visits to his Luthier shop in Nacogdoches, where I would take my guitars and other stringed instruments for adjustments and string changes. Steve explained that Jim had been the engineer for Willie Nelson’s Nacogdoches album while working at another studio at least a dozen years earlier, so I knew he would be a perfect fit. I met with him and explained the project, the specific sound and texture I was hoping to capture to give the band a particular “signature” sound, and my desire to have him identify and hire the finest acoustic musicians in Deep East Texas, who would commit their most creative effort to the project; an effort worthy of both individual and collaborative awards. I think most of you will agree that Jim was up to the task as evidenced by the level of excellence he brought to the production and completion of the finished project.
From the sounds of your work, you’re a big fan of country rock. What is so attractive about that genre and who are the bands you love?
Country Rock was born in the ’70s, and, along with “all” genres of that era, I was a big fan. I even liked Disco when it showed up on the scene, although I ran with a crowd at the time that was opposed to it, so I wore “Disco Sucks” T-Shirts while secretly listening to the Bee Gees on the turntable in my sister’s room. The Eagles (of course), Pure Prairie League, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Amazing Rhythm Aces and Waylon Jennings were favorites, as were Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Outlaws, but I also listened frequently to Dan Fogelberg, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffet; and let’s not forget Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Although my songs vary in tempo and lyrical direction, the commom thread that folks seem to recognize and point out is “it sounds like the ’70s.”
Where can we follow you and where can our readers catch you live next?
You can follow us on our website: http://freewillyband.com, our Facebook page: http://facebook.com/freewillyband, our Twitter page: http://twitter.com@freewillyband, also on every popular site under the sun that streams and/or sells music.
I show up with my guitar and test a few new songs on the gracious, but honest, regulars at a little venue in Crockett, Texas called “Camp Street Cafe”. They bring in World Class Blues and Roots Music acts, usually a couple of times each month.
Who are some well-known people you admire and why?
Ricky Skaggs, because he is who he is, whether you like him or not, and he plays the songs he likes to play, whether you listen or not. That takes guts in the music business, and he is certainly reaping what he has sown – happiness… Dolly Parton, Ditto
What do you enjoy about performing? Does performing entail anything different than it did 10 years ago, in your opinion?
I enjoy connecting at the soul level with perfect strangers and making them feel happy; I know how great it is to be part of the audience, so I remind myself of that before I go on stage to help dispel any butterflies in my stomach. I don’t suppose that has changed in the last ten years, or ten-thousand years for that matter, and I don’t suppose it ever will…
What advice would you give young artists today?
I am a “new” artist, at least in the public forum, so to those of you just starting out — young and old — my advice to is the same as I give to family and friends and anyone who seems ready to hear it: “Mind your own journey.” It can, should, and will be unique, and that’s OK.