Eliza Hardy Jones is a Philadelphia-based musician who began as a classically trained pianist. Putting her skills as a pianist to use but in a completely different style, Eliza has worked with more electronic-oriented bands like Buried Beds and Nightlands. In addition, she’s spent some of 2015 touring with Strand of Oaks and playing keys for Grace Potter. But, Eliza reached a point where the curiosity of what her potential as a solo artist won over and the urge to create as Eliza Hardy Jones began. In between touring with Buried Beds, Strand of Oaks and Grace Potter, she managed to create a stunning debut record titled, Because Become which is due out January 15th. Eliza answered a handful of my questions discussing how she found the time to write a full record between tour dates, the incredible team of musicians and producers who supported her through the recording process and the subject matter of her lyrics.
MFL: What made “Criminal” the stand out song that you decided to release as a single? What are the ingredients that make up the song you choose to represent your entire record before its release? There are some many wonderful songs on Because Become.
Eliza Hardy Jones (EHJ): It’s hard to choose a lead single. At the end of a recording process it can be tough to have any real perspective on the songs outside the context of what they mean in your head. I was looking for a song that would be a good introduction. Something that was satisfying as a stand alone piece, but also had elements of the breadth of the record. “Criminal” felt like a good representation of all the different sonic elements.
MFL: I hear a fun mixture of Nightlands and Buried Beds plus some elements that are completely unique in your solo music. What moved you to charge forward on your own and what have you pulled into your solo music from your past musical experiences?
EHJ: After so many years playing as a side-woman, or musical co-conspirator, I decided that I needed to make something of my own. I wrote songs for Buried Beds, but there was a clear boundary around what the “sound” of that band was. It was a beautiful discovery to figure out what my own voice sounds like, what my honest and personal songwriting would sound like. When I started this record, I wasn’t sure what that would be.
MFL: The mixture of indie pop/folk and electronic is exceptional. I think one of my favorite examples of this is “Trouble.” The 80s drum line reminiscent of that classic drum part in “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, the snyths, your voice and the other instruments blend flawlessly! Who else is in your band and what do they play? What instruments are you responsible for?
EHJ: Recording “Trouble” was very fun. Eric Slick from Dr. Dog plays drums on that one. When we talked about the song I asked him to go “full kate bush”. He set up his kit with no cymbals, and with bongos in place of the high hat. It made for a really unique drum part and drum sound. It was a small team for the recordings. Dave Hartley (Nightlands/The War on Drugs) played bass. Eric Slick and Pat Berkery played drums. Nick Krill (The Spinto Band/Teen Men), Brian McTear, Dave, and I all played guitar. And I sang and did all of the keys. I also had Hallie Sianni (who was in Buried Beds with me) play viola, and Daniel Hart (St. Vincent/Other Lives/Dark Rooms) play violin on a few songs. Those two both recorded their parts remotely.
MFL: Who are some of your favorite musicians of today and why? Has your taste in music changed throughout your career as a musician?
EHJ: I don’t think my taste in music has changed, but it’s less narrow then it once was. One of the nice things about working as a musician is being exposed to music that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. What I enjoy live is often different from what I choose to listen to alone.
MFL: What’s it like to be a musician in a day and age where fewer people are buying physical copies of albums (though there has been a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl!) and the main source of listening is through streaming?
EHJ: I was never a musician in a different time, so I’m not sure what to compare it to. I’m lucky to be a full time musician. It’s a hustle, but it’s the best.
MFL: Was there a life event or a series of life events that served as the subject matter for Because Become? I ask this because of songs like “Pack Your Bags”, “I Watch You Fall” and “Couldn’t Leave You” sound like they could be about someone specific.
EHJ: All three of those songs are about specific people, and specific moments in time, but it’s three different people and three different moments in time. I didn’t set out with a theme in mind when I was writing the record. I wanted to write without boundaries. But when I sit down with this collection of songs, I find a lot of the songs explore the idea of being unstitched from place and time. about the crisis of fate and freewill. these songs are about real people and events, but it’s a dream reality- where faces and happenings melt into each other. Some songs were inspired by other artists; filmmakers, writers, photographers. Characters from those works find their way into my own life experiences and they become one story. It’s not auto-biographical as much as it is a map of the part of myself I can’t figure out.
MFL: What has the experience of writing and recording your first record been like? I know you’ve somehow been squeezing the work in in between touring with Strand of Oaks and Grace Potter!
EHJ: It was an awesome experience. I recorded in small batches when I had time at home in between tours with Buried Beds, Strand of Oaks, and Grace Potter. I just chipped away. It’s a dual feeling of having the luxury of spending lots of time with the songs, but very little time recording them. Half of the songs were recorded with Brian McTear at his studio Miner Street, and the other half were recorded with Nick Krill at Mt. Slippery (Dr. Dog’s studio). Dave Hartley bounced around between both studios with me to help with bass and production duties. Then Brian mixed the whole thing and gave it that unified feel. I knew I didn’t want to make this record on my own. I wanted a super group of minds to make something bigger and better than I could make on my own. Because each of the sessions had so much time in between (while I was on the road), I was super excited to be in the studio. It was fun and effortless and wild and full of good friends and good vibes.
MFL: Finally, what’s in store for you in 2016 after the release of your album?
EHJ: I’ll be opening for Grace Potter (as well as playing in her band) from Jan 13-Feb.13th. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the road with the GP crew. It’s such a fantastic group of people.
Big thanks to Eliza for reaching out to Music For Lunch and letting me pick her brain a bit! You can pre-order Because Become on iTunes now and it will be available January 15th on Admiral Byrd Records. Don’t forget to catch her live touring with Grace Potter this January 13th – February 15th and keep your eyes peeled for more tour dates!