UK artist Maddox Jones recently released his debut solo single “Headspace” from his new Headspace EP, which was released on July 10th via Radikal/Quattro Records. Jones was brought up in a Christian community without television or “any form of worldly entertainment”, with his only entertainment being his guitar. This led him to start writing songs and playing guitar in church at the age of 7, instilling in him a lifelong love of music. Having previously been half of the duo Born Stranger, venturing out on his own has allowed Jones to explore his deepest emotions which allowed him to write some of his most personal songs to date. Free from any restrictions to express such vulnerability has allowed him to explore a more diverse body of work, recording an album that explores the themes of hedonism, love, loss and the pain of growing up. “Headspace” was written produced and recorded by Jones with his close friend and producer Dave Crawford in a single day, with his self-care practices allowing him to work at such a quick pace. “The verses were inspired by guided meditation tracks, ‘take a deep breath, let it all out’ and ‘feel the ground pushing back against your feet.’ The track is about speaking to someone who you want to be there for, you’re trying to calm them, reassure them, connect with them in a deep way. So the verses are designed to offer that calming influence, trying to help the listener to stay grounded, to capture that moment of a conversation between two people who care about each other.” “It’s a song that kept me company in the dead of night when I was used to sleeping next to somebody and found myself alone,” continues Jones. “It can force you to take a proper look at yourself when you only have yourself for company. I wonder if maybe lots of people might be feeling a bit like this right now, if they’re isolating alone in this pandemic. It’s about searching for a connection with someone when they’re going through something hard and you just want to be there for them, to be a safe space for them.” Having recently begun exploring the practices of mindfulness and meditation, his Headspace EP has documented a change in mindset for him by examining things that have impacted his entire music career and happiness. He recently released his second single “My House”, a song he refers to as a bit of a cathartic party anthem. “If you’re feeling nostalgic for a night out, or maybe even if lockdown has made you take a look at old habits that perhaps weren’t serving you, this is your new anthem”, says Jones. Having worked on the song with Crawford and producer Louis Souyave, Jones says, “The song grew and grew over a couple of sessions”. “It has an anthemic vibe, it’s a song that should be sung in beer soaked festival fields. It’s a story about inviting strangers over for an afterparty, metaphorically and literally exploring the hedonistic joy found in reckless habits”. The track’s accompanying video perfectly depicts “the cycle of quick fixes and entertainment”, the artist used to avoid looking deeper. Directed by Creative Director Christian Pinchbeck, who is also half of critically acclaimed duo Girlhood, the video he explains “wants to give a sense of confusion, the feeling of piecing together fragments of a hedonistic trip felt by a group of friends who are slowly realizing they have nothing in common”. You can follow Maddox Jones and stay up-to-date with all upcoming artist, music and album news, as well as stream and purchase his EP, via the following links:
You will be releasing you new EP Headspace soon and have said it’s about personal authenticity and that releasing songs as Maddox Jones is like a rebirth. What can you tell me about the process of making the EP and in what ways it was like a rebirth for you?
Yeah. Well, at the end of the year I went through a break up of a relationship of 4 years and when you are on your own, you kind of have to look at yourself. It’s a good chance to develop yourself and undergoing personal growth. I just started writing about how I was feeling. I think the first song I wrote was “My House” which is about wanting to get away from the party scene and stuff like that and seeing the false side of meeting strangers at 3 in the morning at an afterparty and all that stuff. “No More Ghosts” was written a year ago, actually, when I was still a part of Born Stranger. I wrote it when I was watching…I don’t know if you’ve seen the series in Netflix called ‘You’? Anyways, it’s a cool show and there’s a line in it that says “There’s no more ghosts in this bed”. I thought it was a cool line and I wrote this song at like midnight one night and put it on the voice note and grew the narrative. I knew it was good straight away. We didn’t really have a home for it until this EP.
You were formerly a part of Born Stranger and have talked about you enjoy collaborating with other artists. With your solo project, has your songwriting process changed much, in writing just as yourself? Are there aspects of a song you prefer to write alone or do you prefer the whole process to be collaborative?
Yeah, I think nowadays it’s easier to write songs with other people. It’s quicker and you can bounce ideas off of others. But sometimes it is good to do it on your own and get that personal thing across. If I’m struggling on a song, I’ll take it to a friend and we’ll bash it out and that’s kind of cool. I think you do need a sounding board. I’ve got a few creative people I can contact on WhatsApp in the evening and be like “I’ve got this idea! What do you think?”. I think I’ll always love collaborating, but I think it’s also good to push yourself because sometimes you’ll get more of a unique song if you write on your own because it’s from your standpoint. Sometimes, in writing with someone else, you can just do it because it’s easy and it’s lazy. It’s a lazy way out. I enjoyed just sitting at a piano and writing, really.
You have recently started getting more into mindfulness and meditation. What can you tell me about that journey for you? Would you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I was brought up in a Christian community, actually. My dad and mum are born again Christians, so my dad wakes up every morning and prays and stuff like that. I got this book called ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’ by Vex King and it’s about how your thoughts can shape your life. You can basically manifest your life. I’ve really been getting into that and believing that the universe will give you what you want when the time is right. Do you know what I mean? It is true isn’t it? Positive people do seem to get along better. Some people are just negative and they bring that to them. I’ve just been trying to be positive and I think it’s good. In a way, it’s similar to…you’re not praying to God, but you’re looking to a higher power. Like when you’re meditating, you are saying that you are not in complete control and are trusting in something else. We all do that a bit, don’t we?
You have talked about how your first single “Headspace” came together really quickly and felt moved by your self-care practices. How do you feel that those practices and the mindfulness and meditation play into your music?
I don’t know. I think if you are being good to yourself as a creative person, you get more ideas. When I’m well-rested and am feeling good, I come up with more songs and stuff. I think in that respect, that’s a good thing. “Headspace” is kind-of like…have you ever listened to guided meditation? There’s an app called ‘Headspace’ that talks you through it. It starts off with like 5 minutes and it’s basically a guide, and you can choose the voice, and they talk you through it. It is an art. You have to learn how to control your thoughts and stuff like that. The lyrics are a bit similar to that, to a guided meditation. I wanted to write in to make the listener feel good and safe.
You have talked about how “Headspace” kept you company in the dead of night, when you found yourself alone.
That sounds so poetic, doesn’t it (laughs)!
You’ve also said that you could be forced to take a proper look at yourself when you only have yourself for company, which is especially relevant right now with the pandemic. What do you feel that you have learned about yourself, in the isolation?
Yeah. It’s like a double-edged sword. I’m lucky because I’ve been staying with parent’s in a lovely house, so it’s been good to spend time with them. I think a lot of people have been alone. I think a lot more people have been mindful of reaching out to others and making sure that other people have food and stuff like that, like going shopping for those who can’t get out. It has made people have a bit more of a sense of community. In terms of self-reflection, it’s a constant thing. You have to work at it.
What can you tell me about the video for “Headspace”? It definitely has a very spiritual quality to it, with the nature and the colors. Was that intentional?
It was made by my friend Christian, who I’ve know for years. I messaged him and was like “I need a video” and it was mid-lockdown. He had some footage and we basically put it together from that footage and I just recorded on my iPhone against a white wall and he made it. It was totally DIY. But yeah, it seems to have some magic to it. Sometimes things just come together really quickly and it just works. I think everyone seems to like the video so that’s good.
The EP has a very autobiographical nature to it and tells a story. What kind of message or story are you hoping people get out of the EP?
Um…that’s a good question. I want them to feel like they know where I’m at, I guess. I want them to relate to it. Everyone has their own take on a song and what it means to them. I hope it helps some people and touches some people and makes people dance. There’s one song on the EP called “Dancing Feels Good” that’s funky.
I read that the EP was originally going to have 3 tracks. What led you to record 5 songs?
Well, I just kept going and getting more songs. I was in a good creative space. I’ve been writing songs for long enough now that if I need a song, I’ll just write one. It’s pretty cool. It’s taken years of hard work to learn my craft.
You grew up in a strict Christian community with no other forms of worldly entertainment and turned to music, playing guitar and writing songs for church at an early age. You have talked about how you would tape songs from the radio at your friends’ houses when you were 14 and 15 years old. What was it like for you to go from having no real musical idols growing up to discovering so many amazing bands that would go on to be great influences?
It was cool. It felt a bit rebellious, I guess. I was brought up to see music as only being a way to worship God. I was in bands for years. I was in loads of bands since I was like 10 and in the attic I made a drum kit out of old cake pans and saucepans and things like that. That was quite funny. So I’d been playing music for years really. It just felt exciting and that’s all I was doing. It defined me. It was a form of escape and something different. When writing a song, you could create your own world.
You have talked about your love for Depeche Mode and their album Violator and how it’s a great demonstration of how catchy pop music doesn’t always have to be fun and lighthearted. How do you see the correlation between having more upbeat music mixed with more serious and introspective lyrics?
Yeah. I’ve always been into that, just something a bit more life-affirming. Well, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t think my songs have beats that are particularly happy. They’re more melancholy. I don’t know.
I guess the electronic elements can make your songs sound a bit more upbeat.
Yeah. That just means it has two layers. You can listen to it when you are out at a club and then when you get home in your bedroom, so it can be quite different.
Really dig into the lyrics.
What can you tell me about your video series called ‘Garden Sessions’? How did the idea come about and how do you decide which songs to cover?
The guy that I do it with, Mikey Austin-Riley, is an old friend from church. We started playing guitar together and the age of 7. When I went to university, we kind of lost touch but have recently reconnected. Every Saturday or Sunday, he’ll come over and we’ll do a recording and have a massive laugh and it’s a good time. We just do it because we love music. We’re not trying to calculate and win new fans and all of that kind of stuff. We just do it because we just love it. But yeah, choosing songs is…the other day, we just chose on the spot. It was Glastonbury weekend so we did Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”. They’re an epic festival band. Basically, what we look for are older songs that were really good at the time but that people have kind of forgotten. We’re just looking for that song that needs resurrecting, one that people hear and go “Oh, I used to love that song!”.
You recently played an online fest called Subba. How was that experience? What is it like to play an online fest as opposed to one with a live audience?
It’s definitely different because there’s no audience. We actually pre-recorded it. It just takes a bit of work because you have to film it and get the sound and synch it up. It was cool though. I actually opened the show because they loved my song. I’m actually doing a live one soon on SPIN Magazine’s Twitch account. I’ll be doing the EP!
What’s next for you? What all do you have coming up?
I have the EP coming out and just cracking on with that and promoting that and writing the next one! It’s hard to book gigs at the moment. You can’t play gigs yet.
What has it been like to promote your album during the pandemic?
I’ve been doing all of these ‘Garden Sessions’ and stuff. I think you just have to be out there all of the time. Try to keep people engaged!