For a second time, YouKnowIGotSoul got a chance to interview Donell Jones and we touched on his new album “Lyrics,” how being on an independent label will allow him to release albums more often, experimenting with new sounds and showing his creativity as an artist, and what he has planned for the future with his record label.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Hey what’s up Donell?
Donell Jones: How you doin bro?
YKIGS: I’m good how are you?
DJ: I’m alright man.
YKIGS: First of all I just want to congratulate you on the release of your album “Lyrics,” how does it feel right now?
DJ: Oh it feels great man, it feels good to be back out with a fresh new project, new music, and I just appreciate the fans for supporting me through the years.
YKIGS: Before I talk to you more about the album, it’s been about 15 years since you released your debut album, and a lot of the peers you came up with in r&b back then, they are no longer here. So what does it mean to you to have achieved that longevity in your career?
DJ: You know what man, the thing is I always felt like I had a different kind of style than everybody else. To me it seems like it was just yesterday I put out my first album, it doesn’t even seem like it’s been 15 years. I truly appreciate the fans, like I said, for just even listening man and rocking with me for this long. But I think the fact that the type of music that I make, that I stayed true to my sound and I haven’t really changed that, I think that’s what contributed to my longevity.
YKIGS: Yes definitely! Now with “Lyrics,” one thing that impressed me is that you wrote and produced all but one on there, and in music these days that’s very rare to see. What type of an accomplishment is that to you?
DJ: For me, it’s a huge accomplishment. I was going to do everything, but Mike sent me that record and I just fell in love with it, I had to put that on there because it felt like it belonged, and I love the message in the record. In the past, I’ve always done about 70%/75% of the album that I’ve come out with, so it wasn’t a long stretch trying to do everything.
YKIGS: I was actually going to mention that Mike City track “Finer Things” because I love the vibe of that track, I love that song, and I’m glad you included it, it’s a good addition.
DJ: Oh yea, I felt like that was the record that I needed, that was what I was missing on the album, and he definitely came through with that.
YKIGS: Before I tell you my favorite on the album, do you have a favorite on this album, favorite song?
DJ: It changes by day man, but right now I would say “Just a Little.”
YKIGS: *Laughs* I actually have the same pick, but I want to hear why you like it the best.
DJ: Oh wow, I chose that one man, because when I made that record, I was just thinking…the record is not really about anything except for you are just telling a woman that even if you can’t get all of her, you are satisfied with what you can get from her. And I thought while making it, you know I need to make a record that people are going to make love to, and that’s what I felt about that record, I think people could really groove to it. Not only that, the guitars on the end man, the guy that I had play the guitar, he blew me away man with the guitar solo, and I was like “wow this is what I’m talking about!”
YKIGS: I was going to ask you actually about that guitar part, I wasn’t sure if that was you playing that.
DJ: Nah, that was this guy named Steve, actually it’s the guy who mixed the album. What happened was I had another guy playing on there, and what happened is I told the other guy to play. But when he started playing, their style is two different styles of guitar playing. So when I sent him the record to mix it, and he sent it back to me, he said “yo I put a little surprise on there for you.” And when I heard the guitar solo I was like “dammnn, this dude took it to a whole nother level!” But he’s like a rock and roll guitar guy, but he just added so much flavor to it I’m like “dammnn I wasn’t thinking
that way, but man this is incredible!”
YKIGS: Do you play the guitar as well?
DJ: I do but never on my record. I’ll play it on certain joints, but what I’ll do is get people who can embellish it and take it to the next level.
YKIGS: Also I noticed on the album it seemed like a few times you were experimenting with a little bit of a different sound, especially on the song “What’s Next.” What would you say about that?
DJ: Oh yea, I call that my…that’s my stretch to the pop world. I would never go pop, but at the same time, me being a creative person and a musician, you always want to just show people that you could do many other things besides just r&b. R&b is my forte, but I definitely wanted to try something different.
YKIGS: Yea I mean, a lot of r&b fans I’ve spoke to, they aren’t too big on that one. But I liked the song, I thought it was different and kinda catchy to me, so I kinda enjoyed it.
DJ: You know what, I think it’s more your opinion than anything.
YKIGS: That’s a good point.
YKIGS: I’ve also read that you are debating between “Blackmail” and “All About the Sex” for the next single. Are you leaning towards one or the other?
DJ: I’m definitely leaning towards “All About the Sex.”
YKIGS: Ooh good choice, I like that one! Are you going to be shooting a video for that soon?
DJ: Oh yea, I think we are going to do a combined two videos, it will probably be “All About the Sex” and “Blackmail,” somehow marry them into each other. But I like “All About the Sex” because I think it has all of the elements of what I used to do in the past. It’s really musical, and the lyrical content is really positive.
YKIGS: On the song “You Can Burn,” you introduce your artist Breeze, what can you tell us about her?
DJ: Well, first she’s my niece, so I’m taking a special interest in trying to make her career jump off. She’s really a great talent, and she can dance as well as sing, and I think it’s important that we try to get her out there in a big way.
YKIGS: As you get deeper into your career, do you see yourself possibly working with more upcoming artists and trying to develop them?
DJ: Oh yea, I mean right now my focus is just really me, and her, and then sign some more artists that already have a fan base. But I would definitely love to find new talent, this business is so crazy that it’s really, really hard to break new talent these days.
YKIGS: Since you are no longer with a major label, and you’re doing this album independently, what have you found to be the major differences between the two?
DJ: To be honest, there’s not really a big difference except for the fact that maybe with a major label they have a little bit more money to spend. But with my projects, when I worked with a major label, they spent money, but they didn’t spend it in the right way. I feel like I already have a fan base, and I can market and promote myself, the only thing I was really missing was being really strong at radio. I think radio is still a major part of selling records. Since the internet, I can connect that record with my fans, and it just makes it so much easier for artists these days.
YKIGS: In terms of promotion, have you found any difficulties reaching that fan base or spreading the word that you have a project out?
DJ: It’s still difficult, because you know when promoting an album, you still want people to know that it’s out there. But through Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, radio, and advertisements on TV, all of those things still work. With TV and radio, those things cost a lot of money, so you just really have to strategically put stuff in places where you know you are going to sell. My top 10 markets is where we focused on the week of the album coming out.
YKIGS: Do you find that you have more creative control on an independent label? Or is there not much of a difference?
DJ: I have all the control. Every decision that’s made, that’s my final decision, and I like it like that. When I was at a major, there was a lot of singles that I would have loved to put out that they didn’t want and they had the final say. Now that I do have control, it won’t take that long for me to come out with an album anymore. Usually it was a three year gap between albums, the last album was probably like four or five years, so now I’m definitely going to be putting out albums at least once a year or every other year.
YKIGS: Ok, that’s good news!
YKIGS: I see you active on Twitter a lot, and with these social networking sites, what could you say you’ve been able to learn about your fan base? Has that helped you in any way with your decisions?
DJ: Yea, I mean they are going to tell the truth. *Laughs* They are going to say if they don’t like something, and they are going to be honest with you. Then you always got the haters out there, but I love to see that too, I love to see the people that don’t like me, it just gives me motivation to keep doing what I’m doing. But my fans, I mean through and through, they are going to tell the truth, if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. Just like you said, with the “What’s Next” thing, a lot of fans didn’t understand that record. *Laughs* For somebody else, it would be a huge record for somebody else, but them hearing it from me, it’s like “wow, what were you thinking of!” At the same time, you’ll slowly, slowly, gradually get them to understand that it’s ok for people to be different. That hit them over the head. If I were to come with a whole album like that, people would be upset! At the end of the day, I’m just showing my creative side and just showing there are many other sides and many other things I want to do. But I’ll alwayssss be r&b!
YKIGS: The Lost Files album you put out last year, I was a big fan of it, and I think you had mentioned on Twitter you were going to do a part two at some point. Is that still in the works?
DJ: Oh that’s definitely still in the works. I got a lot of songs that I had that didn’t make albums, so we’ll definitely do another Lost Files. I think I’m going to do
another album before I do another Lost Files.
YKIGS: Ok cool because I’m still stuck on that “Superman” song, that song is crazy!
DJ: Man, you know I did that song in ’96!
YKIGS: That’s crazy, how did that one not make the album back then?
DJ: We had a lot of records, and it just didn’t make it. Then when we went to the next album, my style of music had changed so much, I didn’t feel comfortable putting it on there. Even though I love the record, it just wouldn’t have fit on the “Where I Wanna Be” album, so it got overlooked.
YKIGS: So you got some more gems in the closet for us too?
DJ: Oh definitely! I got a lot of records that we recorded that didn’t get put on any album.
YKIGS: Cool, I look forward to that!
YKIGS: As a veteran in the industry, what are your goals at this point for your future?
DJ: My goal now is to really focus on this record label, focus on just putting great music out there and reconnect with the fans. I think there are a lot of people out there that don’t even know I have a project out. As I’m doing my Twitter searches, I’m seeing that a lot of people are saying “Man I wish he’d come back, I wish he’d put another record out!” And I’m like “wow I got a record out right now!” So there are a lot of people we still missing, so it’s all about getting the word out, promoting it, and I think that’s my focus right now, just spreading the word.
YKIGS: Overall it’s been a few weeks since the album came out, would you say you are happy with the performance? How would you rate it so far?
DJ: Honestly, I give it a C. The reason I give it a C is because with the climate of the music business right now, E1, my distribution company, they only put out a certain amount of records, and I understand it because we only have three major chains that’s selling records, that’s Wal-Mart, Best Buy & Target. I had a meeting with those guys and they were really adamant about not really buying a lot of pieces because they don’t want records sitting on their shelves. I come from the days where you put 100,000 in the stores and you see what happens. So for me, a lot of people were going into stores, and they weren’t able to get the record because there were not enough in the stores. So it’s like a catch 22, you lose a sale, but at the same time, it’s good because you sell out and re-order, but you are still missing that sale, and you never know if a person is going to come back and get it. With the download age, they be like “well man, forget it, I’m just going to download it.”
YKIGS: Wow man that must be a tough situation.
DJ: It is, but at the end of the day I’d rather be in that situation then to be on a major label and put out and still not be able to make revenue or make money. A lot of what they’re doing right now is backwards.
YKIGS: How do you feel about the whole digital age? Do you feel that CDs will become obsolete and everything will be done online? I know you are big into digital and everything.
DJ: I don’t think so, I don’t think so. I think my core fan base they come from an age of wanting that physical copy, where they want to hold it, they want to read the credits on the back of it. I don’t think it will actually all go digital, the only way I think it will all go digital is if they fix the internet and regulate it where people can’t download for free. Until they do that, I don’ think they will make it all internet. I do say this though, when they do regulate it and nobody can download for free, somebody will outsell Michael Jackson. You got the world at your feet, you can get worldwide sales over the internet. I guarantee you, once they can do that, and nobody knows when that will happen, it will probably take another half of a century, every code that’s written is broken at the same time.
YKIGS: Alright Donell I don’t want to take up too much of your time, is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?
DJ: Yea just let the fans know that I really appreciate them, they’ve been supporting me for years. I appreciate you as well. Just thanks for supporting me, they can reach me on Twitter at Twitter.com/DonellJones96 and Facebook.com/DonellJones96.
YKIGS: Thanks so much Donell, and just keep doing what you’re doing because we’ve loving your music out here.
DJ: Thanks man, I appreciate that bro.