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Utah musician busking his way to Nashville

Utah musician busking his way to Nashville

(Columbia Jones)



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Editor's note: KSL.com does a monthly feature on local musicians/bands in the community. If you have an up-and-coming band/musician in mind, feel free to email your submission to ddewey@ksl.com. Please include a contact email for the artist, if available. SALT LAKE CITY — Columbia Jones is an enigma. He began his journey as an artist at a young age, playing, learning, and gaining experience in different instruments along the way.

“I played in concert bands in high school as a baritone horn player. I started drums at 14, piano at 16, bass at 18, and guitar at 19, “ Jones said. “The moment things started to click for me was as the drummer for the touring band June Brothers. For about two years, I ran a lot of the backstage things like booking and coordination, as well as playing drums. In time, that project fizzled out.”

That knowledge of the back end, as well as performing, would go on to serve him very well in the future. Originally from Maine, Jones made his way west, wanting to pursue some form of music full time.

“One of the reasons I moved here from Maine was to go to Salt Lake Community College for recording arts. Then I later interned at Rigby Road studios for about six months where I learned a ton.”

He didn’t let the demise of the June Brothers stop him, he continued to press forward.

“I knew I could do the same thing, trim the fat, and make it even more successful and profitable,” Jones said.

Unfortunately, the turning point for him came at a heavy cost, literally and figuratively. It took a trip to the hospital and a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease in order to raise his own awareness to pursue this dream full time. There was also an upside: the birth of his son.

“Looking back at all the experiences I have had as a musician, it seems to have shaped me greatly. I learned booking, how to play bars and songwriting from The June Brothers," Jones said. "I learned musicality from high school concert bands. I gained confidence playing on the streets. I gained things to sing about with the birth of my first child and my trip to the hospital.”

That hospital trip also inspired the song "Cold, Cold Desert Night off" of his EP "Blue Collar Blues," available for streaming on Spotify, as well as on his website.

“That song is about that trip to the hospital. In many ways, I felt betrayed. I had made all these plans, I was doing everything in my power to be a successful musician and that happened. On top of that, my wife and I had just found out we were pregnant,” Jones said.

One lyric in particular that not only sticks out but captures the message of that heart-wrenching time is, “I had it all figured married in the springtime. A baby in the winter, to have in the Yule Tide” as his son was due in December. “The only difference with that story is instead of a girl leaving me, it was my the plans I had made.”

Jones is playing at the Salt Lake Farmers Market Saturday, Sept. 9. After that, he plans to make his way east, stopping in Aspen, Colorado, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; New Orleans, Louisiana, and Memphis, Tennessee, along the way. Once he arrives at his final destination, Nashville, he will play the Americana Music Festival to share his story and do some networking.

In addition to being a talented musician, Jones is also a successful entrepreneur, another aspiration he met. He owns his own recording studio, Crooked Teeth Studios, and learning the other side of the music business has served him well.

“Owning a recording studio was always a dream of mine and it’s a great way to make money as a musician. Gigs can really only make money on Friday and Saturday nights but a studio can make money anytime.”

There were trials and obstacles that arose and some of those forced Jones to get back out there and be not only the frontman but the all-around man, once again.

“When I left The June Brothers, I was planning on making most of my money through the studio. That was another part of the whole journey that led me to be a singer-songwriter," Jones said. "I was pushing the studio hard while going to tons of local gigs and pumping out great recordings at a great price, yet was having little interest. Add a pregnancy into the mix and suddenly things need to start working out. Then I woke up past midnight with the most incredible upset stomach and pains ever. One trip to hospital, $3,000 in medical bills, $300 worth of pills once a month, and I needed to start making money. Since the studio wasn't filling up, I took to the streets with my spare time and a guitar.”

Once his performance in Nashville is complete, Jones will continue touring in Colorado and Idaho through December and will make videos along the way. He also plans to create a website with merchandise in the near future to keep the excitement going. He is incredibly humble and personable, so this busking lifestyle seems to work in his favor.

“I am incredibly lucky to be able to make an actual living (barely) as a musician, but I got to keep the wheels moving so I can keep making money.”

With all the ups and downs he has experienced so far, Jones knows how important it is for him to keep going even when things seem impossible.

“One of the things that keeps me motivated is my wife and son. I know it’s cheesy, but I don't want to be that dad who tells their kids to follow their dreams when I pulled the plug on mine. It’s a huge motivation to make enough money to support my family and that is what keeps me going out. Since it all started with me busking, I want to make that a vital lifeblood of my career.”

You can follow some of Jones’ silliness and inspiration by visiting his Instagram page.


Jordan Townsend is a writer from Salt Lake City who enjoys a good steak, her dog, and conversations about how Radiohead is awesome. She hopes to be a talking head on some VH1 pop culture show someday and can curate a playlist for any occasion. Follow her on twitter at @thatjordangirl.

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