In conversation with Esjay Jones: from Grey Daze album to her upcoming projects.

(Raffaella Mezzanzanica – 19 agosto 2020)

Esjay Jones is a South African-born producer & songwriter now based between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California.

Esjay has had over a decade of success in the music Industry: her band, Stealing Love Jones, was extremely popular in South Africa and they shared the stage with major international acts like Fall Out Boy, Violent Femmes, Seether, Jimmy Eat World and many more.

She was also part of the production team to re-imagine GREY DAZE (Chester Bennington’s early band) album “Amends” featuring Head & Munkey from Korn, Ryan Shuck of Orgy, Chris Traynor of Bush, and more.

I got in touch with Esjay and this is what she told me about her youth in South Africa, her collaboration to the Grey Daze album and her upcoming projects.

Q.: You are born in South Africa, a beautiful country, known for a history of civil rights and also for giving birth to amazing artists like Miriam Makeba, Hugh Mesekela, Vusi Mahasela, Abdullah Ibrahim and, l would add, Dave Matthews. Has this important legacy influenced you in any way as an artist?

E.J.: South Africa truly is rich in so many ways – it’s people, the music, the cultures.  I think often when we are too close to something, we don’t realize what we have: I was so intrigued by the American and UK music scene growing up, that I didn’t focus much on the exquisite talent right under my nose.  It wasn’t until years later that I really grew to appreciate these artists.  Sadly, I’m probably more influenced by the US and UK music scene.

Q.: How did you start your career in music. Was it as a producer, as a singer or both?

E.J.: My grandmother was an opera singer and we used to sit around the piano singing with her for hours, so I have been surrounded with music my whole life.  I started playing in bands when I was around 12 years old.  I started as a singer/guitar player/front person of a band and toured for many years, so I’ve had a good grounding in the business of live music which organically lead me into production.

Q.: Did you decide to move to the US only to follow your passion for music?

E.J.: I did. My eyes were set on the USA from when I was a little girl. I always wanted to be a rockstar and my band (Stealing Love Jones) being as popular as it was in South Africa, gave me the opportunity to apply for my 01 visa and pursue a career over here.

Q.: I have recently had the chance to get in touch with several female emerging producers and it seems (but it’s also statistically proven) like it’s more difficult for a woman to be accepted as a sound engineer. Did you face the same attitude at the beginning of your career and have you faced the same sort of different attitude even now?

E.J.: I think so.  Truthfully, I think it’s more difficult for a woman to be anything in this world – There is always a fine line you have to balance to stroke the delicate male ego so they will “allow” you into their circle if you’re not sleeping with them.  It’s crazy that we even have to think this way, but it’s true.  We definitely have to work smarter and be one step ahead to gain acceptance and respect in this industry.

Q.: You were part of the production team for the Grey Daze album “Amends”. How did you get involved in the project?

E.J.: I had recently finished a bunch of production demo’s with Alien Ant Farm and was meeting my now manager at NRG Recording for a “potential manager – client” relationship meeting.  They Grey Daze guys were in the lounge and overheard a bunch of the records I had been working on.  Sean loved what he heard and asked if I would be interested in giving a couple of the Grey Daze songs a try, so five songs later, here we are 🙂

Q.: Have you ever met Chester Bennington?

E.J.: I am devastated to say that I never had the chance to meet Chester, however, just like all of his fans, he made us feel like we knew him.

Q.: Which songs did you produce? And how was the feeling in the studio?

E.J.: We produced 5 songs on the record, which are: Soul Song, The Syndrome, She Shines. More Sky and Just Like Heroin.  Before getting into the studio, we spent thousands of hours saturating ourselves in Chester’s isolated vocals to make sure we were channeling the right emotions and musical integrity.  That feeling flowed into the studio when we were altogether.  It was tangible.  

Q.: This was such an amazing project but I’m sure there are other incredible things you’re working on, for example a surprise with the band “PIGS” which will be revealed later in 2020 and which will also include great collaborations. Is there something more you can tell me? Even in terms of artists you are currently working with or you have plans to work with?

E.J.: Yeah, “PIGS” has been a project I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.  It’s always been put on the back burner because of my schedule with other projects, bands or artists.  Even though I have been fairly busy during this time in “lockdown”, I spent as much time as I could finishing off this “PIGS” project, which I’m very proud of.  We have a bunch of guest artists which I will be announcing soon 🙂   Oh – and Cristin Davis (The Guitar player of Grey Daze) and I made a record together too!  The band is called Enemy Airwave and the EP drops in September – the songs are SO good!

Q.: In the Recording Academy series “Behind the Board” you said: “I would much rather capture imperfect moments and figure out how to work them into the production”. You also talked about the fact that you would go back to some records over and over again because they are “imperfectly perfect”. What do you mean?

E.J.: Sometimes I feel like todays music has lost its “soul” because it’s so perfect: Drums have been quantized to the grid, vocals are auto-tuned etc…there is something really special to me about those “real” moments in rock ‘n’ roll, where the vocal might not be perfectly in-tune, but the EMOTION IS ALL THERE. I like the friction between the instruments – it makes me feel something different.

 Follow Esjay Jones: 

f. Esjay Jones Productions
i. esjayjones1
t. esjayjones

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