Following on from our review of The Tano Jones Revelry’s new festive single, ‘Little Drummer Boy‘, Lisa sent some questions to Tano Jones himself, and asked him about his music, his ideal Christmas, and what question he’d most like to be asked.
We’re loving your festive single, ‘Little Drummer Boy’. It’s a great take on a classic, especially for many of us who grew up with the Bing Crosby/David Bowie version, or the song sung at school nativity plays. You’ve given it a really retro vibe that’s so catchy it stays in the mind for hours after. The original verse is really cool too – did it take long to come up with the arrangement, and the new lyrics?
Thank you for those kind words.
The creation of the arrangements, cutting of the tracks and execution of the vocals happened quickly. The arrangements were a product of initially deciding the instrumentation that was desired for the new approach. I was looking for an approach that had a much more soulful sensibility and utilized instruments that would engage the listener in a different way. Also I was interested in bending melodies and creating riffs that created inflection points. I believe the little drummer boy must have had courage to play in that situation before all of those adults and subsequently the dynamic range of the song needed to match some of that bravado. Lyrically I think of the ad libs as an extension of the story and an added touch of musical mirth.
I grew up in Australia, where Christmas was weirdly and very inappropriately the traditional English Christmas dinner; because of the extreme heat, nobody wants to eat, and we all fall asleep in the afternoon – thankfully it changed a bit but there was still the heavy meal. I imagine that in LA the heat is pretty much the same in December – what’s your perfect Christmas like? What sorts of foods do you eat and how do you make it festive?
Well interestingly I was born in the Detroit in the US midwest, which boasts very cold winters with lots of snow. So I actually grew up with the big dinners amidst the wintry settings. Seems that turkey breast and the inevitable apple salad are two items seared into my gastronomical memory which beckons yearly like birds returning home. I have lived in different climes across America including a five year stay in Los Angeles some years back. For me the perfect Christmas is about being together with those you love. Even the inevitable chaos that can come with lumping a large group to sleep in a smaller improvised space/home/apartment for me provides a sort of organic reconnection that is nutty, yet very cool. Our video is a celebration of coming together and presenting ones gifts. I think this psychology which goes hand in hand with the selfless spirit of serving applies to any locale. My time in Los Angeles left a mark on me in that I never forgot the enthusiasm of the area nor the mystic beauty of that intersection of sand and sea—especially at dusk.
Back to the Little Drummer Boy – if you were present at the birth of Jesus, what would be your ideal gift to bring, and why?
A six string, for sure.
So many wonderful words and deeds. So many people years later writing songs.
But what if he had sat down and crafted some melodies over rhythms with unique harmonies? What would that have sounded like?
I can only imagine.
Who do you consider to be your greatest musical inspirations and why? And similarly, how do you inspire others, and what advice can you give to others about what to expect in their musical journey? What have been your most influential experiences? If you could do it all over again, what, if anything, would you change or do differently, and why?
What’s the song-writing process like for you? Are there any particular instruments you favour?
How have you been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, both personally and professionally? Are there any changes – life or career-wise – you’ve made that you think you’ll take with you into post-pandemic life?
Authenticity and Courage.
For me I have learned over time that I have to be honest and do what feels right to me. I have to be true to what I want to do and what I want to say. This took me a while to realize. So many people in various disciplines of life hold back on their true desire to create what they feel is correct for them. I was blessed with an entrepreneurial father who told me to “Trust Your Instincts”. It took me a long time to really understand what he meant by that. He passed some years back but those words continue to be a priceless gift me.
In order for one to have the guts to trust your instincts and be authentic — one must have courage. As musicians we are underdogs. As time rolls on we get used to putting ourselves out there artistically— but the listener or fan may forget that for the musician at some point it all first required a unique type of courage.
In terms of creating music, I put great stock in.…the blank sheet of paper and a pencil. It is the great equalizer. The blank canvas where there are no bounds and nobody influencing me in anyway… Just my thoughts and what lies before me. I tell younger people I mentor about the “power of the blank sheet of paper and a pencil.” What I mean by this is the power of the idea. There are no fancy machines sitting before you to help you, or influence you to create a song—-only a blank sheet of paper, a pencil and your mind.
I also must say that I love the dictionary. I really love the printed dog-eared dictionary. Words and Meaning. It is all in there. We connect as humans via words and language. The more ways we have to communicate, the deeper our understanding of each other— the stronger our bonds and communities.
Like all of us, I have had my share of life’s challenges. These certainly have effected me in different ways. I feel if we all muster the fortitude to survive in todays crazy world ultimately we will be gifted with enriched new perspectives, that we can share with others. This takes courage and of course, demands authenticity. Taped on my closet door is this note by Charles Swindoll:
“Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it”