Ayron Jones has paid his dues. Over the last decade, the Seattle rocker has become a hometown favorite, his flashy guitar chops and emotionally unrestrained vocals earning support among local clubgoers and Seattle music giants alike.
Last year, as the world was entering lockdown, Jones’ career took a steeper, upward trajectory, as he signed with the rock imprint of Big Machine Label Group, the major-esque independent home to some of country music’s biggest stars. With the added industry muscle behind him, the 34-year-old has had two singles shoot to the top 10 at rock radio, the bruising “Mercy” sitting at No. 6 as of this writing.
All the while, the father of three has watched his career enter a promising new chapter while maintaining his day-to-day family life at home in West Seattle.
“It’s almost like I’m living these two different worlds and different lives, parallel at the same time,” Jones says of his midpandemic takeoff. “I’ve never heard anybody in a different city sing my songs yet, so I don’t really know what it feels like on one hand. On the other hand, I get off the phone, I’m having interviews with Guitar World magazine — I just made the cover of some other magazine, publication in Italy. So, I know these things are happening and they’re really real.”
With the world creeping out of lockdown, Jones should learn soon enough how many fans outside Seattle know his lyrics, as he has tour dates booked opening for Halestorm and Shinedown — hard rock heavyweights managed by the same company as Jones — on the docket. And the radio momentum culminates as Jones prepares for the May 21 release of his debut album with Big Machine/John Varvatos Records, titled “Child of the State.”
Local fans will recognize a handful of songs from his independently released “Audio Paint Job” — beefed-up versions of favorites like the soaring “Take Me Away,” Jones’ first to catch on at rock radio. Back in 2019, Jones cut an album’s worth of material at Shoreline’s famed London Bridge Studio. While good enough to catch the attention of fashion designer/label head John Varvatos and Big Machine, something was missing. Jones headed back into London Bridge with owner/co-producer Eric Lilavois, looking to harness the intensity of his live show while distilling the tracks into works that showcased not just his personal style, but the sounds of our region.
“What I was looking for was a no-holds-barred thing that I fell in love with with Seattle music,” Jones says. “There was such a chaos about it, but still within a structure that you and I could understand.”
Gone are some of the proggier dalliances local fans may recall from 2017’s “Audio Paint Job,” which has since been scrubbed from streaming services. Those fusion-y elements that ranged from hip-hop cadences and scratching turntables to grand strings passages were the work of a technically proficient and ambitious artist still finding his lane. Seems the search is over.
“I knew that I had to evolve that sound into what I’d always heard in my head,” Jones says. “This record for me was all about the guitars, all about being big rock.”
No kidding. The leaner and meaner “Child of the State” is a straight-ahead hard rock record, a made-for-radio riff-a-thon with massive, throat-scraping hooks that mosh their way into your head with no intention of leaving peacefully. Sure, “The Kid” — as Jones was nicknamed as a youngster playing the old Highway 99 Blues Club — can still melt faces with incendiary solos forged on the Northwest blues circuit. The fretboard fireworks are still there, just not at the expense of the songwriting.
Aside from the older tunes that made the cut, roughly half the songs on the record Jones co-wrote with a cast of decorated behind-the-scenes songwriters, including Marti Frederiksen (Aerosmith, Carrie Underwood) and Scott Stevens (Halestorm, Shinedown) who assisted on Jones’ chart-climbing single “Mercy.” It was a new way of working for Jones, who found it validating to hold his own in rooms with proven hitmakers. He also credits those co-writes with helping extrapolate aspects of his artistry beyond those guitar heroics.
“I think it gave people a broader look at who I am as an artist,” Jones says. “When you come from the bar scene, the jam scene, you’re first go-to is instrumentation.”
It’s something one of Jones’ earliest supporters noticed, too. Seattle rap great Sir Mix-A-Lot has been in Jones’ corner since catching the once up-and-coming rocker at the Tractor Tavern in the early 2010s. (“It was like blues meets grunge,” Mix says of his first impression of Jones. “That’s what it felt like and I really believed in him.”)
Mix would go on to produce Jones’ first independent album and serve as a familial mentor throughout his career. While Jones was working on the record at London Bridge, Mix dropped by to sit in on a session. As Jones and his band were working through some issues with a track, Mix was tempted to roll up his sleeves and turn into studio dad, show The Kid what to do. But he didn’t need to.
“He’s a man, you know?” Mix says. “To watch him take control of that session, he knew what he wanted. … He knew what sound was missing. He didn’t have to be told, he just got it.”
Sounds like The Kid is all grown up. And ready to take on the rock world.