Ex-busker Bodhi Jones beats his anxiety
Singer-songwriter Bodhi Jones has no problem describing his initial reaction to moving from Salt Spring Island to Vancouver at age 10.
“It freaked me out,” says the thoughtful young folkie, who sat down with the Straight recently at a West Side café to talk about his self-titled debut album, the rigours of busking, and how he’s learned to keep his anxiety in check.
The soft-spoken musician can still remember how shell-shocked he felt after he left his “hippie paradise” for the big, bad city.
“It was crazy,” Jones says. “I was just sick all the time. I guess I was extremely shocked. I had such good friends and support system and community, and then we got here.”¦I guess you can find little communities [in Vancouver], but obviously not right away.”
It was in those solitary sick days that his inner artist began to emerge. Jones became an introspective preteen who eventually turned to music for solace. By Grade 11 he was fronting his first band.
“Empty Box was a bunch of guys not knowing really anything about music,” recalls Jones of his first stab at collaborating. “We were just writing songs, so it was just fun.”
After graduating from high school, the singer was ready to play with a more skilled set of musicians.
“The Living was more of a focused project, but that was kind of a dark time,” admits Jones. “We all lived together and we all drank all the time, and I don’t think we quite realized how much talent we had.”
By the time the Living’s members went their separate ways, Jones was all rocked out and ready to get his folk on. Although he attracted some major-label interest after forming an acoustic two-piece called Rider Jones with a childhood friend, that project also petered out.
It was the third and final band breakup that Jones was willing to tolerate, so he decided that going solo was perhaps the best thing he could do for his career. The only catch was he couldn’t play a lick of guitar. So Jones picked up a copy of Guitar for Dummies and started practising day and night. Turns out he was a quick study.
“Within a year I had written an album and was busking and playing on the streets,” he says of his progress. “I had no choice. I was like, ”˜Shit, I’m 27.’ ”
Now that album, Bodhi Jones, is available on-line for free from his Web site. Among the standouts is “Please, Please”, a sweet and super-simple acoustic number that begs the listener “Don’t leave me tonight.” Although it’s pretty straightforward stuff, it’s got a great little hook and it’s delivered so earnestly by the blue-eyed singer that it’s become a fan favourite at shows.
During the writing process for this album, Jones was busking to make ends meet, which apparently took its toll on him.
“I was feeling like, ”˜What the hell am I doing standing on this corner?’ When I first starting going on the street, I was like, ”˜Yeah okay, I’ll get noticed and it will all fall into place—bada-bing, bada-boom. I’ll be seeing the world, playing music.’ Doesn’t really work that way. It seems like you have to be at your lowest breaking point and then keep going till another breaking point, and then keep going some more.”
Jones explores this theme in “Fifth Floor”, a fragile little number in which he is basically asking the universe to throw him a bone. Which it did when he entered the Peak Performance Project. The singer cracked the top 20, but more importantly he learned how to face his anxiety and stage fright—something he feels had been sabotaging his career up until that point.
“I figured out that I can take a huge deep breath and just sort of jump off the cliff,” he says.
Unfortunately, he only mastered this coping mechanism after he auditioned for Universal Records reps in L.A., about a month previous to this Peak awakening.
“I think I was still too shy, but when I left there I felt I got across who I was,” says Jones, whose second album is due out April 1. “They got what I was doing. And I felt like I represented myself well enough, but I’m pretty sure they’re looking for people who are really outside themselves.
“The woman [I auditioned for] signed Lady Gaga,” he continues, making it clear he came out of that experience with a new sense of self. “They’re not looking for me and that’s fine, because after doing that I realized I have no interest in going down that road at all. I can do it on my own."
Bodhi Jones plays Funky Winker Bean’s on Friday (February 5) as part of the Help for Haiti benefit concert.