Tameca Jones Strives For Perfection

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KUTX Artist of the Month is powered by PNC Bank

Her debut album, Plants And Pills, is due out February 29th.

By Jeff McCord

“It’s right at the finish line,” she blurts out, excitedly. “Like the 200 meter mark before the finish line. So, yeah. We’re almost there.”

I’ve caught Tameca Jones on the phone, just home from another day at the recording studio. Her debut album, Plants And Pills, is due out February 29th, that elusive leap year date that only rolls around once every four years. Somehow, it seems appropriate.

“This is my third release date,” she confesses, “But it’s the one that’s going to stick. Third time’s a charm!!”

Time was, Jones was a struggling jazz singer, trying to find her voice. A residency at the Continental Club Gallery changed all that.

“Jazz was really complicated,” Jones explains. “And my voice wasn’t the right fit for jazz. So I got into covers while I created original music, and I cut my teeth mainly at the Gallery. I would be there every Thursday from 10:30 to 1, jamming with the best musicians in Austin, learning and honing. I did a lot of work there.”

That confidence propelled her to a triumphant head-turning performance at the Austin Music Awards, singing alongside Steve Van Zandt, Patty Griffin and Charlie Sexton. The buzz was enormous. That was 2015.

A 2016 EP followed, featuring the single “Hot and Bothered”, which led to Austin music awards of her own. Sporadic singles would follow, but no sign of an album.

I ask the question there’s no getting around: What took you so long?

“I was more focused on performance because performance was instant money. I was a single mother of twins, so I focused on that. Recording an album or even a single, it’s really expensive. You have the studio time, the paid musicians, you have to mix it, you have to master it. You have to promote it. It’s just a lot of investment.”

Tameca Jones poses for a portrait after performing in Studio 1A on Nov. 17, 2023. Nastassja Collak/KUTX

“And studios actually scared me. I’m a performer. When I sing a note, it’s out there. I don’t have to think about it. It could be wrong. It could be sharp, it could be flat. It’s about the vibe, the crowd and the performance. But in the studio, everything is magnified.”

During the pandemic, she worked with her longtime collaborator Jonathan Deas. And, slowly things began to change for Jones.

“We made songs here during the pandemic, but they would just sit there. And now, I have the clarity, I’m not an active mother. I got some mental help health through SIMS, and I was diagnosed with bipolar and generalized anxiety, and I got medication to just help me deal with that. And all of these things helped me. I didn’t know if I even existed inside of me.”

So nine long months ago, Jones felt ready to record her debut album. There was just one thing standing in the way: Tameca Jones.

“If I’m going to put something out there for eternity, it has to be good. It has to be – it has to register with me first.”

“I was obsessed,” she admits. “I would wake up and have a raw throat, ‘cause I would just sing. Thousands of takes. It was like muscle building for my throat. I would put it through hell.”

“I’m not a background singer, but I wanted to do my background vocals. And I’m so proud of the harmonies I made. A lot of times it had to be tuned up a little bit. But it’s just studio magic you have to do or else you’re going to go crazy. I cried because they were tuning my vocals. Am I not good enough? Am I a bad singer? It’s just you doing so much to a song, the main vocals, the background and harmonies, it’s a lot going on. We can’t be too hard on ourselves, and I’m learning that I’m not perfect, and I never will be the best I can be every day.”

Under these exacting standards, an album slowly took shape. Jones released the first single, “So Gone”, near the end of last year.

“I wanted it to be 100% me in spirit. And my collaborator Jonathan, and my sound engineer Mike McKinnan have been helping me form these songs, polishing these diamonds. I’m going to be emotional when it comes out and people listen to it, because it’s just it’s so good.”

I ask if she plans to tour on this record.

“I don’t even know what I want anymore. I used to want to tour or be big and famous. But at my age, I just really want to make music and get paid for it. I had a song in Black Cake, it’s a show on Hulu, and on another show, Walker, Texas Ranger. That was a chunk of change that I didn’t have to go out to promote. You know, I’m 45. I don’t feel like going on the road and staying in Motel 6’s until I get my break, that’s not my vibe anymore.”

“If I’m going to put something out there for eternity, it has to be good.

Yet even great music has trouble standing out from the fray. Being Artist of the Month will raise the profile of Jones’ new Plants And Pills album, but it’s only a start.

“I really hope people like it, but it’s so hard to get people to care these days. You release a song and if you don’t have the money or the foundation to promote it, it just goes into a black hole. I don’t want that to happen to these songs. So I’m just gonna have to figure something out.”


Studio 1A Credits

Set List:
“So Gone”
“Dinero”
“Everybody’s Got A Gun”

Album: Plants & Pills (February 29th, 2024)
Musicians: Tameca Jones – vocals; Eli Menezes – guitar; Adam Jackson – drums; John Deas – keys
Credits:
Producer: Deidre Gott; Production Assistant: Confucius Jones; Audio Engineer: Rene Chavez; Audio Mix: Rene Chavez; Cameras: Ivy Fowler, Nastassja Collak, Renee Dominguez; Edit: Renee Dominguez; Host: Trina Quinn

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