Many songwriters will frame a series of writing and songs within the context of a portion
of their life story. For Jillian Jones, her music reflects a personal path of
difficulty that drew her closer to Christ.
“I think everyone experiences episodes of fear. But sometimes it lives with us for awhile and
we linger in this empty space between fear and what is supposed to come next. I have
lived a season like this and in that emptiness, I had to heavily rely on the promise
that Jesus would provide everything I needed.”
When asked about the road that led to the completion of her first album, she laughs.
“It’s definitely been a journey. Should we start at the beginning?”
The beginning is a reference back to some of Jones’ earliest childhood memories.
She recalls that she would spend hours listening to music and sitting at the family piano,
attempting to figure out melodies she heard on the radio. “I remember, maybe when
I was 3 or 4 years old, lying down in front of my parents’ record player with my
blanket and pillow and falling asleep to Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,”
she laughs. “I preferred that over TV, for sure.”
Jones grew up singing along to female powerhouse vocalists like Houston,
Celine Dion, Sandi Patty and Point of Grace. She would mimic their tone, dynamics,
inflections, and artistry. “I was very deliberate about learning that way. I’d explore
new technique by working to match the vocals I heard on the recording. It gave me
a toolbox to pull from when I’d perform my own solos.”
After heavy involvement in church and school music, Jones decided to further her
musical studies at Central College in Pella, Iowa. Under the direction of jazz bassist,
singer, and composer, Gabriel Espinosa, she focused her efforts on contemporary
vocals, piano, arranging and composition. Espinosa encouraged her to expand her horizons into musical genres such as jazz and Latin jazz. “I grew a lot as a musician during my time at Central. Gabriel helped me collect everything I’d learned about music in my early years, and then taught me to enhance and shape it into something that would define me, both as a person and an artist.”
It was at Central College that Jones met her husband, Blake. Following graduation, the two were married and settled into home life in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They made the difficult decision to set music aside for awhile. “As graduation was approaching, Blake and I talked a lot about what it would look like for me to pursue a professional music career. But a family was more important to us. We knew we wanted kids and I just couldn’t see how I could do both. It definitely felt like I was closing a door on music, but family was our priority.”
The birth of their first child was followed by a move to Minnesota and Jones left her office job to stay at home with their daughter. Three years later and expecting their second child, Jones faced a pregnancy laced with complications. A few days after the safe delivery of a healthy baby boy, Jones experienced a significant health scare that spiraled her into a season of post-partum anxiety. “Mothers are so emotionally vulnerable right after the birth of a child. When he was born and everything was OK, I thought we were through the hard part and I let my emotional defenses relax. Then came my unexpected diagnosis, and I felt like the rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet. I was terrified and I couldn’t sort out which fear was justified and which was irrational.”
The months that followed were something that Jones describes as the most challenging season of her life. In addition to the demands of caring for a newborn and a three-year old, Jones was also experiencing a daily struggle with anxiety that often made her too fearful to leave home. But despite the difficulty, she insists that she wouldn’t change a thing. “There came a point that I had to decide whether I was going to trust God or not. It wasn’t a fast and easy decision. More like baby steps every day. I would often go for walks outside and picture myself as Peter walking toward Jesus on the water. If I took my eyes off Him, I’d panic. Every literal step down the sidewalk was a victory and I felt closer to God than I ever had before. I knew that He had purpose in what I was going through.”
And that purpose seemed to have something to do with music. After years of very little musical involvement, Jones says she felt God calling her back to it. “I spent a lot of time thinking about who I was. I knew I was a child of God, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I also knew that ‘musician’ belonged on that list, as solidly as the rest of the titles. I started singing again around the house. I bought new worship CDs, sang to my kids and played my piano again.”
Songwriting soon followed, and honest reflections about her journey with fear and faith filled the pages.
Jones' latest release, her first full length project, is called, "Perfectly Clear." Produced by Aaron Ankrum of Aerial View Studios in Minneapolis, MN and mastered by Grammy-winner Huntley Miller of HM Mastering, the album features Jones on vocals/piano, Reese Kling on percussion, Christian Ankrum on bass, Jasper Nephew on electric guitars, Michael Pierson on acoustic guitars, and Laurels String Quartet.
The project opens with “Streams In The Wasteland,” a compelling song based on Isaiah 43:19. The title track follows as Jones sings about the difficulties of moving forward into the places God is calling, but trusting in her identity as His child. Other highlights include "Empty Cupboards," a song that encourages listeners to open up their lives to others, "God's Not Far," a unique mix of pop sound and deep lyrics, and "I Can Rest Here," a beautiful ballad with epic instrumentation. The album closes with "Listening For Trains,” a song Jones says is the most personal to her and written specifically about her journey with post-partum anxiety.
The overall vibe provides listeners with a piano-driven, singer/songwriter flair, with an eclectic blend of acoustic and electronic sounds supporting Jones' crystal clear vocals.
"This is a community-made project. I am simply overwhelmed and grateful when I read the names of every single person it took to make this music. From fundraiser supporters to musicians to writers to my administrative team.....it's a beautiful example of how God intended us to come together and be in this life for each other. My hope and prayer is that these songs make people feel less alone in their struggles, and help shift their perspective as they bravely move forward."