On Queen Of The In Between, the new album from K.C. Jones, there’s a gold softness that hums like an AM band revealing early morning secrets or late night revelations. It’s a step left of the dial for Jones, who left Raleigh, NC for Lafayette, LA some 15 years ago to fall in love with Cajun and Creole music. A fiddle player by trade and blood (her father was an Applachian mountain fiddler), Jones is a member of Cajun balladeers T’Monde and also joined the rockin’ Feufollet in 2015. QOTIB finds K.C. the songwriter exercising cosmic country proclivities around ringing, bending guitars that evoke the folk-glam of Marc Bolan and the introspection of Janis Ian. Alongside longtime friend, collaborator, and GRAMMY award-winning producer (and former husband) Joel Savoy, Jones also enlisted Feufollet bandmates Chris Stafford and Jim Kolacek as well as Lafayette stalwart Trey Boudreaux (The Revelers). Queen Of The In Between is available on June 18th.
AI- Queen Of The In Between takes a fairly sharp turn from what you’ve done with some of your other projects. I’d say that T’Monde is in a traditional space, and Feufollet certainly incorporates a little bit more rock n’ roll, a little more dance hall honky tonk into that Cajun style. How long has this version, KC Jones, been waiting to cut loose, and what put Queen Of The In Between into motion?
KCJ- We haven’t been touring with it, but [I’ve been] doing songs that I’ve written outside of the traditional realm with Joel [Savoy] and Chris [Stafford], who are both on the album, with different renditions of the band for quite a while. But only locally. We never recorded anything, and it was usually different songs than are actually on this album. So it’s been quite some time. I’ve been writing songs for such a long time and they don’t always fit into the veins of Cajun and honky tonk and old time. It’s been a while, but these particular songs, we recorded them, I guess 2018. And then 2020 was crazy! That’s when it was supposed to come out. It just got a little delayed, but I’ve been writing songs of all kinds for quite some time, just not traveling around with it. It’s always been my little pet project!
COVID-19, the pandemic, it’s an ongoing dialogue about all of the things that it’s done to every walk of life, really. But when you start talkin’ about musicians and not having the ability to tour and get out in front of people? I saw a story you actually got back behind the bar? Were bartending to keep things goin’?
I did, yeah! The bar I ended up workin’ at, most of our seating is outdoors. Luckily, we could have that goin’ on. So it was almost like I was tending bar for ghosts for a while (laughs)! Make the drinks inside, bring ’em outside like, “There’s people out there? You guys promise?” And it had been a while! Last time I was in a service industry job, I was like, “Never again!” I was doin’ music full time and that was working really well. We were traveling a lot, and I had a lot of amazing gigs planned for the summer of 2020 as well. It was quite the pull of the rug out from underneath us all because all the work was gone– and just tryin’ to figure everything out! Eventually, yeah, I was just like, “Well, I’m gonna help my friends out at this restaurant!” They tried to open in 2020, which was really hard for them too. Everybody wants to help everybody out and it was a good way to make ends meet for the time being. I’m still kinda off and on there right now just ’cause it’s slow to come back! But it’s coming back!
Even though you’ve been at this for quite some time, goin’ back and listenin’ to some of your other work, conspicuous by its absence is the fiddle. Queen Of The In Between is much more guitar-driven. Certainly vocal-driven as well.
When I write songs, I end up writing them on the guitar a lot anyway. Sometimes with Cajun songs, I’ll end up writing them on the fiddle, or when I’m collaborating with somebody, I’ll use the fiddle to help write the song. But usually, in this kind of stuff, I’m writing with a guitar. I kinda made it a point to not have fiddle on the album. Three out of the five people in the band play fiddle, and I was like, “No, we’re not having any fiddles on this album!” I wanted it to really be more in the rock n’ roll, indie, Americana vein of our repertoire and our musical ability ’cause we rarely get to let loose and do any of that. And we had a lot of fun being able to do that!
I’d wondered about that with everybody involved– if that was an opportunity for everybody to stretch their legs in a different direction?
For sure, yeah! We had a really fun time doin’ that too! Anything goes! I had a lot of sonic aesthetics in mind for all of the songs, and then beyond that, the possibilities are endless. “Baritone guitar? That sounds awesome! Let’s do that! Let’s experiment with that!” There’s no box that we were in, and that was so fun! Like, “Oh, should we put Wurlitzer? Should we put Rhodes? Do ’em both! Let’s see what happens!” (Laughs)
Joel Savoy, the producer of note for the record, someone that you are absolutely no stranger to personally and professionally! Working with him in Eunice in his studio and also with musicians that you’re very familiar with, why Joel in the role of producer? What does he bring to you in the studio sense that the record needed?
Well, as you said, I’m very comfortable working with him. We’ve known each other for so long! We were married, we play together, we tour together, we’ve done a lot of projects together in the studio, and he’s one of my best friends! I’m super comfortable working with him, and that was really important for this project. I have had some experiences working in other people’s studios and with people producing or at the reins of engineering, and I hate to say this, but as a woman, sometimes people can kind of steamroll over you, especially in a studio setting, and maybe not take your ideas totally to heart or listen to you. My idea was very finite and I knew what I wanted to do. I knew the songs I wanted to do, and I really wanted to be in control of what was happening because all the songs are important to me and this project is really important to me. [Joel] is somebody who listens to me. I’m not afraid of being like, “No, I don’t like that. No, let’s do something else.” Also, I trust his ideas as well. So I’m like, “Yeah! Well, let’s try that!” That’s really the bottom line.
You were talkin’ about writin’ songs earlier. With your other groups, you occasionally write songs in French, Cajun French, right?
I’m fascinated with the idea of translation when it comes to conveying a story purely from a songwriting perspective. Does that help you? Do you consider it both ways sometimes? And then once you’ve developed a melody, do you actually hear a song in one language or the other?
When I’m writing songs in French, the ones that I have written, or written with people in French, I usually don’t use translation as a big tool in that. A lot of times, if I’m writing a song in French, it will be because the idea came to me in French or like, “Oh, I love this phrase in French! I love the way you can say this in French!” And then it kind of would stem from there. Usually, I wouldn’t write something in English and translate it or vice versa, but it’s been a great tool of learning French too because I didn’t grow up speaking French. It’s a fun thing when something does come to you in French, and you’re like, “Ooh, this melody! For some reason, it’s comin’ to me in French! I don’t know why!” I haven’t ever just written a song straight out in English [and then translated it] because the phrasing is so different and translation is such a weird thing in itself. What do you translate? Do you translate word for word? Do you translate the sentiment? Do you translate the feeling behind it? There’s a lot of interesting discussions on translation in general.
“Stop On The Way”, I think my favorite song on the record. It’s got that great guitar intro– kinda Stonesy and Beatles-esque all at the same time. That’s a straight rock n’ roll song on this record. I don’t think there’s any blurred lines for that particular song. Is that something that you feel like steppin’ towards again in the future? Goin’ more rock n’ roll as opposed to the blend?
I like to let each song be its own little universe in a lot of ways and that one, it was a waltz. In my mind, it was a very heavy rock n’ roll thing– but there’s not a lot of rock n’ roll waltzes out there (laughs)! So I was like, “Alright, how do I approach this?” But yeah, I definitely see a veering more in that vein over being more country or subdued. I could see us being a lot more in that direction, for sure, in the future.
I noticed on your website, I didn’t see any dates coming up. As far as plans go, something about this album that strikes me is you can take this in a club, you could take it in a bar, it goes to the theater, it could go into a festival. As I understand it, the festival circuit is the main outlet and avenue for a lot of Cajun-style bands and old-time-style bands. I don’t feel like this album is limited by that audience.
No, definitely not!
You can really get street level with it. Is that in fact the plan?
Yeah! We don’t have any dates traveling-wise right now. We’re doin’ an album release show in town in Lafayette at the Hideaway on Lee on the 26th [of June]. As of now, that’s really the only thing we have goin’ for this album. It’s just a strange year to book things like that because a lot of people have their schedules carrying over ’cause everything was canceled. But we are planning on doing some club gigs, theaters, maybe some festivals in the fall and winter probably. So look out for that! Yeah, it’s a weird year for planning, unfortunately!
No kiddin’! At every level of the business too! Just tryin’ to find some way to play that game and figure out what’s gonna happen next! What about with T’Monde and Feufollet? Any plans in either of those two areas?
Yeah, we have some things that have carried over that we were supposed to do last year and doin’ some traveling and festivals. T’Monde, we’re gonna be up in Portland in September and then Feufollet, we have a festival in upstate New York in July. And local gigs are coming back a lot! I’m actually in the car. We’re heading to a gig right now (laughs)! We have a lot of local stuff coming up, but there’s a few traveling things, and more things in the fall are popping up. So summer’s looking a little bare, but it’s all good!
You close the album with “Lost My Way”. Falling out of rhythm, being adrift. I think that’s a feeling and a state of being for just way too many people, even now as we’re beginning to glow in that light at the end of the tunnel. You could have opened Queen Of The In Between with that song. But you closed with it instead. Why? ‘Cause it’s a cliffhanger if I’ve ever heard one.
(Laughs) As I’m sure most people know, when you’re making a record, yes, order is a big part of the strife of all the little details. But I love the sentiment of that song. I liked the energy and the simplicity of the instrumentation. I really enjoy the lyrics of that song a lot. I enjoyed writing them, and I enjoy singing them every time we sing it. It has a calmness about it that I really wanted to end on, and it is kind of a cliffhanger in some ways, but I thought that the simplicity really lets you drift onto your next destination musically or otherwise.