Producer Crosstalk: Caroline Jones

Country singer-songwriter Caroline Jones launched her production career at virtually the same time she began writing music. Indeed, she took the reins on her first record Fallen Flower in 2011 and more recently along with one of her mentors, Ric Wake (Mariah Carey, Trisha Yearwood), she co-produced her 2019 EP Chasin’ Me. Early in her career Jones networked with Nashville notables, which helped her to land a distri- bution deal with Jimmy Buffett’s label Mailboat Records.

“I went down to Nashville at a young age,” the artist and producer recalls of her formative years. “I was taken under the wing of Mac McAnally, who’s a 10-time CMA musician of the year. I was able to witness the studio musi- cian scene and level of musicianship that’s down there. I fell in love with the art of production. Ever since then, I’ve written and produced my own records. I’ve never just wanted to go in the booth and sing.”

A key skill she’s harvested from her collaboration with McAnally is the ability to focus on a song idea as a whole as opposed to its smaller, more distinct elements. “Mac has this big-picture perspective that I sometimes lose because I get detail-oriented and caught up in trying to give my best performance,” Jones says. “He keeps us centered.”

“I’ve learned so much about record- ing and mixing just by osmosis,” she continues. “I work closely with [engineer] Gustavo Celis and have watched him for hundreds of hours. I’m continually amazed by how delicate of a craft it is. The balance of one or two instruments can offset an entire song.”

Artists approach songwriting in many ways. Some set aside time to create while others are subject largely to inspi- ration’s whims. “I’m always writing little pieces,” Jones observes. “But I’m pretty selective about the songs that I finish. Then I’ll bring those to Ric and Gus–– people whose opinions I trust. Usually we’re on the same page because I have a good feel for what my best work is and the songs will mature in pre-production. I’ve also enjoyed developing songs on the road over the past few years. I’m more of an inspiration junkie. I don’t write that many. The ones I do [write] end up on my records.”

Once she’s narrowed the field, Jones’ choices are always vindicated. “The sheer amount of ideas that I try to throw against the wall to see which ones work is a process of trial and error,” Jones explains. “I’m influenced by various styles of music and I love several different production aesthetics. Learning that has been a journey and a challenge at times because I have to make the best decisions in the moment. It’s a real testament to my team that they allow me to learn firsthand instead of shooting down my ideas; to actu- ally allow me to put them down on tape and hear which ones work. That’s the joy of the creative process.”

Recently she released a remix EP that includes four versions––a dance mix and a jazz rendering, for example––of “All of the Boys,” one of her recent singles. She’ll continue to release new music by way of Buffett’s Mailboat Records with the aim of one single per month. Jones remains open to producing alongside other artists in the future, but her preference is for a co-production relationship.