Interview: A Conversation with Meilyr Jones

Meilyr Jones is performing his last song of the show: Be Soft. There is a strong unity between him and the audience as he walks off stage, singing without his microphone, his angelic voice warming the audience. His music is beautifully diverse; a combination of mesmerising orchestral sounds, mixed with energetic pop, reminiscent of Morrissey – only less depressing.

Before I begin the interview, he offers me a beer.  The warmth and likability he radiated on stage is translated in person, as he sits cross-legged with a beaming smile: half-eaten apple in one hand, and half of a bread roll in the other.

I ask him when he started creating music. He replies: “seven or eight…my brother got an early computer and I wrote a song on there called ‘Banjo Mel’, Mel short for melody”. He hums the tune of the song with his utmost concentration and I’m impressed that he can still remember it.It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I started writing again.

He is very softly-spoken – some might say shy – but I get the impression of a calm, self-assured person. After hearing about when he started creating music, I ask if there were any musicians that influenced this. He recalls a few: “I remember listening to ‘Sitting at the Dock of the Bay’ on my dad’s cassette player…I remember Queen-I really liked Queen…and then there was a film I liked the music to, called The Night Before Christmas…I really liked the music on that. And then I really liked Rachmaninov, the classical music that my grandmother used to play on the piano. And then I heard Rubber Soul by The Beatles, and got completely obsessed.”

Photo: Paul Hudson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pahudson/)

 

The passion he exudes when recalling childhood musical influences is an extension of his performance on stage. When performing, his passion is so strong that you can see it flowing into his body, creating eccentric shapes – his movement is a performance in itself.

I ask him what life was like growing up in Wales and whether he lived in a musical environment, and he pauses to think about it. It’s clear Jones is concerned with answering my questions earnestly:

I suppose I did. My mum played the violin, but amateur, you know…and then my dad can pick up a flute and play it. He wouldn’t consider himself a musician, but he’s really musical. And then, my brother’s a percussionist. So they really like music. It was more from that (his musical influence) than anything else”. He endearingly nods and smiles after every question, perhaps suggesting a slight nervousness about him after all.

I ask him what performing live is like compared to recording and he explains how he went through a stage of really liking recording as a “process of creation, of layering things”, and that when he was sixteen he got more into pop music, and then wanted to gradually move away from that too. “For my first album I wanted to do things in all kinds of different ways, for it to feel more like an anthology of what I’d done over the past year: field recordings, live recordings with an orchestra and just me on the piano. I’ve become less style-driven.”

We saw him perform a piano solo during the gig: his fellow band members evacuated the stage and sat on the edge, watching, with the rest of the audience. The addition and reduction of instruments throughout the performance added depth and variety, which completely allured the audience. His attempt at combining the classical with the modern in this album was ambitious, but smoothly executed.

We discuss literature and philosophy and his eyes light up when I mention Milton. He praises ‘Paradise Lost’, referring to it as ‘amazing’, and further admires the likes of Hardy and Keats, commenting “I love Keats”, with his hand on his heart. Here, we see the literary side to him and I can’t help thinking that his love for literature must have influenced his music too.

We talk about him experimenting with other art mediums and he considers experimenting with acting too: “Not in an ‘acting-acting’ drama school way…but definitely performance”, but maintains that writing music is his main focus. I ask what he thinks about musical theatre, which takes him by surprise. He says: “I’m not a big fan of musical theatre.”, to which I jokingly remark that “It can change”, and he laughs; “It could. Everything could change.”