The Nayo Jones Interview

Nayo Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival.

Nayo Jones is a Chicago- born vocalist who grew up in a musical family and is now based in New Orleans. She performs with her own group, “The Nayo Jones Experience,” in addition to touring with Kermit Ruffins as a featured vocalist. Twin Cities audiences were first exposed to Ms Jones at the 2018 Twin Cities Jazz Festival. Her dynamic, soul-filled performance of standards like Saint James Infirmary and My Favorite Thingsearned her four standing ovations from thousands of people who had never heard of her. At one emotional point, a gust of wind caused the sleeves of her flowing dress to spread out like wings to the delight of the crowd. Jones will be returning to the Twin Cities for an appearance at the Fall Jazz Festivalbeing held at Crooners Lounge and Supper Club in Fridley on Sunday, October 14th. She’ll perform at 2:30 in the large Lounge, and 7:30 in the intimate Dunsmore Room. The following interview took place after her June performance.

I understand you grew up listening to a lot of jazz because your dad is jazz a jazz player. Were there any artists in particular that caught your ear that made you say that’s what I want to do?

Dinah Washington – Nayo’s favorite

I want to say none in particular –  not until I began singing, and that wasn’t until many years later, because I played flute, and I would play jazz but I never sang. And so the first voice I had listened to several – my dad told me to listen to this and this and that. And then Dinah Washington  – her voice just resonated with me when I started really studying female jazz vocalists and to this day she probably is my favorite.

So when you choose songs for your repertoire what do you look for? 

Lyrics mean a lot to me so that every song that I shared today, every song that I ever share, whenever I perform, the song does something for me, it moves me, I believe that if I can feel a song and if the song moves me than I have the ability to move the crowd.

That’s certainly apparent. You did a couple of originals what are the names of those?

One is Imagine, which I wrote several years ago. It’s never been done, at least produced properly so I think we’re going to go in the studio on record that.  There was really a good reception for that song and it came back to me because you know it’s a lot of negative things going on in the world today and I just believe in the power of dreaming, loving, and imagination and that song means a lot to me. Product of the Mind, the second one, also came back for the same reasoning: we can change the world. There’s a co-writer on Product of the Mind Her name is Naomi Imeke. 

You did a good job of firing up the audience today. How do you figure out how and when to do that?

Thank you. This is going to sound very, very quirky but I can feel the energy. I really can. I can kind of tell if they need me to ease them into it, or if I can come out guns blazing and I did that today. I knew that I would be able to do that because of seeing how the crowd just responded to the music last night . Sometimes I can’t see faces and I can’t see exactly what’s happening in as far as people smiling, but I could see smiles on there tonight, and I could see people swaying, and crying and that let me know how far I could go. 

You have recordings?

I have several actually on ITunes. I have a Christmas album of which I’m still very, very proud. It’s one of my older projects but I’m still certainly proud of that project. Product of the Mind is actually on My Name is Nayo. That’s an R&B album.  OK You would never know it’s me because it’s a totally different energy than what I do on stage now because it’s an older album also. OK But yeah you can find me on ITunes

What are your future plans? Any CDs in the offering?

Yes we are going to start recording more original music. I’m very excited about the future. as I just started collaborating with The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. I’ve done a few shows with them, t.hat’s a twenty-piece band. Working with them and to have that opportunity come my way has been a dream come true.  So you’ll see more with me with the New Orleans Jazz. Orchestra in the future.. 

Finally, what would what do you think is the most important lesson you learned from your dad? 

The first thing, and I always tell people, when I started singing and when he realized that “I think she’s going to do this for real,” he said, “Always do it because you love it, don’t do it for the money. And to this day that’s why I do it. He said, “The money will come. Just do it because you love it.” It’s a labor of love. 

Thank you for your time.


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