Heaven & Hell with singer songwriter Ashton Jones

Ashton Jones performing. Picture; Juls

Ashton Jones performing. Picture; Juls - Credit: Archant

Suffolk singer songwriter Ashton Jones shares his East Anglian Heaven and Hell with Gina Long.

Ashton Jones. Picture: Jahed Quddus

Ashton Jones. Picture: Jahed Quddus - Credit: Archant

Ashton Jones is a dynamic showman, singer, songwriter, recording artist and bandleader with his group The Ashton Jones Project. He is the featured voice in prominent global television campaigns for Amazon and performs his energetic brand of soul and funk music at festivals and venues around the world. He is a long-standing advertising executive at Felixstowe-based Marketing Force, along with operating his record label, Flash Town Music.

What’s the impact of Covid-19 on the music industry and how are you adapting?

The music and entertainment industry is virtually non-existent at the moment, it has been decimated by Covid-19. We have adapted where we can; there are still live streams and a few socially distanced performances happening, but with the guidelines currently in place, it is nigh on impossible for the talented and highly skilled workers in this business to earn a living. I count myself very lucky in the sense that I have other avenues of income through my work in the advertising industry and my record label, but for the majority of people working in the arts, from venues and stagehands to tour managers, artists and promoters, it’s an incredibly tough period, one which I hope abates very soon.

What advice can you give our readers as the nation emerges from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis?

I would strongly encourage people to continue to think of others, be kind, responsible and care about their fellow citizens. I know it can be frustrating at times, tiresome at others, but indifference to things like mask-wearing and social distancing will only serve to prolong the lingering stench of Covid-19. I know the vast majority of people have been so great. Our key workers are a shining example and a credit to society. Let’s keep up the good work for them and everybody else, and power through the rest of this year to brighter days.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

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My whole family has strong roots in Ipswich. I was born and raised there, living most of my childhood in Stoke Park and Maidenhall. My parents are from Ipswich and continue to live and work there. On my dad’s side, my grandparents were part of the Windrush generation, who came to Ipswich from Jamaica in the ’60s. My Nana worked at Ipswich hospital and my Grandad worked at Cranes factory for many years. On my mum’s side, Granny came to Ipswich from Greenock, Scotland and worked at Radio Orwell. Grandad was born and bred in Ipswich and was a Royal Marine Commando, before later working at Christchurch Mansion.

What is your East Anglian Heaven?

Great food, great wine and great company is certainly my East Anglian Heaven. There are so many beautiful places to eat and drink throughout the region. We really are spoilt for choice.

What is your East Anglian Hell?

Being attacked by wasps (which I realise isn’t just an East Anglian problem!) while eating alfresco in the summer.

What is your favourite East Anglian Restaurant?

I have two. Milsoms Kesgrave Hall and Kwan Thai. Both stunning in their own ways.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

The Willis Building. Growing up, I was always amazed at how modern and futuristic this building was and still is. It’s one of the youngest buildings to be given grade-listed status in the UK, and for me, it’s an architectural icon for the town and region.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Ipswich Music Day, Indian Summer Mela and Global Rhythm are just a few of the rich and diverse music days in East Anglia each year. They attract many different types of people, from a host of different cultures, celebrating music, dancing, food and drink. What’s not to enjoy?

What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?

Well, following the last five months, probably Covid-19. Aside from that, I spend a lot of time scratching up on politics, especially American politics.

What is always in your fridge?

I’d love to say my fridge is stocked full of fresh and organic produce, but it really isn’t. Booze, yes – and you’ll definitely find a few nice slabs of brie or applewood. I always have a block of butter in there, too. Nothing quite like fresh bread smothered in salted butter.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

I don’t think anything happens for a reason, and the vast majority of things are pot luck. But for me, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Be as equipped as you possibly can, so when an opportunity presents itself, you’re ready to grasp it with both hands.

What’s your favourite film?

The Godfather. The Italian mafia fascinates me. Both the Godfather I and II are masterpieces that I can watch again and again.

What was your first job?

My first job was working on the computer in the backroom at my local post office aged 15. I used to bike there first thing on a Saturday morning for two hours of work at £2.50 an hour. A fiver-a-week. Absolutely rolling in it.

What is your most treasured possession?

I have nothing of particular material value that I treasure, but memories of family, friends and gigs that have been captured on video bring me lots of happiness, so I treasure those.

Who do you admire most?

Many, many people. Too many to choose just one, but James Brown for his stage presence, style and talent. Barack Obama for becoming the first-ever black President of the United States. Stevie Wonder for reaching the highest heights of his profession, despite having a major disability. The list goes on. All flawed in their own ways, some deeply, but all brilliant, inspiring figures in my life.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Jeez, what do I not indulge in… I’m a foodie, so I love eating out. I indulge in far too much good food, wine, cheese and chocolate, to the unfortunate detriment of my waistline.

What do you like about yourself most?

I can be very persistent, even dogged when the occasion calls for it. When others say something can’t be done, I tend to believe where there’s a will, there’s a way.

What’s your worst character trait?

I can hold grudges, occasionally, sometimes. Pointlessly unproductive, I know.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

I don’t tend to re-visit the same place more than once unless it’s Vegas Baby! My favourite holiday destination so far is Japan. I visited last year.

Best day of your life?

Performing to an audience of 20,000 in Mexico at the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival last year. To go from singing in pubs with backing tracks five years ago to performing for a huge audience on another continent was a very special and life-affirming moment for me.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

I don’t think you can beat a classic Full English, with a side of pancakes and syrup on the side. See what I mean about my waistline!

What’s your favourite tipple?

A Caipirinha if they know how to make it. If not, Courvoisier or Hennessy over ice, with a dash of Coke Zero.

When were you most embarrassed?

I remember feeling very ill after eating something dodgy at lunch once. On the bus home from school, I couldn’t hold the nausea any longer, and two stops before the bus station, I vomited all over this poor guy’s back. His wife started screaming, everybody got off, and they abandoned the bus. I stood at the bus station, drenched in sick, waiting for dad to pick me up. So embarrassing.

What’s your earliest memory?

Playing with my Batman toy in the kitchen of our flat in Ipswich.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Get Up Offa That Thing, by James Brown.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

When I was 21, I went for an interview to be a boxing ring announcer.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?

Suffolk is a beautiful county, full of green, open space. Ipswich has one of the most diverse and eclectic art scenes around; the town is drenched in history, and it’s an hour from London on the train. Plus, the people here are brilliant.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

I’d like to shamelessly plug my group, The Ashton Jones Project, and our album Toast. If you like soul and funk music in the style of Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and James Brown, but with a modern inference, this is the album for you. It’s our first original works and was lovingly written and recorded over two years. It has featured on BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and BBC Radio Suffolk, and is available to stream and download. We even have limited edition translucent amber vinyl available, along with CDs. Feel free to find me on Facebook or Instagram. As soon as government guidelines allow, please consider booking live bands and entertainment. We need your support now, more than ever before. Head across to www.ashtonjones.com

Are you doing something special during Covid-19 times? Please do email me at gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram:ginalongmbe

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