Ayron Jones never knew his parents, but he thinks about them a lot. “They never saw me play guitar,” he tells us at the Royal Albert Hall, where he’s opening for Daughtry. “So I carry them with me as I go out there.”
Formerly a child of Seattle’s foster-care system, Jones began playing guitar in bars at 19, and turned heads in 2021 with Billboard chart-topping single Mercy. Tours with the Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses ensued, lifting him into rock’s new elite.
Now 36 and a father of four, Jones is gearing up to release new album Chronicles Of The Kid. A commanding firebomb of heavy riffs, stunning solos, hip-hop and pop sensibilities, it’s a deeper, darker and more dynamic follow-on from debut Child Of The State.
“There’s so much more to me,” he says. “I want to be our generation’s guy. We don’t have a guitar player; we don’t have that one guy that everybody can just get behind. I want to be that guy.”
You describe Chronicles Of The Kid as a “journal of selfdiscovery told through tales of temptations, triumphs, failures, sacrifice and the price of fame”. When was the first time you felt famous?
August 2021, I was at a gas station in some nowhere fucking place, and that was the first time somebody was like: “Oh, hey, you’re Ayron Jones!” Then I was in Paris in a room of people who all know my songs, the press is all on the front row… It hit me like a ton of bricks. One day I’m sitting on my couch, a relatively unknown artist, to all of a sudden being one of the bigger artists on the Billboard charts.
On the song Otherside you allude to the darker side of success.
It was self-contemplation. At the end of the day, when the glitz and glamour go away, you’re sitting in your room by yourself, you’re staring in the mirror, you have to answer to yourself. No one can teach you how to be famous. No one can teach you how to deal with these things: what’s going to happen when girls are throwing themselves at you; when people are throwing drugs on the table.
If you could give the pre-2021 Ayron some advice, what would it be?
Take your time, take every day with a grain of salt. And not everybody’s your friend. Make sure you surround yourself with good people.
Do you have a tight circle around you?
I’ve got good friends. My band is really great. But one of the things I’ve had to come to grips with is [that] I’m no longer myself, you know? I don’t even belong to me. This thing that I’ve been cultivating my whole life, it’s finally happening. And the thing we don’t realise as artists, when you’re trying to be who you want to be, the ultimate goal is to give yourself to people. I was talking to Lzzy Hale about this, about how you have to say goodbye to the old version of yourself.
So who’s the guy we see on stage?
That’s the person I’ve given to the public more than anything. I’m definitely projecting this ego, this internalised thing that I try to put out whenever I can. I can be cocky and brash and arrogant; I try to make sure that guy stays on the stage.
You’ve toured with a diverse mix including the Rolling Stones, Public Enemy, BB King, Shinedown, Guns N’ Roses… Did you get any advice from any of them?
Definitely. I mean, Zach Myers from Shinedown is one of my good friends. I talk to him, I talk to Lzzy, I’ve talked to Duff [McKagan], talked to [Sir] Mixalot… We lean on each other.
‘Grown-up’ stuff aside, what did you spend your first serious pay check on?
I moved us into a nice house, that’s the grown-up stuff. And I bought Chanel sunglasses. But I’m not a very flashy person. I maybe spend a little too much money at the bar, trying to buy people drinks. But I don’t just go out and go: “Oh hey, a Ferrari!”
Besides music, what jobs have you had to pay the bills?
I was working security. I worked at Applebee’s [restaurant chain]. I did loss prevention, which is basically catching people stealing in Whole Foods. I haven’t worked a day job for thirteen years or something. I decided: “I’m gonna live or die by this.”
What do people get wrong about you?
I think that because I talk about my kids and my wife so much, people have a much more wholesome image of me. I definitely have wholesome characteristics, but I’m an abandoned child of a gangster pimp, and my mum was a crackhead. I still have issues that I’m dealing with. So behind this facade of being this, like, articulate, well-to-do dad, there’s still a lot of things that I struggle with, just like anybody else. I’m not the perfect individual.
You’re routinely mentioned in the same breath as Hendrix. Does it ever feel like a lazy comparison – i.e. another black guy, fierce rock player, from Seattle?
At times it definitely feels that way. People need something to compare things to. But he’s the closest comparison they have to what I’m doing. He also happens to be the greatest guitar player of all time, so I welcome the comparison. But I think there are complexities to my playing that are different from what he did. Obviously no one’s going to complain about being compared to Hendrix, but when there’s an element of casual racism… [Adopts a shrill, star-struck voice] “Oh yeah! You’re Gary Clark Jr, aren’t you?!” [laughs].
You’ve also talked about expanding into ventures like acting, restaurants…
I want to fulfil this figure role. Not just be a great musician, but take that artistry into the visual space, be an actor, show up on television, show up in people’s lives.
Chronicles Of The Kid is out now via Big Machine.