Not Only Is Sir Charles Jones Dominating Southern Soul, But He's Breaking New Grounds In A Big Way!
Sir Charles Jones was born in Akron, Ohio, raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and is a self-taught musician, songwriter, arranger, producer, and film professional. Amongst his most notable achievements include American Blues Network: International Entertainer of the year 2001-2004, Album of the Year 2002 & 2003, B.B. King Achievement Award 2003 & 2004.
His Southern Soul style features jazz, fusion, gospel, and blues. His top Blues/R&B song was Just Can't Let Go. In 2000, he released his debut album, Sir Charles Jones. The next album Jones released, Love Machine, spent 57 weeks on the U.S. charts.
It reached number 28 on the June 2002 Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Jones was in a coma for several days following a motorcycle accident in 2003. Thanks for Holding On was released in 2006 after he recovered fully. A compilation album, My Story, and a music DVD, Undisputed King of Southern Soul, were released two years later. I was able to catch up with this busy man. Here's what he shared with me about his music journey.
Hi Sir Charles Jones, how are you doing?
I'm doing very well. I woke up this morning.
Yes, God gave Me two blessings; He opened both of my eyes!
That's right (laughs)! Let's get started with this interview. I'm interested in learning more about you. Oh man, anything you want to ask.
OK, what color is the sky? It’s a beautiful royal blue right now. (laughs)
(Laughs) Awesome! Sir Charles, is that your birth name, or did you add Sir to your name? What's the story behind your name? Well, my actual name is Charles Jones, and one day I was at a local talent show, and a guy named Michael McMillan was hosting the show. He didn't know what to call me, so he said, "ladies and gentlemen, what's his name? Then he said, "Sir Charles Jones," and it stuck with everybody. So, when my music was released, it was so hot and on top of the world and the game; it was like I was the king of inventing something new that nobody had ever heard, and that's why. Women went crazy and loved it so much that the king-type royalty title stuck with me, So I left it as Sir Charles Jones.
What a remarkable story. When did you feel God's plan for your life was to sing? Right from the start. My mom and dad were ministers. Since they preached all our lives, I grew up in a church filled with singing and music. I was two years old when my mom caught me playing the piano. I connected the notes, and I was singing in perfect key. From that point, it's stuck with me my whole life.
Awesome so let's go back to your origins. Tell me, where were you born initially, and where do you reside now? Right, I was initially born in Akron, OH. Despite being raised in Birmingham, AL, my mother wanted me to explore both sides of our family roots from both my dad's and mom's sides. Consequently, I grew up in Alabama but moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where I got my start.
What is it like growing up in the South as a young man? It's rough. There was a lot of racial tension. When I was coming up, there were many things I couldn't get because of my skin color. My mom is from Alabama, So I saw much of the civil rights movement, type of roots, and so on.
I'm glad that I was able to witness that and see it. Even though some of it had died down, you could still feel it. So, it was challenging coming up in the south. Getting to where I am now and obtaining the things I have required hard work.
Now, Charles, I'm a city girl, so can you give me a glimpse of what life was like for you growing up in the south? What were your favorite types of toys and activities? Mainly, we played with each other. Whenever your parents couldn't afford a big wheel, you got some wood, nails, and a hammer, and then you made your own wheels. Afterward, we would find an old shopping cart, put the wheels on it, and ride inside. During those times, if we didn't have things, we adapted to our situation and made our own.
Tell me about the origins of your professional career. When I decided to become a professional singer, I could have sung like Gerald Levert or artists with similar singing styles, but the market was competitive. Then I realized, "Nobody sings Blues or Soul music at such a young age." Yet here I am, a 19-year-old, singing all these powerful songs. I could do that because I sang gospel well. Blues is a mixture of both genres.
As a forerunner in the system, I assisted my brothers and sisters in getting into the business. It's good to know that I was successful in getting them in. It makes me feel good to know that. It makes me feel good to know that I am the founder of a new age of music.
How is Sir Charles different and unique from other artists, and what is your primary message? I've helped so many people in this industry to where it's like a book that's writing itself. Sometimes I don't even know if I'm doing it; it’s just the type of upbringing that I've had.
Whenever I go to hospitals, I find people happy to see me. Even though someone might be dying, I'll encourage them to live because they might not feel well that day. When it comes to my music, I put a lot of positive messages about life in my lyrics to help people rehabilitate themselves spiritually. So, it's like a book that's writing itself. The legacy is already creating itself, and I may have already made it.
Sir Charles, when I met you in Memphis, there was something different about you. There are many artists with gigantic swollen heads, but you were different from all the rest. Yes, I saw a lot of that at the awards.
Yes, but you were nothing like that. You were hugging people and treating people kindly. If someone different knew you, they would not be able to tell you were such a well-known and established artist. That's what makes you unique. That's one thing that sets you apart from others, including your fantastic talent. Thank you.
You're welcome. Because you are a southern artist, was it harder for you to get to a certain level in this music industry? It was easier because a lot of music originated from the South. The musical aspect of it was easy and natural since I had already made music, but it was challenging in Birmingham, AL., where I was raised. Getting a break was difficult due to the community's unwillingness to accept their own talent. There's no chance of getting a shot until you leave, go somewhere else, get accepted, and blow up. Then, when you blow up, they will claim, "We were with him all the time."
The memories of my city not supporting me or believing in me have always lingered in the back of my mind. It is unfortunate that the people in your hometown don't support you.
Many artists have had to leave their hometowns to be taken seriously or respected for their work. It's always good to do what's best for your career. Sometimes you have to go to people unfamiliar to you. But it's not always bad because rejection is a breeding ground for expansion. As far as yourself, your peers have dubbed you "The King of Southern Soul Music." So Charles, please explain to people who need to become more familiar with southern soul music and how it differs from what they traditionally hear on mainstream radio. Well, it's no different from any other music. "Southern Soul" is just a genre of music with a combination of "feel-good music," taking energy from all other kinds of music.
What's beautiful about a southern soul song is that it adapts to other types of music like Rock'n'roll, country, gospel, R&B, and hip hop.
“Southern Soul” could collaborate with anything. It's a variation of sounds from different fields and variations. The beautiful thing about it is that I've been loved and respected by rappers, country Western, and rock'n'roll singers throughout my career. They're like, "man, we know you, and we love your music."
Sometimes they even start singing your songs. You might be backstage with Aerosmith, showing how universal southern soul is. Despite having the power to push a button and put a machine behind it, the major labels never gave it a chance. Your music is only as good as the machine that's placed behind it. I'm referring to marking, promotions, and things like that.
We never had that chance. We always relied on our fan base to keep our music generalized, but to tell you the truth, the Southern Soul fan base is more substantial than most of the genres supported by the major labels. Major labels are moved by money and machines. The machine is our fan base, and it's in the millions. They never gave it a chance.
When you think about the difference between the West Coast and the South, in the South, there is more of a sense of community where people fellowship, share food, and go to church together. West Coast living is vastly different, where everybody is rushing, moving, and trying and get things quickly fast in a hurry. Many people in the West Coast are all about themselves. At least, that's what I find in California culture. The South is more supportive of one another. Right?
I always say, " the difference between those that make it and those who don't is support." No matter what you do, you need support. So, it's great to know that you are now getting that. It's a beautiful thing. Yeah, it's a beautiful thing. Even with our situations, we're back in contact with powerful entities with a machine to put behind what we're doing. Remember, the company is all about numbers.
For example, there may be an artist with 50,000 followers on Instagram, but it could look better to people with two million. So, what they'll do is give the money to the artist that has two million followers. Now, the person that has six thousand is the one that has "true-million" fans that buy the company's product.
Now they're like, "we are shocked, Charles, you only have 50,000 followers, but 5 million people Just bought your music." Then we look and laugh about those types of things. That's the true definition of Southern Soul and them sleeping on something.
That's why one can't gauge an artist's talent, worth, and range of support based on social media likes. For example, I watch videos on YouTube and social media platforms, many of which I enjoy, but sometimes I forget to hit the like button. Right. From the perspective of the majors, it appears we are not attracting big numbers, but that is far from reality. Unfortunately, many artists who draw massive amounts of social media likes promote violence and exploit our black sisters. It's what they support. It's unbelievable.
You’re correct. Based on what you shared, as an adult recording artist, what is your responsibility to our younger generation? Feed them clean music. Educate them that all music does not need to contain cursing, violence, or vulgar slurs directed at women.
When God comes to carry me home, I want to go to my grave, saying I've done this right. Instead of advocating violence, I have maintained a clean image, recorded clean music, and tried to teach the youth something right.
Yes, absolutely. Many artists claim that they are not responsible for the children of others. However, in a way, you are responsible. When God allows you to have a platform, you should positively use that platform to impact the world for good.
Whenever artists record music, they must realize that three and four-year-olds may get ahold of that music. It's our responsibility as adults not to let our younger generation down because they are watching us whether you want to believe it or not. Whatever we teach them, when we get older, that's the world that we're going to have to live in. so teach them well, or you'll regret your elderly years living in the world that you taught them how to create. Right. Being a southern artist, I can walk into a supermarket in the ghetto or go just about anywhere, and people know and love Sir Charles Jones. That positive energy flows off into those people. They love that I'm saying something positive out of my mouth, which makes me feel good when I walk away. I love that many young kids around me sit down and listen to me talk about something positive. And when I ask them about their school, family, and things like that, they give me an intelligent answer. That gives me the energy to keep doing what I do.
That's wonderful to hear how positively you're impacting our younger generation. You've affected so many to the point that you have been dubbed "The King of Southern Soul." You're also working on expanding yourself musically. Tell me about that. Well, it was more of me asking God to show me the proper time He wanted me to collaborate. I have always wanted to team up and have a relationship with many prominent artists, from hip-hop to R&B and pop. Although they know and love Sir Charles, I wouldn't work with them at first because I wanted to finish cleaning up my lane to ensure that my side of the industry was adaptable to create with them.
When there are things you want to do but you don't know how to approach them. That's when you have to give yourself the time and space to figure out what you're supposed to do.
So, God sent a person to me, Darrell "Delite" Allamby. He goes by the name "Delite." That's his middle name. Many people are unaware that Darrell is a super producer responsible for the music of Gerald Levert, The LSG project, Janet Jackson, Tamar Braxton, Silk, The Isley Brothers, and many other big-hit songs.
Seeing a humble person within me, he admired the power of my voice, and we met one day. Upon meeting, he said, "Man, I would love to work with you." I was like, bro, if you could show me how this could work, I would love to work with you. It would be an honor for me to listen to you. So, he studied my style, put the newer market sound of R&B and hip hop inside, and made it work. He also let me contribute lyrically to the song in the southern soul style. Not only did I write a bit of southern soul but of his type of music also.
He was shocked that I was as equally yoked and talented as he was. God gave me the answer to tell me, "You found yourself; you found the way to do it; now go do it, son. The two of us have been working together for a couple of years, and we've come up with a great plan that I could move up a step but keep southern soul, and we're going to call this great new project "Genesis."
Who are some of the artists you have worked with throughout your career? Jetter Jones (he's a protege of mine), LaTasha Scott from the group "Escape (She's incredibly talented and fun to work with), Bootsy Collins, Raheem Devaughn, Frankie Beverly, and maze. Frankie Beverly is my hero and mentor. I emulate him.
Great story. To date, how many CD’s have you released, and tell me about Genisis. Wow, I think this album will be my 15th release. We called this album "Genesis" because it's a new beginning of a chapter in my life. It combines Southern