Alternative pop artist Minhee Jones’ track “6 Feet” discloses a motley of ways people can distract themselves from reality. Aside from being a songwriter and a multi-instrumentalist, Jones teamed up with Fender, Ford and Co-op Food to break three Guinness World Records in 2019.
They played concerts in 51 cities in seven days to raise money and awareness for Music Venue Trust. It is significant to indicate that they accomplished this achievement without any booking agent, manager or record label.
Jones is originally from Los Angeles and is now based in London. She spent most of her life being “a sort of walking identity-crisis.” However, she said that by being an artist and a songwriter, she finally figured out her passion for music and discovered her identity.
Jones was a piano prodigy and started playing popular melodies by ear on her parents’ purely decorative upright. She was only four years old with no musical instruction.
“Neither of my parents are musical, so they got me classical piano lessons with an amazing instructor. He taught me all the greats, but also would write and compose with me even from that age,” Jones said. “I was very lucky to have studied with him. I don’t get much time to play classical anymore, but I really miss it and wish I’d stuck with it more.”
The Janelle Monae-inspired artist said that her daily routine is slightly different due to the coronavirus pandemic. After waking up, she answers her emails and social media messages and runs for about an hour. When she returns, she looks over her constantly evolving list of things she needs to work on and tries to accomplish them.
“Today, those will probably be this very interview, a socially-distanced Weezer cover video I am doing with my drummer Jasmin Guevara, finalizing the demo and lyrics for my latest song and coming up with a production plan for it, figuring out a marketing plan and video idea for my next single, taking my dog for a walk, doing some social media outreach and promotion, revamping my livestream set and the list goes on and on.”
Jones revealed that her songwriting process is much more of a pattern than a formula. She typically will have an idea pop into her head and record it in a voice memo afterward. The singer mentioned that it is usually a melody and a partial lyric with a beat or chord progression.
“It has happened quite a few times in a dream while I was asleep. I’ll wake up and quickly get it down and go back to sleep. Then, I will go to my keyboard and get the basic idea down,” Jones said.
At that point, the rest of the song usually just flows out, and she will get most of the song done by then. Afterward, she revisits it daily for a week to revise lyrics and tweak the melody until she is satisfied with it while making a basic demo.
“Sometimes that’s as far as it gets for months before I am ready to take it to the production step. Other times, like with ‘6 Feet,’ the song is so topical and apt for the moment that I immediately record and release it.”
The idea for her song “6 Feet” emerged early this year when she was feeling a bit down and was thinking about self-medication as a way of escaping her reality.
“The melody and lyric ‘Potions make you feel ok, get you through the day’ popped into my head over that chord progression. I got to the first draft stage of it then kind of left it for a while,” Jones said.
When the pandemic and lockdowns struck, the singer said the song felt so apropos. As a result, she dove back in and reworked the verse lyrics to apply what everyone is going through at the time — self-medicating in homes, whether it was with booze, drugs, chocolate or Netflix to distract themselves from the global pain of COVID-19.
Jones mentioned that the most important words in the song were, “Will we dance and share sweat to the music we love or stay 6 feet apart, pretend screens are enough?” for two reasons.
“One, we were already moving into this more reclusive and screen-based way of life before the pandemic hit, and now that we are forced into it, I fear we will trick ourselves into thinking it is enough,” Jones revealed. “Secondly, grassroots live music was already suffering before the pandemic, and I think music overall will suffer if that dies out further.”
The singer continued, “Also, it’s just a line of yearning really. There is nothing like the magic of being lost in a sea of people at a festival all screaming along to the same song live, and I miss it dearly.”
Jones exclaimed that the final version of “6 Feet” had a much dreamier sound and feel than her demo. It wasn’t what she originally visualized, but she ended up loving it.
“That’s what I love so much about working with another producer. I have an idea in my head, and they put their spin on it. It’s never exactly what I had in mind, which is a wonderful thing,” Jones said.
The singer broke three Guinness World Records in December 2019. She wanted to spread awareness to the plight of grassroots music venues that were struggling even before this pandemic.
“They are so important to music as a whole, and I really do think the quality of music will suffer if they are allowed to die out,” Jones said.
She continued, “The record-breaking gig for “Most Concerts in Multiple Cities in 24 Hours” was pretty unforgettable! We had done 12 gigs in 12 cities that day starting at seven a.m. in Oxford and ending at two a.m. in Manchester.”
All of the shows were on razor-thin time margins. Jones said that the crowd and staff at Rebellion in Manchester were so amazing, and everyone was jumping up and down and singing along. “I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Jones said that her upcoming EP later this year has five songs, which were all recorded at Black Bay Studio way up on the super remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland.
“Peter Fletcher owns the studio, and he and I spent a week playing with all of the awesome musical toys he’s got in there to create a truly unique sound — everything from a rugged Rhodes to analog synths to a vintage harmonium,” Jones revealed.
Her favorite track is “TTHT,” and she has a feeling that it will be the first single even though others are saying “Silly Girls” — a retro-tinged feminist anthem — sounds more like “the single.”
Jones confessed that she took so long to create meaningful music because she tried to please everyone else and abide by the industry’s definition of “popular.”
“I put that before myself when I was writing, so I ended up with something that was halfway true,” Jones said. “Just make the music you want to make because you want to make it. Also, make sure you always warm up before you sing!”
Contact Ron Rocky Coloma at rcoloma ‘at’ stanford.edu.