Derek Jones isn’t one to stick to any formulas. Instead, he’s one to write from his heart, which will determine the sound of his songs. With his forthcoming EP Last of a Dying Breed, set for release on March 12, Jones will offer five new songs of division, chivalry, addictions and more, which sonically run the gamut between country, southern rock and everywhere in between.
Last of a Dying Breed follows Jones’ greatest success to date, 2018’s Pray, an EP that landed him atop of the Amazon country music chart and in the top 10 on iTunes, as well as a single, “Cold as a Stone,” which is quickly closing in on 500,000 Spotify streams. Though he admittedly holds a bit of fear ahead of his new release and meeting expectations, Jones is equally as excited to offer listeners a chance to connect with the new stories he’s presenting them.
We chatted with Jones about the success of Pray, his nerves ahead of releasing new music, what listeners can expect from Last of a Dying Breed, how he’s staying sane during the pandemic and more!
Pro Country: Your last EP, Pray, hit number one on the Amazon country chart and number seven on the iTunes country chart. What did it mean to you to achieve those milestones and be able to tangibly see the support you had?
Derek Jones: It was definitely crazy. It obviously meant the world to me. To be honest, I never thought it would happen. I was just excited to put out some new music. At about 8 in the morning, a buddy called me and asked if I saw that I was number 70-something on iTunes, and I had no idea. I started paying attention after that, and I gradually kept going up. It was pretty freaking cool, to be honest. It meant the world to me to have such a good fan base to take me to the top of the charts.
PC: Your single “Cold as a Stone” from Pray has earned nearly 500,000 Spotify streams. What do you think it is about that song that has allowed it to connect with listeners the way it has?
DJ: That’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. I think people can connect to that song. It’s such a different song, but to be honest, I don’t know what it is about that song that’s allowed it to do that. It’s gotten tons of spins, and I hope people can keep connecting to it and keep spinning it!
PC: After having the success you had with Pray and “Cold as a Stone,” is there a level of pressure you felt, internally or externally, to match or surpass it with your forthcoming EP Last of a Dying Breed?
DJ: There is definitely a certain pressure that comes with it. It’s scary, because when you have an album that does what Pray did, when you’re ready to put something else out, you just hope that it’s as well-received as the one before. It’s scary to put out new music, especially because I write the stuff myself and it’s stuff that I’ve been through. It’s another factor when you put your heart and soul into it and you allow people into your own personal life through your music.
PC: What went into the decision to release “Everybody’s Somebody” as the lead single from Last of a Dying Breed?
DJ: We had sat on that song for about a year. I wrote that with James LeBlanc, who also wrote “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” for Travis Tritt. We were doing a songwriters fest together a couple years ago, and we decided to go to a studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama to write. We threw a million things at the wall to see what would stick, and at the end of the session, I was going through a lot of the notes on my phone, and I said the phrase “everybody’s somebody.” He stopped me in my tracks and we wrote that song.
In the last couple years, we’ve seen our country come to a great divide. I’ve never seen anything like it; we’re so divided right now. I remember telling my manager, Patrick, that it was a good time to release the song, get it out there and see how it does. I just felt like people can relate to it, and maybe it can shed a little light on everything that is going on with the division in the country.
PC: You also have the song “Last of a Dying Breed” available, which is one of two songs on its EP that you were a solo writer on. Can you talk about the inspiration behind the song?
DJ: You hear people say that chivalry is dead, but I believe that’s false. I believe they are still people that practice chivalry; I know I do. I was shopping with my girl, Megan, and everywhere we go, I try to hold the door for her; just trying to be the man my parents raised. We were getting in the car and I held the door for her, and these two women came up, knocked on my window and scared me half to death, so I rolled my window down and they said to Megan that she had a good man because they saw me hold the door for her and how they didn’t see much of that these days. I told Megan that chivalry isn’t dead, and she said that she kind of felt like it was, and then I’m the last of a dying breed, and that’s where it came from [laughs].
PC: What went into the decision to make “Last of a Dying Breed” the title track on its EP?
DJ: I love that song, and I love that it’s a hard-hitting song. I love that it explains exactly who I am. I stand up for the things I believe in and I always fight for what I think is right. I think that was the main deciding factor.
PC: To that point, “Last of a Dying Breed” is that heavy hitting song, and is a bit different sonically from “Everybody’s Someone.” Is that sonic versatility something you pay attention to as you put together your releases and sequence them out?
DJ: For sure. You hear records all the time, and it feels like if you listen to five, six or seven songs, and they have the same vibe or feel. They blend too well. I feel like this record is a bit like a quilt; there’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. There’s a song on there called “Black Cloud” that is completely off the wall of stuff that I’ve ever recorded. And then you listen to a song like “Nature of the Beast,” and it’s such a dark, heavy song. And then there’s “Last of a Dying Breed” with a rocking, in-your-face kind of vibe. There’s a little bit of everything on this EP, and I like it that way. I want people to be surprised. I like the shock factor when putting things together.
PC: You mentioned what people can expect to hear on Last of a Dying Breed, but what do you hope people take away from the EP after listening all the way through?
DJ: I just hope people connects to it. I hope people listen to it, and I hope this record shines light on some heavy subjects. I hope that they believe in me and believe in what I sing and write, and I hope they come back and keep supporting my music.
PC: Along with releasing Last of a Dying Breed, what are your plans for 2021?
DJ: I’m hoping that the shows I have booked stick around. I just had my second daughter,, so I’m going to enjoy the time I have at home with my kids and Megan. Once I’m back on the road, it’s go time, but for now, I’m just going to chill, write and get ready for the rest of the year.
PC: What has the adjustment of many performances being canceled and uncertainty about others been like for you? How were you able to stay busy and stay sane?
DJ: Honestly, I really struggled mentally. It was really mentally taxing when you spend 15 years to get to the point where you call music your full-time job. I was living the dream, things were great, and then all of a sudden, covid-19 hit. 90% of my shows got cancelled or rescheduled, and then we just had to be creative and find ways to stay busy. I started doing a lot of live streams on Facebook, going to different theaters and doing streams from the theaters that were completely empty, which was eerily and oddly amazing. That was during the first couple months, and then about six or seven months into it, it really started to take a toll on me mentally. I’m a guy that likes to provide for my family, and I wasn’t able to do that financially because everything was getting canceled. I’ve had my CDL for almost 20 years, and I decided I was going to go back to work part-time. I started driving a dump truck again, and that’s how I’ve kept busy and stayed sane. I do that about two or three days a week to keep me going.
*Derek’s music is featured on The Best of Pro Country playlist!*