“I fell in love with it the first time I listened to it,” he says. “It reminded me of when I was a kid growing up in north Florida. Every year, the fair was our big thing we looked forward to in the fall.”
“All my time I spent washing my dad’s 18-wheelers or mowing the grass and making a little bit of money, I was saving it all up to blow it all at the fair. You can’t really do that as a grown-up. Hearing the song just triggered those memories. … I could remember all that stuff — sounds and smells, flirting with girls, showing off for your buddies. I fell in love with it right away.”
During a friendly chat at his record label, Warner Bros. Records in Nashville, Jones talked about his first video, his initial days in Nashville and his natural approach to being a nice guy.
CMT: What do you remember most about filming the video for “Ferris Wheel”?
Jones: Pretty much everything, really. It was my first time making a video. It was an amazing day. I’d say probably riding the Ferris wheel stands out in my mind a lot because I was on it for an hour and a-half! (laughs) … I think they were trying to get it in time with the song. I couldn’t tell because I couldn’t hear what they were saying down there, but that’s what I gathered. … It was cool, though — a great view, an awesome amusement park and a really fun day overall.
Where was the camera while you were on the ride?
They did some shots from down there on the ground, and there was another time where the girl and I were in the cart and [the cameraman] got in the one in front of us. … Another time, all three of us got in the cart, and the camera was right on our faces, like “Just act natural! Don’t mind me!” And the most awkward thing for me, too, was that the girl’s face was just a couple of inches away, and I had to sing in her face over and over and over again. It was kind of funny, and she took it well.
Is your hometown, Wakulla Station, Fla., pretty small?
Yeah, it’s kind of small. It’s a big county, and everything’s kind of spread out. I loved it down there. Everybody else in high school couldn’t wait to move away, but I never really wanted to move away. I liked it there. I loved the woods and being able to go riding a bike through the woods or jump on a four-wheeler or jump off the bridge down the street into the river and go swimming. I loved everything about it.
When did you move to Nashville?
Ten years ago. I dropped out of Florida State early and decided to move up here to try my hand at music. I’d been playing guitar since I was 13. I ended up in a talent competition in Texas and did well. It kinda inspired me to give it a shot.
What do you remember about your first days here?
I was scared! I had a scholarship with three-quarters paid tuition. I was two years and a semester into that already. I was doing well in school, and I left my family behind and left school. I came here, and I didn’t know anybody. I got a job the first week at the Longhorn Steakhouse and found a place to live. Everything was coming together. It’s just that fear in the back of your mind: “Did I make the right choice? How long is this going to take? How long should I be here before I consider moving back home? Or go back to school before I forget everything I’ve learned so far?” (laughs) Seven years ago, I bought a house and made it permanent. I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, so I figured I should stick around.
Was that the Longhorn just off Music Row?
Yeah, that’s the one. I was hosting and waiting tables. It was such a neat place to work. I met so many people. Artists would come in there to eat. …. Publishers, songwriters, producers. It was like a music business haunt. I met a ton of cool people there. … I always remember meeting Phil Vassar there. I waited on him one time with a group of people. Most of the time, when an artist came in for a business meeting or something like that, somebody else always paid for it. Phil was the only one I ever saw pay for it. He actually tipped me for the work I did and took good care of me. Every time he came in there, he always asked how I was doing. He always remembered me. Now, I’ve opened some shows for him, and he remembers all that. He’s a very, very nice guy.
Why do you think it’s important to be a nice guy in this business?
For me, I’m just kind of that way. There’s no need to be any other way. There have been some very notable times in my life that I’ve been nice to somebody, for no specific reason, and down the road, they did something nice for me. There was a publisher one time that met me, and when I got my deal with Warner Bros., she said she found a song she thought would be great for me. Other people at the publisher wanted her to pitch it to another artist, and she said, “I want Jason to hear it first.” And it was all because she met me and liked me, liked my music and thought I was a nice guy. I thought that was really cool. I hope that happens more and more!