Iestyn Jones, A.K.A – ‘Rebownder,’ is best known as the long serving columnist with Welsh language newspaper, Y Cymro. This year, Iestyn rekindles one of his first passions – music. Jones first started singing at Eisteddfods, as a youngster. The Welsh festivals of literature, music and performance have been a platform for many Welsh artists over the years, so it’s no surprise that the North-Walian raised son of a Police Sergeant took his first creative steps there. And that’s exactly what Iestyn is – a creative. His inventiveness is based on the life he’s lived – and what a colorful one it’s been so far.
1. Stori Newydd
2. Byw a Bod
3. Hwyl Dda
4. Brand New Story
5. High Times
“At 17-years-old, I found myself in a straightjacket in New York,” Jones reveals. This, he admits, was the, “Catalyst to a lot of things.” “Soon after, while recovering from my unfortunate episode, I sat down one night and wrote a song.” The songs kept coming and soon after he had enough to send a demo to the BBC. He was eventually offered a session and recorded three songs in 2000. The collective he put together was named T-Bone, a schoolboy nickname given to him by his brother after a character from a film they both watched as children. The session aired on BBC Radio Cymru’s youth music program – ‘Gang Bangor.’
After moving to Northampton to find work, he was soon spotted by music producer Trevor Moses who was then signed to Sanctuary Records with electronic dance/garage duo – ‘Bad2 Da Bone.’ Moses was so impressed with Jones’s vocals that he invited him to sing on a track called Love Vibrations.” I thought Moses was all-talk until we went for a meeting with the label at Shepherds Bush, London. The whole set-up down there was on a big scale!” For the final version, Moses opted to cut it with a female vocalist instead and the record deal that seemed so close, got away. Not deterred by this, Iestyn formed a punk band, but the home of this outfit was not North Wales or England – instead Australia. The globetrotting-renaissance man was now soaking up the sun and the sounds of Aussie natives AC/DC, Powderfinger and Cold Chisel. “Australia was a blast, but even while I was out there I knew deep down that I belonged in Wales.”
2014 finds Iestyn, living in Cardiff, sober and more focussed: “I’ve been teetotal coming up to two years. Sobriety brings more clarity. Finding myself in the wrong hotel in Estonia was a wake up call.” He is also about to release new music. The new songs were written with Gavin Thomas, a busker he met in a park, and feature Eric Martin Jnr on guitar. Martin’s dad is musician, producer and one half of Technotronic – who had a worldwide hit with Pump Up The Jam in the late ’80s. These new songs are: “Ones I’d like to hear. Always wanted to make music to be played on radio. Create a body of work I’d like to listen to over and over again,” he says. The themes range from relationships to what the media force-feeds us. “Everything’s about money in this day and age. It’s a materialistic media. You don’t need money to have a good time.”
High Times/Hwyl Dda, off the new EP, is a reggae infused, jaunty number and tells of these, “good times.” The guitar upstrokes set the tone for the upbeat positivity of the lyrics. “Going out and being sociable… It’s about putting a positive spin on a bad experience,” Iestyn puts it.
Another of the cuts from the EP, Stori Newydd/Brand New Story, shows the classic rock influence on his writing. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac recently, but trying to bring my own thing to the table. Brand New Story is very organic and I wanted to add the fusion of piano and acoustic instruments.” And it works! This is a song, which will sit comfortably amongst daytime radio playlists.
So, what are Iestyn’s main aims? “It’s really important to have bilingual albums. If you speak Welsh – use it! But it is also important not to alienate your English only speaking listeners. Nothing will come of singing in one language. Have Welsh and English at gigs. Nice to inspire Welsh learners.” And what about the Eisteddfods – will he be airing the new tracks in Llanelli this year? “I haven’t come this far to just fade away – whether I get invited to play or not – I’m there – I’ll make it happen!”
Iestyn Jones is a survivor and a warm-hearted guy. You can feel this in his music.
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