Daron Jones, member of R&B collective 112, is much more than your standard musician-turned-hobbyist producer. With several Grammy, Billboard, MTV, Soul Train, BET, and AMA awards and nominations under his belt, as well as over 15 million worldwide album sales, Jones is a man with his fingers in a legion of proverbial pies. Being in one of the more celebrated modern R&B quartets, Daron Jones has also lent his talents, creatively, from everyone to the Isley Bros. to Usher, Pink to the Notorious B.I.G., R.Kelly to Jamie Foxx. Given Jones’ quick rise to the top of the hip-hop/R&B production world, it’s only appropriate that his chronicle fly under the flag of “Success Story,” as what follows is a near-textbook definition of such.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ATLANTA
Jones back story regarding his formative years in the production field? Starting off as a musician primarily, learning both the guitar and piano by ear, Daron used the opportunities allotted to him by being a recording artist to foster his career as a producer. Literally sleeping on the floors of studios used by Bad Boy Records, Jones made the contacts necessary to facilitate his newfound interests in music production. “I was running around and learning a lot from people like Stevie J at Bad Boy and Tim (Kelly) and Bob (Robinson) . . . really learning the production side,” Jones relays with a hint of sentimentality in his voice. “Those are the guys that brought me up.”
Every time Jones got a free moment in the studio at Bad Boy, he was throwing down tracks on the DAT, honing his craft. Under the eye of studio guru Stevie J, Jones spent many a late night session honing his skill. A track ultimately left at Daddy’s House studios, simply labeled “DJ,” ended up in the hands of the Notorious B.I.G. and R. Kelly, a fateful move that propelled Jones from musician to creative collaborator and producer, and started what has proven to be quite an illustrious career that was heralded in by the construction of Jones’ own Atlanta-based studio, DJ Music Studio, which he built in his mother’s basement.
“It’s still there, and it’s still where I work,” Jones shares. “When Keyshia Cole came in to record ‘I Should’ve Cheated,’ the first thing she commented on was how it felt like being at home, and that’s probably because it was in my home.”
Jones likes to keep his studio sparse, running a modest set-up based off of Pro Tools and using a MPC3000, Proteus 2000, Motif keyboard sound module, and a piano (as well as his trusty Triton) to primarily build his tracks. Breaking the studio standard norm, Jones informs us, “I like to keep it simple and not clutter up the space with too much gear. I think it’s important to keep [the room] open enough to get a certain vibe.”
Jones, however, spends a good portion of his time in the studio working alone, enjoying his space. “Nine times out of ten when I’m in the studio, I’m working by myself. A lot of my music and the songs I write are based on concepts, and then the artist I’m working with brings their own style to that concept.”
Concerning Jones proactive approach to the artists he works with, serving as both engineer, producer, and conceptual creative collaborator; it’s much to the benefit of his clients that he has such a strong background as a recording musician. “As a singer myself,” Jones says, “when I’m creating a track, or writing a song, I consider the style and sound of the artist. It’s like being a fashion stylist, you have to know your client and be able to select songs that will fit their style.”
Jones shows no signs of slowing down now either. Fresh out of his sessions with Keyshia Cole’s latest platinum single, a session that he described as “gritty, natural, and passionate,” Jones is gearing up to begin working with Mya, finishing his solo release, and cranking out a new 112 album. This time around, he’s going to continue taking cues from his peers that he most admires. “Today, I admire Dre and Timbaland — Dre for his ability to make great albums, and Timbaland for his sound banks. Those are guys that are doing it.”
“A lot of producers are known for their hit singles, but when I think of Dre, I think of great albums. I really respect him as a producer for his ability to put together full, great albums, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
And we, as well as the rest of the R&B/hip-hop community, will be anxiously awaiting just that.