Music to move mountains ... and trees

Justin Brake
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Jon Janes making his mark on music industry

Jon Janes is proof that ingenuity and a little determination can go a long way in the music biz.

As sole musical proprietor of The Mountains and The Trees, the 25-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist from Pasadena is amassing a sound bigger than the band itself - due in part to his loop and layer technique, but also to the fact that the band, at times, is Janes, his floral design suitcase drum, and a handful of instruments.

With recent performances at the North By Northeast indie music festival in Toronto, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's, and upcoming gigs at the Toronto International Film Festival and Canadian Music Week 2010, Janes and his music are garnering some welcomed attention.

Multi-instrumentalist Jon Janes is the driving force behind The Mountains and The Trees. - Submitted photo

Jon Janes is proof that ingenuity and a little determination can go a long way in the music biz.

As sole musical proprietor of The Mountains and The Trees, the 25-year-old singer and multi-instrumentalist from Pasadena is amassing a sound bigger than the band itself - due in part to his loop and layer technique, but also to the fact that the band, at times, is Janes, his floral design suitcase drum, and a handful of instruments.

With recent performances at the North By Northeast indie music festival in Toronto, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in St. John's, and upcoming gigs at the Toronto International Film Festival and Canadian Music Week 2010, Janes and his music are garnering some welcomed attention.

Having birthed a number of semblances since its 2006 inception, The Mountains and The Trees began its recent storm of the St. John's music scene in the form of a folk-pop trio featuring bassist Paddy Byrne and singer-guitarist Jill Freeman.

Speaking to The Telegram after the band's performance at the folk festival Sunday afternoon, Janes' disposition is relatively subdued given the recent onslaught of big-gig invites.

A self-promoter and manager of his own accord, he doesn't acknowledge luck as a variable - not even a little bit of luck.

"For every larger gig I get there's probably two or three that I don't," says Janes.

"It's all about understanding that you can't have everything all the time, at once. You've got to pace yourself and just keep trying."

Citing Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden as a major influence, Janes opts for a folky approach to his music, penning lyrics about relationships, life events like leaving a small town and moving into a new apartment in the city, and, as his stage name might suggest, nature.

On first listen, his melancholic tone might be best suited to stories of heartbreak and sadness, but as many of the songs unfold into layers of looping instruments it fastens into a unique union of voice and music that has become a distinct Mountains and Trees sound.

To keep his musical ventures interesting and challenging, Janes says he takes the same approach to playing as Calgary indie musician Chad VanGaalen, continually picking up new instruments rather than devote his time solely to his guitar, mandolin or banjo.

"I'll never be quite the banjo player that Tom Power is, or quite the guitar player that Duane Andrews is," he says.

"Actually, I've never really even called myself a guitar player. I started playing drums, but it's just one of those things where it's an effort to give a full and unique sound, and to give the audience something different to come see.

"I've got four limbs. Why can't I use them all?" he laughs.

The first recording from The Mountains and The Trees emerged as an EP in 2006 called "Paper or Plastic," followed by "Document," a studio session featuring Janes, his acoustic guitar and harmonica.

A Music NL demo grant in December 2008 led to the band's most recent effort, "Hop, Skip, and a Jump," a four song EP that Janes has been handing out at concerts.

The next step is a full-length record that he and the band plan to take to the East Coast Music Award festivities next year in Cape Breton, where they hope to perform.

"I want to take my time with this," he says.

"One of my favourite albums is Hayden's 'In Field & Town' and that took three years to make. I'm not saying I want to take three years, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to take a season or two."

If the determination that helped land Janes the handful of festival and industry gigs works pulls through on the next album, which he says he doesn't have the funding for yet, then it's likely The Mountains and The Trees will be a name to look out for on the local and mainland music scenes.

The Mountains and The Trees host Folk Night at The Ship tonight. Show time is 9 p.m.

For more information, visit the band's web site at www.rockandroots.com.

Organizations: The Trees, Canadian Music Week 2010, Field & Town

Geographic location: Toronto, St. John's, Pasadena Newfoundland and Labrador Calgary Cape Breton

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