From the Music Mind of Jonathan Scales

From the Music Mind of Jonathan Scales

Jonathan Scales is a unique musician that has elevated the steel pans from its traditional roots to an innovative lead instrument that guides his jazz fusion trio to a sound that is new and exciting. Guided by his pages of intricate sheet music, Scales has become a world renown composer and band leader that has redefined the expectations of his signature instrument.


Vinyl album with cover showing

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A MUSICIAN?

Music was always around the house growing up. My parents were always playing gospel music & artists like Michael Jackson. My dad was a musician before he joined the army (and is now getting back into music after retirement). My mom was in the church’s gospel choir and she would take me to rehearsals. My dad also had a lot of random music textbooks and old scores from his college days that I would find on the bookshelf and I just thought it all was so cool to look at. Then I signed up for band class when I got to 6th grade, choosing to play alto saxophone. 

WHAT WAS THE FIRST ALBUM THAT REALLY GRABBED YOU?

WHAT WERE THE SPECIFIC THINGS ABOUT THE ALBUM THAT MADE IT SPECIAL FOR YOU?

When I was in the 2nd grade, for some reason I was really into reggae/dancehall music. My mom let me pick out a cassette tape and, not knowing what it was, I picked out an album called “Queen of the Pack” by Patra. If you don’t know about the ‘90s dancehall queen Patra, look her up. As an 8 year old, I absolutely loved the music, though in hindsight I was far too young to understand the suggestive themes! That being said, my parents never censored the music I listened to, even at that young age, and I’m grateful for it because it helped me to just listen and discover without musical boundaries. 

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GREAT SONG?

It’s all subjective. There is no right or wrong answer to this. Music resonates with people based on their own life experiences, so if a piece of music resonates greatly with you based on your own life experiences, then it’s incontestably the greatest song ever….to you. 

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A GREAT ALBUM?

Part of me wants to have the same answer from the last question for this one, but for me I enjoy track-to-track cohesiveness with regards to  themes, tones, and personnel while also displaying a range of musical styles, concepts, and ideas. 

WHO ARE YOU BIGGEST MUSICAL INSPIRATIONS OF ALL TIME AND CURRENTLY AND WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST OF THEIR DISCOGRAPHIES FOR PEOPLE THAT ARE BEING INTRODUCED TO THEM?

It’s always tough for me to answer questions like this because it’s constantly shifting for me, but off the top of my head, stream-of-consciousness, here are a few musical inspirations: 

Danny Elfman – “The Nightmare Before Christmas” Soundtrack

Béla Fleck & the Flecktones – “Little Worlds”, “Live Art”

Björk – “Selmasongs”

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly” 

Johann Sebastian Bach – “the Brandenburg Concertos” 

Cannonball Adderly – “Somethin’ Else”

Jay Z – “the Black Album” , “Reasonable Doubt” 

Kanye West – “808s & Heartbreak”, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

Erykah Badu – “New Amerykah” Part 1

Lupe Fiasco – “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1”

Shakti – “Saturday Night in Bombay”

Béla Fleck & Edgar Meyer – “Music for Two”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG MUSICIAN THAT WANTS TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN?

Firstly, don’t try to be something that you’re not. Being genuine goes way further than doing what you think is popular or what you think will just make you the most money. Secondly, if you want to be in the music business (making a living from your art) you have to take care of the music AND the business and you have to find the balance between the music and the business that will genuinely work for you. Also on the business end, learn every possible thing you can (from accounting, to video editing, photoshop, booking, etc.) You’ll either save money by doing things yourself, or you’ll know enough about the things to hire the right person and to be able to make sure that the people you hire are doing their jobs effectively. 

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY INSTRUMENT IN THE WORLD GIVEN TO YOU AS A GIFT, WHAT WOULD YOU PICK AND WHY?

Honestly, right now I could use just a basic keyboard that I could connect to my computer for quicker note entry while composing on Finale. Sure, I could get it myself, but if one magically appeared as a gift that would be very efficient and practical. 


Follow Jonathan! https://www.jonscales.com/

Jonathan Scales’ newest release, PILLAR—his sixth album, and fourth release on taste-maker label Ropeadope—is a testament to the grit and tenacity he possesses, while also serving as an introduction of his new, full-time rhythm battery consisting of bassist E’Lon JD and drummer Maison Guidry. These two formidable young lions hold their own in the company of an incredible cast of special guests, including bassists Victor Wooten, Oteil Burbridge and MonoNeon, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, keyboardist Shaun Martin, percussionist Weedie Braimah and banjo pioneer Béla Fleck. It is the inclusion of Béla Fleck on this record that stands out most notably in context of Scales’ own personal story, and in this regard, PILLAR represents a remarkable victory for the music lover inside of the 33-year-old NYC based artist.

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