Southern Harmony

Becoming a Gulf Coast Girl

By Pam Windsor | Photography courtesy of Tyler Lord

Her love of opera and all-things-music led singer-songwriter Caroline Jones to unexpectedly find a niche in country music.

Caroline Jones’ dedication to her craft shines through every time she takes the stage. In recent years she’s toured with Zac Brown, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet, the Eagles and Vince Gill, mesmerizing crowds with her powerful voice and ability to play multiple instruments. 

The talented singer, songwriter, and guitarist began wanting to learn to play additional instruments after spending time in some of the recording studios in Nashville. 

“I was blown away by the musicianship and the prowess of the studio musicians there,” she recalls. “I got really into production and that inspired me to pick up more instruments because I was hearing parts I wanted to play.”

At the time, she was doing a lot of solo acoustic shows and felt if she played more instruments, it would broaden her appeal. 

“So, I picked up banjo and slide guitar, and put piano and harmonica in my show to make it more interesting and diverse. And ever since, I’ve been really in love with the pursuit of instrumental acumen and musicianship.”

Jones has been pursuing her love of all-things-music for a long time. She was just nine years old, growing up in Connecticut, when she began singing and studying opera. She’d already found herself jotting down words and phrases and one day discovered the value in merging them together.  

“I realized I could put all of these stories and words to music,” she recalls. “And I never wanted to do anything else after that. So, I was writing songs and going to performing arts schools in New York.”

Her introduction to country music came later, when her then-manager invited her to Nashville for the first time.

“I went down to Nashville and just fell in love with country music, which I hadn’t grown up listening to or been familiar with. It was kind of the missing piece of my style and my artistry musically speaking. I fell in love with Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Vince Gill.”

Jones worked non-stop on writing songs, crafting her own style, and building an independent music career. She began touring schools and colleges and met her current manager and co-producer Ric Wake. (Wake produced Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and others.) Last year they put out an album called “Bare Feet” and this month will release her new EP. “Chasin’ Me” has six songs including the title track that came out in April, followed by a second song called “Gulf Coast Girl” released in July.”

“Gulf Coast Girl” is a fun, upbeat song that has special meaning because it was written by Jimmy Buffett and Mac McAnally, who are friends and strong supporters of Jones. Those two, along with Kenny Chesney and Lukas Nelson, are all featured on the song as the “The Pelicanaires.”

Buffett first met Jones at a benefit show in Tallahassee after Hurricane Irma tore through Florida. He’d heard positive things about her, but says he was taken aback when he watched her open the show. He was impressed with her stage presence and the way she interacted with the audience.

“McAnally and I were interested in working with her and wanted to come up with a ‘feel good’ song that would do the same on the beaches and lakes thousands of miles away from the beach I grew up on,” says Buffett.

Jones, who now calls Florida home, thoroughly enjoyed shooting the video. Scenes were filmed in Mobile, Apalachicola, Destin, Pensacola, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Biloxi, Galveston, and New Orleans, but her part was shot along the sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. In the video she’s shown walking barefoot, driving a convertible down the coast, and strumming a guitar on the pier. 

“I had the best time!” she says. “That part of the world is so special. The beaches are gorgeous and the people are so nice.”

Although Jones has been working as a professional musician for more than a decade, she’s seen her career take on new momentum since she began opening shows for Zac Brown, Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney and others. She’s grateful to Brown who was the first to invite her to join him on tour. 

“It was a big honor and a huge step for my career. I mean, I really owe my career thus far to Zac and Jimmy and Kenny for taking me under their wings, supporting me, mentoring me, and introducing me to their fan bases.”

She’s excited about her new “Chasin Me’ EP which will be released on October 18. It will give her a chance to share new music with those who know her and introduce her to others who may not be familiar with her yet. It’s the just latest step in a lifelong journey to keep making music and doing what she loves. 

“I really just want to be a great musician, songwriter, producer, and performer,” she says. “I’m so blessed to get to do it on a bigger and bigger scale.”

Read More in DeSoto Magazine online.