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Fresh Coast Creatives: Finding a musical home with Tim Jones

In this episode of Fresh Coast Creatives, Max Howard goes backstage at the Garden Theater in Frankfort to talk with singer-songwriter Tim Jones.

Tim works for the non-profit restoring the space to its former glory. They recently put in a new curtain. “It still is like a work in progress,” said Tim.

Tim has performed on this stage many times, but before living in Frankfort, Tim was writing songs in the studios of country artists in Nashville.

“My big drive used to be that I want to be in the Songwriters Hall of Fame,” said Tim.

But that’s not so much his dream any more.

Tim has this kind of warmth that feels a mix of Southern Hospitality and California chill. He looks like it too. On stage he’ll wear those western shirts with the pointed collar – but there’s an LA feel to it. Maybe it's the yellow lens on his wire rimmed glasses.

Tim was fourteen when his dad gifted him an electric guitar. From there, Tim played around Indianapolis, his hometown, with a band he formed with his high school friends.

“We were going to New York when I was 20 years old to showcase for these record labels,” said Tim. “And a few months after that. We signed with Sony.”

His band, Old Pike, released their first record in 1997 which then had them touring for the better part of a decade.

“And then Napster hit,” said Tim, “and the record labels started losing all this revenue.” File sharing started to become ubiquitous and ate away at record label profits.

“We were like the last blast of people getting quarter-of-a-million dollar record contracts and big expense budgets,” said Tim.

In 2001, Old Pike disbanded. After that, Tim moved to Los Angeles to try and start a solo career.

“And when I got to Los Angeles, I suddenly realized there are just as many people who came from all over the rest of the country who maybe are better looking, and can sing better and definitely play their instruments better,” said Tim.

Tim was sending songs to producers and networking, but in the meantime, had taken a day job at a bar he used to visit with his band.

One night, the Grammys were playing in the bar and the band Train was up. Tim had toured with them before.

“That was a low point,” Tim said, “because I was like, oh my god they're winning a Grammy. I was just on tour with them and now here I am carrying buckets of ice on each arm.”

A few years later, Tim joined another band which had him move from LA to Nashville. He was touring and eventually found himself writing for other artists. Tim was writing songs and playing music he was proud of, but he had been doing it for a long time.

“I had been creating and feeling this pressure to create,” said Tim, “even when I did enjoy it, I was like a hamster on a wheel.”

When Covid hit, Tim and his wife, Katie, were able to hit pause. They started looking around, seeing what jobs were out there when Katie found a job opportunity – Executive Director at the Garden Theater.

At first, Tim wasn’t so sure about the move.

“We drove up and drove through Bear Lake for the first time,” said Tim. “And I was like, oh my god, this is where we're gonna live now. And there was a certain part of me that was kind of terrified.”

Tim’s life did get a little slower. “I had no gigs,” said Tim. “I had no shows. I had no songwriting appointments. It was scary, but I had never been happier in real life.”

There’s a group of friends Tim gets together with every summer at Watervale Inn – near Heron Lake which is where Tim and Katie got married.

“And they just sit around and play music,” said Tim. “And somebody's like, when's the last time you just got together and played music for fun? And I couldn't remember. So, after living in Music City, USA, I had literally stopped playing music for the reason that I started playing music, which was pure joy, and fun and playing with your friends.”

Nowadays, Tim can be found playing music at the Alluvion or Lake Anne Brewing and even the Garden Theater, but for Tim, it feels different.

“I think there's something in the water up here. I really think it's a unique place,” said Tim. “I feel like art and magic and connectivity is more easy for me to see and feel and understand in northern Michigan.”

Support for Fresh Coast Creatives comes from the Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network, inviting you to warm up with the arts this winter, and through an award from Michigan Arts & Culture Council.