Welcome to the second edition of the IMF Artist Profile, a series dedicated to the Indie Music Feedback community. The goal of this series is to take a look at the personal lives of some of IMF’s biggest contributors, giving you a peek into who they are as human beings. We’ll pull back the curtain as far as our guests allow and hopefully we will all walk away with a better understanding of the music these individuals are creating as we learn more about them.
This week I am excited to share some details about one of the more elusive contributors in the IMF community, TrexJones. Despite being a huge name among IMF users, Trex spends most of his time working hard to get the word out about other artists on his podcast, Stay Creative. In this inspirational and informative series Trex interviews IMF Artists and discusses the nuances of their production process, what drives them creatively, and so much more. Despite all of that, we know so little about the man himself! With that in mind, today we’re going to bridge that gap and get into the head, and the life, of one Barabbas T. Jones.
TrexJones, as we know him in the IMF discord, shares a first name with yours truly. Chris has been happily married to his wife Carrie since December of 2013. Together with their baby girl Phoebe, they live in Whites Creek, Tennessee in the good ole USA. For his day job, Chris does in-home and remote tech support for places like County Clerks all across the US.
Now onto the questions:
Baaz: What inspired you to begin the Stay Creative podcast? For those who might not know, tell us the story of how you got to this point.
TrexJones: I believe a few things are essential to experiencing our humanity to the fullest. I won’t go into every detail of those beliefs here but I will say I have always felt creativity is one of those things. Because of that belief, I have long held an idea of making a show where people could discuss and share creative thoughts both artistic and more “every day”. I feel creativity plays an essential role in being a good communicator, problem-solver, or leader in the same ways it sets songwriters, painters, or filmmakers apart from their peers. I wanted to capture those truths for people who felt incapable of creating art or unworthy of turning their inner thoughts and feelings into outer works of beauty.
I also believe a person can only know themselves by knowing and being known by others. In addition to creativity, and often acting synergistically with it, community plays a very large part of The Stay Creative Podcast. If it had not been for the IMF group welcoming me, accepting me, and encouraging me to give my weird interview show a try amongst its members I would still be walking around with an unrealized idea. I will forever be grateful for the folks who volunteered for these first episodes as I continue to learn how this idea works best in action. I do not take their trust lightly, I feel a true sense of responsibility for each person who shares their art and soul with me on the show and takes pride in becoming a sort of mega fan of their work in the process of preparing for our conversation.
A 3rd aspect of the inspiration of the show has been meeting so many talented artists who are going unnoticed by the world at large. It is a shame I will more than likely never hear Somewhat Incognito, Striped McCoy, or S² on the radio, so I am trying to do my part in making a better radio. These artists and human beings deserve to be seen, appreciated, and their talent and willingness to share their souls celebrated. I love taking part in that.
Baaz: What do you see as the end goal for Stay Creative?
TrexJones: I find I am best at most things when I stay focused on the quality of the thing, and I can truly only do that by staying present in this moment with the project. I have some short term goals for the show including a 2nd season filled with more wonderful artists, some promotional efforts, and new ways to keep the content fresh.
But, if I take a moment right now to dream I would love to make the show a force for artist promotion and encouragement that puts out episodes multiple days a week with multiple hosts bringing their own unique backgrounds into play. Something I never dreamed of and have loved more than I can express is the wide array of folks who have been on the show. Of the 7 episodes and 8 guests, half have been from outside my own home country. There is a famous quote about travel being the enemy of hate and since I have to be at my desk every Monday I can’t do much traveling, but if this show can continue making the world a smaller place by bringing people of different backgrounds together around our common love of art then I will count it as more successful than I ever hoped for.
Baaz: You’ve mentioned Dungeons and Dragons in chat a few times and have discussed your love for the game many times. I personally feel that our hobbies can help define who we are as people. Can you tell us if playing DND has influenced your life in any way? Your music?
TrexJones: If Creativity and Community are essential parts of being human then we should all be playing DND! DND is a wonderful, fun, social, and at times very therapeutic hobby. As the Dungeon Master (That’s kind of the leader of the team storytelling experience) I get to provide my players with challenges that both echo and poke fun at real-life problems, anxieties, or fears. Because of DND, I am never without something creative to work on, I am a world builder with a responsibility to care for the people who live in my world. When my friends play a DND story I have planned for them they are not only trusting me with their time but a small representation of their own ego that lives in a world of magic and monsters. I believe there is something valuable for everyone to find by playing a game where you and your friends get to be the heroes. Our world needs more heroes in it and each time I play DND I walk away feeling a little more ready to face the dragons of addiction, fear, and pride in my own life.
Baaz: Your musical roots on BandCamp are pretty far from the work you’ve been putting in on SoundCloud lately. From what I heard on BandCamp, your previous work covers a range of indie/punk rock and then a more jam-band/folk style work. The consistent theme I found throughout is that it’s all pretty raw and emotional and (for the most part) has a politically-focused narrative. Do you feel that this is reflective of that time in your life, and are you still a politically impassioned person today?
TrexJones: A song I love has the line “A punk rock song won’t ever change the world, but I can tell you about a couple that changed me” (Fuck Shit Up -Wingnut Dishwasher Union). At a certain age, I realized the most politically effective thing I could be wasn’t loud and violent, but disciplined and compassionate. I looked at the world and saw folded arms and plugged ears and decided “Real punk rejects this too”. So now, I call bullshit when I see it, I fight for the innocent when I can, and I try to shut my mouth about the world when nobody asks. I grew up with a certain set of challenges that gave me eyes to see others who suffer. And the older I get the more I see the suffering seems to come in patterns. I long to see an end to these patterns, but I have come to believe the way to do this is through loving the individuals I can exactly as they are, seeing most villains as a different form of the victim, and doing my best to help them love themselves enough to escape the cycle of pain-in and hurt-out that they never wanted to be in. I am still political but with my heart instead of my fists.
Baaz: I’ve heard you discuss your family on multiple occasions in such a way that makes me feel like they are the center of your universe. How have they influenced your work both musically and with the podcast itself?
TrexJones: I feel like I could truly go on forever about the topic of my family, my wife specifically is, in more ways than one, the reason Barabbas T-Rex Jones exists. My first songs were all love-letters to her, she keeps me inspired, motivated to practice and improve, and goes out of her way to be sure I have time to sneak out to my shed and make whatever noise I have rattling around in my chest, including an hour each week to record the show. Which is no small task now that we are parents! I believed my life was as complete as it could have ever been as a happily married guy, but being a parent with my wife has given more of us to one another than we knew existed before. And as far as my daughter goes, I have never in my life been more motivated to make this world a better place and myself a better person than when I look at her. I discovered what my arms were for by holding her, I discovered what my voice longed to do by singing to her, and I discovered why my heart continues finding reasons to believe things can get better when I tell her, “I promise I will give you a good life, not easy, but good”. If I can write a song that feels like that I’ll be done and until then I’ll keep trying.
Baaz: In preparing for this profile, we briefly discussed your name Barabbas. You mentioned it was extremely important and meaningful for you. Can you please share with us, other than this being a super badass and awesome name, what is the significance for you? Is this your birth name?
TrexJones: It is not my birth name but if I ever move to a town where no one knows me I may tell them it is! I grew up in a small town near Nashville, TN. Bible belt Christianity was the pervasive culture and for a time I joined in, I wanted to be one of the “good people”, my middle and high school years were spent believing that because I wasn’t a homosexual or Muslim I was “better” than other human beings who were. Between witnessing hate and hypocrisy in my early 20s, I walked away from all of that. I decided if God wanted to send me to hell for caring about people more than what the preacher said then I’d go to hell. I’d say I was some sort of agnostic, believing there was a goodness and a power behind reality but not believing it had anything to do with the bible or any religion people had figured out. “Spiritual but not religious” I believe is the cliche.
I will not go into every step of the journey here in my answer (but will always talk more about this part of my life to interested folks), but I will say about 3 years ago, I, a half-ass Buddhist who loved Sufi poetry, and my wife, a woman of faith, walked into a church where the people didn’t treat me like an outsider. They treated me like family. They saw, loved, and respected the people who my previous church background taught me were lesser, they made their mission to make the community better, and when I tried to find out why, I found a Jesus I never heard of in all my years in Bible Belt, TN.
So over the next year or so I stopped using words like “Universe” and “Power” and started saying “God” again. At some point, after that, I felt compelled to change my artist name from Geronimo T. Jones to Barabbas T. Jones. In the bible, Barabbas was a murderer who was set free from execution, and Jesus was killed in his place. So with the entire bible being the story of God rescuing his people from the darkness, this one character stood as a literal representation of the first to receive such a rescue. Undeserving, unable to repay, and forever changed by the killing of an innocent man. Just like me.