I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jon Janes, known as stage as The Mountains and the Trees.
Janes was a drummer for 14 years before he got tired of waiting for bands that needed a drummer. “So I bought a mandolin,” Janes said. “That was my intro into acoustic instruments.” He then learned banjo and guitar.
In 2006 he went to the UK for three months, and there he came up with the idea of The Mountains and the Trees. This was not just a stage name, but an all-encompassing name so that Janes could play with any number of musicians at any time, so that the name would not have to have an awkward “featuring” if different musicians were playing.
The name itself was inspired by life in his home town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. He lives beside a National Park and says he is surrounded by both mountains and trees.
Not that the name doesn’t come with some confusion. “I remember this one bar in St. John’s, when they heard I was going to be coming, they cleared the stage to make as much room as possible. And then I showed up with an acoustic.” Janes said.
Janes points out that he is not the first person to use “band names for solo artists,” naming other artists like Iron and Wine, as well as City and Colour.
“What confuses people about my name is ‘The Mountains and the Trees,” both plurals,” Janes laughed.
His music has changed a lot since he released Paper or Plastic EP, which was released in 2006. On that record, he played every instrument, and according to him, had “a budget of $150.”
Janes was finally able to get some funding for A Hop, Skip & A Jump. In fact, it was “Up and Down,” a song that got great airplay on CBC Radio 3 that got him the funding for the other three songs on the EP. He plays every instrument on “Up and Down.”
“[Up and Down] was the first time I was able to record something and have it sound… good.” Janes said with a grin.
Janes wrote it while in the UK, before The Mountains and the Trees was a concept. It was off his set list for years, so he found it interesting that it was that song that launched a lot of opportunities.
“Up and Down” was not inspired by any particular moment in his life, but he said that many people have told him that they relate with the song. He said that even his own father wondered if it was about their relationship.
Janes’ upcoming full-length album, which is as yet untitled, is now fully recorded, and will be mixed when Janes goes to Halifax after Canadian Music Week is over.
He has some ideas for a name, he says, but he wants to make sure that his album artwork and album title go together.
“That photo on A Hop, Skip & A Jump is a picture of me, taken by me,” Janes said. “I try to keep everything in-house so that I can keep some parts cheap.”
Janes actually drove all the way from St. John’s to Toronto for Canadian Music Week. He loves driving, and was able to make stops in Halifax and Montreal before arriving in Toronto.
Janes also loves Toronto. Since arriving, he was able to do a co-host for CBC Radio 3, and he went to see Wilderness of Manitoba as well as Dead Letter Chorus on Wednesday. On Thursday he went to see the Arts & Crafts Showcase to see Dan Mangan and Timber Timbre.
Today (Friday) he plays the Central, and tomorrow (Saturday) he plays with his other band, Bird & Bear.
As far as Canadian artists, Janes loves listening to Dan Mangan, Ohbijou, Basia Bulat and Owen Pallett.
“I listened to Basia Bulat and Owen Pallett’s new records four times each on the way here,” Jane said. “They’re absolutely incredible albums. I saw Owen recently and he blew my mind.”
We briefly discussed the issue of “Vancouver becoming the new Montreal” musically, and we began to discuss the merits of the East Coast, starting with Joel Plaskett.”
“I think he won female vocalist of the year at the East Coast Music Awards,” quipped Janes. “I don’t think there’s an award he can’t win.” Both Janes and Andrew, his drummer agreed that Joel Plaskett is an absolutely incredible musician, and when Thrush Hermit was mentioned Janes fist-pumped when he said he was going to see them play in Halifax.
He also mentioned other talented East Coast musicians like Wintersleep and Hey Rosetta!
Make sure you have a chance to go and see him at the Central tonight, and even if you don’t see him then you’ll probably catch him at a show near you.