Music has never faded into the background for Leesburg’s Mike Jones, even after his work as an ER nurse took an exacting turn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think anything that takes anybody’s mind off their reality is a good thing,” Jones told the Times-Mirror. “I’ve been lucky to have that music thing for all my life, and the level of appreciation goes up when times get a little darker.”
Jones took up guitar at age 13 as he was growing up near New York City and started playing professionally when he was 17.
After moving to Washington, D.C., in 2002, he made his living playing live shows and taking the occasional bartending shift.
Five years ago, Jones — looking for a career in order to continue supporting his growing family — followed in his mother’s footsteps and went to nursing school.
“I like dealing with people and I’m not a desk-job person,” said Jones, who now works in an emergency room in Alexandria.
“It just kind of seemed like something that’d be a little challenging,” he said.
Still, Jones continued to preserve music as an active part of his life outside the hospital, playing in several local bands and performing at such popular regional venues as Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theater, as well as The Rock & Roll Hotel and The Velvet Lounge in D.C.
Most recently Jones performed guitar and vocals for rock band The Virginia Southpaws, with whom he performed frequently until the coronavirus began its rapid spread last March.
“I haven’t had a gig in the last year because of this pandemic thing,” he said.
Along with venues shutting down, Jones’ work on the front lines became inevitably more taxing as the COVID-19 mortality rate began to rise.
“Things have not been the best lately,” he said. “The pandemic has been pretty rough on health care workers.”
But, as it’s always been, Jones’ passion for music was there for him to return to when times were tough.
He devoted much of his time outside work to new solo material, focusing on acoustic-heavy roots-rock.
Under the moniker The Mike Jones Band, Jones has produced four singles in the last year: “Wild Heart (Calamity Jane),” “Don’t Give Up on Me,” “Strongest One I Know” and most recently “Snake Oil.”
He released the songs under Toss and Turn Records, a label Jones started in August 2020.
A small handful of friends performed bass guitar, keyboard and occasionally drums, but Jones recorded the majority of the instrumental tracks.
While guitar remains his specialty, Jones said he enjoys playing just about any instrument he can get his hands on.
“Put [an instrument] in front of me, and I’ll try and make something that doesn’t sound horrific come out of it,” he said.
Though his life goals and career trajectory have changed quite a bit over the years — especially after he got married and welcomed his now 4- and 6-year-old daughters into the world — Jones plans to continue investing his time and resources in his passion for music as long as he can.
“Ultimately I’d love to get some of these songs licensed for— God, who knows? If Chevy needs a song for a commercial, they’re more than welcome to hit me up,” he joked.
“To break even would be great, but I’ll probably be taking a loss on it until I die, but I’m okay with it,” he added.
“It just comes with art,” he said. “That’s the way it goes.”