Ceekay Jones, otherwise known to Taoseños as the vocalist for “the original Taos band” Tabularasa, has come a long way to find his own sound.
Over the past 15 years, the Taos native has been touring the country and traveling the globe with major acts, such as New York hardcore band Skarhead and Australia’s chart-topping hip-hop trio Bliss n Eso. He’s performed onstage with the likes of Drake, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and Pearl Jam and has spent hours in the studio collaborating on both underground albums and multi-platinum hits. But for all the time Jones has resided on the fringes of the pop world, his newly realized sound resonates with a raw and soulful authenticity that sends listeners back to where his career first began, right here in Taos.
This Saturday (July 30) at 7 p.m., Jones takes the stage for a performance at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. He will be joined by special guest Rafael Vigilantics, a Portland, Oregon-based hip-hop artist, who is traveling with Jones on an eight-stop Southwest tour to promote the Los Angeles-based artist’s eponymously titled debut EP, released on May 9 by Redor Records. Doors open at 6 p.m.
“I grew up in Taos between the late ‘80s and early 2000s before heading out to L.A.,” Jones said. “Growing up in New Mexico during that time was a bit rough, but also molded me into the individual I am.”
Jones, whose real name is Matt Kirk, was born to parents who were professional athletes and avid music enthusiasts. “Music has always been a part of my life and my family,” Jones said, adding that he “never really dreamt or thought about being a musician or having a career in music growing up ... “
Before discovering his talents as a singer and musician, Jones spent most of his time on the slopes above Taos, becoming a junior Olympic skier in his early teens. He later became a professional snowboarder.
“I always tell people music found me,” Jones explained. “During a time where I was rehabilitating some knee injuries … I wound up jamming with some close friends I grew up with in Taos. … I never looked back.”
That circle of friends included drummer Norm Cutliff, guitarist Marcos Nuñez and bassist Giles Shelton. Jones easily fell into a role as lead vocalist. In 1999, they formed Tabularasa, a Taos punk-reggae band that is now disbanded, but occasionally reunited. A reunion show saw the foursome play to a sold-out crowd at Taos Mesa Brewing on March 26 of this year.
After performing “hundreds of shows” in and around Taos, the band ventured to Los Angeles with dreams of “making it” and achieved that goal by showcasing a singular “Southwestern flair.” In the early 2000s, the band members toured the country, sharing the stage with such critically acclaimed bands as KRS – One and Los Lonely Boys.
In 2005, the members of the group agreed to go their separate ways, with Nuñez returning to New Mexico to continue performing under his stage name “Marlee Crow” and Shelton and Cutliff joining Katy Palmier to form the well-loved Taos bar band Katy P and the Business. Jones was the only member to remain in L.A. to pursue his dream of becoming a solo artist.
His early days in L.A. saw him develop a reputation as a sought-after side man with an ability to do it all: freestyle rap, play guitar, produce beats and sing with the melodic rasp of a seasoned professional.
With such a wide array of talents, Jones’ credits run the gamut, including guest parts on several underground hip-hop albums, including Canada hip-hop artist Madchild’s “Silver Tongue Devil,” 2010’s megahit “Teach Me How to Dougie” and his most famous turn to date as a guitarist and singer for Bliss n Eso’s certified platinum hit single “My Life.” A live performance of the song at Australia’s Aria Awards in 2013 marked a pivotal moment in Jones’ career — one that has allowed him to tour all over the world and garner the resources to produce his newly released EP.
“I have had a very blessed career so far,” Jones said. “My music now in my solo career is what I am calling ‘Southern urban soul.’ I like to be able to perform my songs either completely acoustic with just me on a guitar or with full production. I like organic music, and I like songs that are written well.”
The eight-track EP serves as a true showcase of Jones’ style, which blends some of the rhythmic lyricism of his hip-hop days with melodic choral sections and Spanish guitar riffs that recall his New Mexico roots.
“Taos is a place with immense creative talent and energy, as well as amazing culture and history,” Jones said. “Both those things have had an impact on who I am today and what my music stands for.”
“It’s taken me this long to really understand myself as a solo artist and to find that sound that felt right to me. I think I recorded about five solo albums in the last seven years, but I released none of them because I was still searching to find my sound. I have definitely found it, though, and that’s what this EP is a small dose of. I did everything with live instruments on this EP in the studio and did very little overdubbing and production. I wanted people to hear the raw songwriting and the organic vibe that I love.”
Tickets for the show are $10 and can be purchased at holdmyticket.com/event/245643 or at the door.
Jones’ EP is now available for purchase on iTunes and can previewed at soundcloud.com/ceekayjones/sets/ceekay-jones-ep.
For more information, visit ceekayjones.com.