Home Social Impact Heroes Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is...

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mike Jones from The Mike Jones Band.

Mike Jones is an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Leesburg, Virginia. He also happens to be working as an ER Nurse. With a roots-rock/Americana focus, Mike Jones plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, and rock music and is known for his unique guitar-playing, vocals and live performances. Jones is currently self-producing and releasing a compilation of debut singles while working in a busy emergency room that serves the immediate Washington DC area.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in Purchase, NY. It’s a small town about 40 miles NW of New York City. The Metro North was a 5 minute drive from my house so my friends and I spent a lot of time riding trains in and out of the City. I’ve been playing music since I was 13 years old and I played my first live show at an old club called Kenny’s Castaways in Greenwich Village on Bleeker St. I grew up with a lot of freedom that I’m not sure I’d give to my own kids.

I left New York in 2002 when I was 22, and went down to Washington DC. I crashed on my sister’s couch for a month or so and then found my own place in Columbia Heights NW, DC. I rented out a basement apartment with one of my old high school friends. The place didn’t have heat or A/C. It didn’t even have a lock on the front door. But it had a yard to drink beer in and we could play music as loud as we wanted. I lived there for 10 years. I kicked my roommate out the day after a house fire that I shouldn’t have survived. He was crazy as hell, even by my standards.

The band I formed, The Jones, has been together since then. We have played all around the DMV. It was in 2014 or so I graduated from Nursing School. Music is not an easy way to make money as I’m sure your readers know. Nursing has been a means to an end. My mom is a nurse and it seemed like something I could do. I have always felt comfortable in chaotic situations. So I became an ER nurse. Still feels VERY weird to say that. There really wasn’t much else to It. I think it shows I can basically be talked into anything.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been a musician since I was 13 years old. I play drums, guitar, bass guitar, a little bit of harmonica, super simple keys and a few others. I’ve always been able to make some organized noise come out of stuff. I’ve been writing songs since then. I wrote all of the music for The Jones, and co-wrote the music for my other band The Creaky Bones. Now I am doing my solo thing. It feels like I am getting back to my roots with this current effort. Mostly acoustic and stripped down. I’ve released a few electric songs but they are simple. I’m keeping it simple on this one.

In regards to nursing: The Honest answer is that I was sitting on my couch in my cold and dank basement apartment with a budweiser in my hand and I said, “screw it, I’ll go to nursing school.” Five years later I went. . . It ended up being this thing that kind of nagged at me for that time so I finally did it. I always joke about it being a calling. My coworkers and I constantly joke about it being a calling when we are restraining psych patients or keeping patients hovering only slightly above death while we are titrating their sedation meds, with blood pressure meds and preventing them from jumping off the table and pulling their ET tubes out. No person in their right mind would want to do this job if they knew what it was before going into it. In all sincerity though, It’s probably almost as much of a calling as music is for me. I definitely define myself as an ER nurse as much as I define myself as a musician, and I’ve been a musician much longer.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I’ll give you a funny thing in music and a funny thing in the ER. A funny music thing is when I was in my first college I did a talent show that the fraternities and sororities sponsored. My friend and I got up on stage and I sang “Masters of War,” by Bob Dylan. They didn’t have a microphone stand so the little sorority girl had to hold the mic for me. . . for 7 minutes. “Masters of war” is a very long folk song. Technically I didn’t get booed off because I didn’t leave and I finished the song. But the crowd was pissed. No one talked to me on campus after that. I can’t step foot on that campus ever again. The lesson is the ole’ “don’t give up” and sometimes life presents a person with really uncomfortable situations. Best learn to wallow in them. Be prepared to lie in the crappy beds you make. Life is a series of moments. You gotta take the good with the crappy.

Funny work story. There are so many on a daily basis. There was the time that a guy was having a heart attack and died (I know, not funny yet) but then we defibrillated him back to life. We shocked him right back to talking. He was like “Thank you, thank you, It’s ok I can die a happy man but thank you.” I guess this story isn’t as funny as it was incredible! To have that kind of clarity after literally dying for a few minutes. The lesson I learned here was that happiness is attainable. He wasn’t afraid. It was crazy. I’ve seen some amazing things both good and bad. There is a guy that comes through that slips into a cardiac rhythm called SVT. It’s where the heart pumps at 160 beats per minute and higher. Everytime we cardiovert him he wants us to put on “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. We shock him on the chorus, naturally. “. . . Thunder ZAP!!” The lesson I took from him is to always be a badass and AC/DC is medicine. Next time I’m gonna suggest Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart.” I doubt he’ll take me up on it.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

First of all it is important to decide how one defines success. I know that my definition has changed dramatically. By my definition and perception, I have become successful. It has taken me a long time to feel this way though. I get to do what I love in playing music, I have a supportive family, and as my wife and I say, “We have two kinds of water that comes out of our faucet. Hot and cold.” Define what success means to you. When you think you have figured it out it will change on you and you’ll have to redefine it again: Wash, rinse, repeat.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be dead. I came close a few times but those stories are for a different interview. When we got together I was floundering as a musician and I was a dog walker in DC. Great physical exercise but terrible mental exercise. I needed something. She was the one that pushed me to getting my nursing degree while I was working on music. She realized that I can do the work but I can’t organize. Hell, I’ll out-work almost anyone. But I am terrible at planning. I can GO to class, I just suck at SIGNING UP for them. I can GO to gigs, I just suck at KNOWING WHEN TO GO HOME. I still have that problem. Having a real partner is priceless. I’m very lucky in this regard.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’m an ER nurse in a pandemic. At the time of this interview my state of Virginia is the only state in the country experiencing a rise in COVID cases. It might end up being our turn on national TV showing refrigerator trucks outside of our hospitals to store the dead. Grim, I know. I don’t mean it to be. But the truth kind of sucks right now.

That being said I’m going to work and doing what I can to help who I can. All of the medical staff I know are tired. My hospital is a community hospital and the community it serves is a little rough around the edges. Not many people have insurance, significant psychiatric illness runs rampant and living conditions could definitely be improved. COVID has had a deeply significant impact on the population that my hospital serves and it has taken an insurmountable toll on the community. I think I’m having more of a local social impact than a global one. Ultimately, it all starts in the community anyway.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

The Pandemic was a perfect opportunity for me to do my solo thing. I’ve been in my bands The Jones for 15 years and The Creaky Bones for the last year or so. COVID shut down the live shows so I have the time to record my solo stuff and the time to start Toss and Turn Records, my new record label. The change to our collective way of life is obviously awful but I’m trying to use the time to do something positive. I can’t sit still. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My debut single “Wild Heart (Calamity Jane)” was released and since then I’ve been off the ground running.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Everyone needs to chill out. That would help so much. We have to get through this pandemic. We (I and the people with whom I work) need some breathing room or you (Society, individuals, and the government) won’t have us any more. We are tired. we are quitting at an alarming rate and that puts your lives at risk. The virus doesn’t care if you are blue or red. Either way it can make you dead. Rhyming intended. Wear a mask and social distance and don’t sweat the small stuff. Stop flashing your guns when someone cuts you off on the highway. That’s a metaphor.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stay at it: Many of the people who I used to play music with don’t do it anymore. It is evident. It is obvious when you see someone that has passion. It keeps them young in mind and body.
  2. Be patient: I spent so much time rushing towards a goal that wasn’t really defined. Getting “famous” is a stupid thing to wish for. I think back to the dude I shocked back to talking. He wasn’t famous but he was happy. I’d rather be that guy than some person that was just famous and miserable. It must be lonely to be a shell of a person. That took a long time for me to learn.
  3. Find spaces that allow for your true self: You are at your best when you feel comfortable. It shouldn’t be that hard to be yourself. If it seems hard then you’re in the wrong situation, job, crowd, relationship etc. Change it.
  4. Jump: You have to take risks. Sometimes you have to jump and hope a safety net will appear rather than waiting for the parachute. Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face but go back to that part where I talked about learning how to wallow in your own disasters. You’ll learn from it and you never know what might come.
  5. Don’t flash all your cards and move in silence. I wish I was better at this.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to see people get medical care and not go bankrupt. Sucks to get cancer and also go broke trying to stay alive. This isn’t a unique idea but It’s close to me. The most amount of good I can think of giving would be that of health. The old expression, “At least we have our health!” The thing is, we don’t.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I’m going to quote Method Man because that’s who first heard it from, but I think it’s an old Italian proverb. “At the end of the game the king and the pawn go in the same box.” The theoretical hierarchies, and perceived social ladders that we are all faced with are illusions. No one is ”better than.” Run your own game. Trust me when I tell you that we all end up as just a bag of bones.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Neil Young. I haven’t seen anyone else rock harder and leave it all out on the stage every show like he does. The Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps tour was my first concert. It was at Nassau Coliseum in 1986 and I was 6 years old. He started with his own electric version of the “Star Bangled Banner.” All I smelled was stinky weed and the stadium shook for 2 hours. At 6 years old it was quite the experience that left a major impression on me.

From the interviews that I have seen he says his personal life keeps him grounded. Despite his very obvious genius and astronomical success he seems to be a normal guy. I know that I said earlier that no one would out-work me but Neil Young has clearly outworked many many people. I was weaned on him as a kid. He is tremendously musically multifaceted and I try to be like him in that way. He rocks so hard on one hand and on the other he can pivot and play some of the sweetest songs ever written.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.