John Roy Jenkins is from New Carlisle, Indiana. Music has always been part of his story as he has moved from New Carlisle, Indiana to Texas back to Indiana. He currently lives in Goshen, Indiana and plays in the band The Tumbleweed Jumpers. “When I was 9 yrs old my dad brought me to Detroit, Michigan to go to a Eric Clapton concert. I [ remember that] had binoculars and a sub sandwich, the whole nine yards. I remember sitting and watching them play guitar and just being like ‘I have to do that; that’s what I have to do.’” Boredom is what kept JR playing over the years. Who says it’s a bad thing to be bored? He also says, “It was my go-to for solving problems and for getting things out of my head.”
I love hearing about an artist’s songwriting process. It seems like, every song is unique and the way that an artist gets there is equally unique. “[Songwriting] Usually starts from me just strumming a few chords and thinking of a few things. Then mapping some things out and eventually the words come. It is like creating a vessel for whatever words I need to say, at the time.” For JR, it’s more about writing the music than getting the words out there, because they come later. “I started out writing songs because I wanted to process my emotions. When I was young I had a lot of conflicting things going on in my brain. I needed ways to get them out and solve them. Songwriting helped a lot. I could write it however I wanted to write it. I could finish a story however I wanted to finish a story. [For example] I could make a love affair go exactly how I wanted it to. Or I could just sort something out completely; like a problem with my parents or a problem with my friend. It was a land that was untouched by the reality of things.”
“Everytime that I play guitar, I get that feeling [that this is what I am supposed to be doing.] I can be by myself or be playing with The Tumbleweed Jumpers in a big room with a bunch of people really into it or I can be playing in front of someone for the first time. It’s kind of this x-factor thing of ‘wow, I just hit these chords just right or the rhythm was just right and it comes across just exactly how I want it to. In those moments I am satisfied enough.”
As with most artists that have been playing for years, JR’s songwriting has changed quite a bit over time. ‘The idea of getting something out of me has changed.” How he plays and how he sings has adapted to different styles that he has been trying to play. “I’ve played anything from pop to hardchore, and everything in between. The way that I write changes based on what I am trying to write for. “
“[Music] makes me feel connected to other people, because I know that other people get that feeling from [musicians]. [It’s the] tingly ‘oh my gosh’ feeling that I like sharing. It makes me feel connected to everybody. [Music is] beauty. When you break down all art it all comes down to one thing. That [thing] is expressing something beautifully…”
“Success to me is your own personal definition of satisfaction. I feel like I have been successful. I have traveled playing music, I’ve been payed to play music and I have written songs where I have gone ‘wow!, I actually meant what I said and I said what I meant’. I think that’s success. There’s always that ‘I wish that I was being supported by this completely. I am satisfied with what I’ve done and where I am going. I have had a lot to say and I still have a lot to say. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of it out. The only thing that is holding me back is myself and I like to keep myself going. Failure would be stopping. Failure would be giving up because it’s too hard. Or giving up because a life circumstance happened and to put it down. That’s failure to me. It’s just being done.”
If you think that you’ve got a pretty good peg on JR just hold on, there’s more to him. JR also does recording and is working on a project featuring just himself.
“I am working on a self titled project. It’s an EP that I am planning on releasing in the next few weeks here. It is a little more electronic based, still acoustic guitar. It has a little bit of the influence I was in when I was in a band in Texas. It was a pop band and I gained a bit of influence from that. It is kind of an experiment between folk and pop. People can find it on bandcamp and soundcloud. It will be called JR EP. For the music that I produce on my own, I am satisfied with having it done and having it somewhere where people can hear it. The amount of people who hear it, I am not really concerned with. I hope that a bunch of people hear it, but if it’s just a few people here and there that hear it, I’m ok with that. I would like to see my music on vinyl someday and have a physical form of my music. I have tape and I have CD and I have a couple albums out digitally.”
It seems that creative people seem to gather around each other. Community is such an important aspect of life. Its part of the reason I started this blog, to be a part of cultivating community in the arts world. I asked JR if he felt that he had a good community surrounding him. “Yea, probably one of the best that I’ve ever plugged in. Living in Goshen Indiana and playing in the Tumbleweed Jumpers has been a great web of people. There’s always people to bounce ideas off of, network with and see what other people are up to.” I couldn’t agree more.