By John Benson
Don’t let Liam Jones’ age fool you, the 16-year-old singer- guitarist and visionary behind Liam Jones & The Overtones appears to be beyond his years.
“We’re a jam band similar to the Grateful Dead and Phish,” said Jones, a Boardman High School sophomore. “We’re very new. We formed earlier this year and have already played about six shows. The band is named after me because I write the songs, and my band helps convey them. They really create the feeling because you can’t do it solo.”
The result is an organic jam-band built around improvisation and emotion. The Boardman High School quartet — Jones, Alyssa Vivacqua (bass), Joe Amadio (drums) and Dom Delaurentis (keyboards) — has quickly used its foundation in jazz to explore a wide array of influences ranging from funk and roots-rock to reggae. In addition to playing a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Franklin Tower,” the band already has written a few originals, including the jazzy “Mind Dance” and the African pop-esque “Frolicking in the Flowers.”
One person who is a believer in Jones is his guitar teacher and mentor, Jim DeCapua, who is the singer-guitarist of local band Jones for Revival.
“Jimmy is kind of why I started playing music,” Jones said. “When I saw him, he influenced me, and that’s kind of what pushed us towards the jam band scene.”
Said DeCapua: “He’s got some chops; it’s kind of impressive. Usually when somebody says check out my band and they’re not experienced, I get turned off. Or at least my brain thinks it won’t be too good, because I’ve been scarred by so many crappy bands. So it’s hard to believe somebody can be good, but the way I see it, for as young as they are, as inexperienced as they, for as new to the scene as they are, they sound pretty good for not knowing what’s going on yet.”
DeCapua said his opinion is more than lip service. So far, a solo Jones opened up for Jones for Revival at a Columbus show, with the two acts — this time Liam Jones & The Overtones — scheduled to share the bill April 1 at the Lemon Grove. More so, DeCapua admits he’s intrigued by his student’s musical interests, which in turn gives him hope for the next generation of local musicians.
“Honestly, I guess my opinion would be I know music isn’t getting any better in the big picture of things as far as mainstream goes,” DaCapua said. “The way I see it, here’s one out of how many kids who enjoys music that I feel is good, instead of what’s on the radio all of the time. So I’m interested in helping him because I see a very talented kid who is in the very early stages of developing a fan base and attacking the scene, so to speak. He’s really, really talented, and his guitar skills for being as young as he is are really impressive. I just guess I like helping good musicians, and he just happens to be 16.”
Jones said in the short amount of time the band has been together, it’s already attracted a wide array of fans.
“I’d say our set is for hippies and also kids,” Jones said. “We’re able to pull it off because we create the feelings. It’s not about age to us. As long as we create the feelings, people are going to feel the music, and it’s going to affect them.”