By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Canfield native A.C. Jones is planning to be a doctor some day. Just not any time soon.
Jones graduated in 2015 from the University of Mount Union with a pre-med degree and a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.
But her music career has been getting even better grades.
With a freshly signed recording contract in hand, the country singer is poised to take her career to a new level.
Jones signed a two-year deal with SSM Nashville in May, and she is in Music City this week to write a single that will be released on the indie label in the coming months.
Mahoning Valley fans likely know her as Amanda Jones and the Family Band, but the 2011 graduate of Canfield High School (where she was Amanda Myhal) recently streamlined her moniker to A.C. Jones.
Since her 2015 debut album, “The Road Less Traveled,” Jones has made a name for herself as the frontwoman and lead singer of her band, and also as a songwriter. It’s the combination of both that caught the attention of SSM Nashville, which is glad to have discovered her.
“Our format needs this quality of vocals and true showmanship that A.C. brings,” said Patti Olsen-Garafola, president of the label, in a statement to The Vindicator. “This is quite a feather in our cap. Her depth of vocal talent is unparalleled.”
Dean Scallan, CEO of the small label, referenced Jones’ intangible qualities. “She’s just got it,” he said. “She’s a huge contribution to our SSM family, and I can’t wait to see where it takes her and us.”
SSM, explained Jones, places a high value on artists who are also songwriters. She was introduced to the label while playing at a showcase event in Sandusky, and the more the label executives looked into her, the more interested they became.
“They looked at the shows and at the dollars, but what put us over the edge was [A.C.’s] voice and the fact that she writes her owns music,” said Michael Myhal, Jones’ father and the rhythm guitarist in the band.
So far, the 24-year-old’s career has taken her to several states, and also to Europe. Jones and Myhal recently returned from Edinburgh, Scotland, where SSM sent her to perform at the Vamos Music Festival.
Jones – and country music in general – has a foothold in the United Kingdom. Her song “Ready to Fall” has garnered airplay there, and she hopes to build on that momentum. Toward that end, she also recently released a video for “Picture in Your Helmet” – her first professionally made one – and is planning to shoot another one.
Though Youngstown isn’t exactly a hotbed for original country music, Amanda Jones and the Family Band has been in demand for the past couple of years, maintaining a performance schedule with a radius of at more than a hundred miles, spilling into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The act’s next Mahoning Valley show will be Aug. 8 at the Austintown Township Park bandshell.
Although she’s going by just A.C. Jones these days (partly to avoid conflict with another singer with the same name), her band still does consist of family.
In addition to singing, Jones also plays harmonica and some keyboards and guitar. In addition to her father, the band also includes her sister, Brittany Fenstermaker, on keys and vocals; Brittany’s husband, Nathan Fenstermaker, bass; David Frame, lead guitar; and Frank McDougal, drums.
A typical show for the act is a mix of originals and pop-country covers. Jones picks songs that fit her vocal range and upbeat style so that when she does sing an original, audience members often wonder where they’ve heard that song before. It’s been a good strategy for introducing her songs, but as Jones’ career progresses, it won’t last.
“It’s nice to play songs that people know, but moving forward, we’ll transition to all originals,” said Jones.
Those are the doctor’s orders.