"I'm having doubts about thoughts and prayers," Marty Jones sings in the refrain of his newest single, "Thoughts and Prayers." It's a charged political statement for a musician whose best known line is "If you add my GPA to my BAC, the numbers will show I'm maintaining a 2.0."
"I have the reputation for being the "Bard of Beer Songs," he says. "That's a wonderful thing, but these days there are other things to think about."
Jones, a former Westword contributor, has long been entrenched in brewery culture and has penned the classic drinking songs "Drinkin" and "Maintaining a 2.0," among others. But now he's taking a different approach to his lyrics and how loudly he's willing to play his music.
Replacements' reunion show at the Fillmore [in 2015]," he recalls. "They're a longtime favorite band, but the sound was so absurdly loud. I stayed for three songs and split because my ears started to ring."
While the problem persisted for a while, Jones insists the long-term damage was minimal, but it did make him rethink the type of music and shows he should perform.
"For some people, tinnitus is a horrible thing," he says. "Thankfully, mine has chilled down, and it's mild. But, yeah, I wanna do this to protect my ears."
Jones's current approach to songwriting has allowed him to be more thoughtful and articulate, focusing less on the party and more on the changing political climate. This new song, in particular, addresses the futility of people praying after a tragedy has taken place. While Jones is now tackling heavier subjects, he still injects his brand of nice-guy levity and finds ways to gently challenge opinions rather than being overtly divisive. It's an approach he learned from one of his heroes.
"When I was a writer for Westword, I got to interview Utah Phillips once," Jones says. "One of the things he said to me was, 'The key to a successful protest song is to get people laughing and sneak it past them.' No one wants to be beat over the head."
With this in mind, Jones, who took a break from playing shows while he addressed his tinnitus, hopes to re-emerge and perform his songs to crowds who are just as interested in fun as they are in thoughtful music. He hopes it's an approach other musicians will take as well.
"Everybody oughta take some swing at addressing important matters in some fashion that fits within their framework," he says.
"Thoughts and Prayers," which Jones recorded with guitarist Zach Boddicker, bassist Scott Johnson and drummer Rob Beuhler, can be heard and downloaded on Marty Jones's Bandcamp page.