Record of the Week: Durand Jones’ ‘Wait Til I Get Over’

Durand Jones discusses new album Wait Til I Get Over

The history of Hillaryville, Louisiana can be traced all the way back to the late 1800s. Located along the Mississippi River, the small community was founded by eight slaves who received it as a form of reparations after the Civil War. The stories of green sugarcane, longshoremen on the river, and rice farmers in this deep rural south of Louisiana are passed on generation after generation, including Durand Jones’ grandmother who describes it as “The place you’d most want to live.”

Jones takes listeners on a journey through his views of the history and his own personal experiences on his debut solo album Wait Til I Get Over.

After three albums with his group The Indications, this solo album offers more transparency into the man Durand Jones is and from where he comes. Thanks to novels by James Baldwin and a documentary about Eartha Kitt, Jones was able to lean into his vulnerability more than anything in his previous work while using the themes of faith, family, self-worth and love.

Jones sings of his complicated relationship with faith on the song “Lord Have Mercy,” capturing the song with a band in-studio in one take. Openness in his songwriting is illustrated through songs like “That Feeling,” which raises the subject of his sexuality for the first time, telling a personal story that he says overwhelmed him.

“It’s the first breakup song I’ve ever written, and it’s the first and only love song I’ve written directly to another man,” Jones says. “I wanted this song to be a big climatic build of emotions to capture our frustration, sadness, and sentiments of love lost that comes with the end of any intimate relationship.”

The storytelling is also highlighted on the song “Sadie,” one dedicated to a married woman in New Orleans much older than Jones, with the song taking a fictional turn when the woman’s husband finds out about them. Jones says listeners can use their own imagination for the outcome.

The title track takes us inside the church as Jones sings, “Wait til I get over, yes I’m glory bound” backed by only a choir and foot stomps. Jones closes the album with a letter to his 17-year old self, “Secrets,” encouraging, “Young man keep your head up,” with the sounds of the Mississippi River flowing behind him.

Wait Til I Get Over explores Jones’ relationship with his roots and bridges the gaps between the old and the new Hillaryville, trading in The Indications’ disco grooves for raw and gritty Southern Black music. Jones is passing the stories of his community to the next generation of Hillaryville, Louisianians.

On the Record: A Q&A With Durand Jones:

Marquis Munson: This album to me feels more personal for you than the previous work with The Indications. It’s like you’ve had this story to tell for years, and you were waiting for the right moment to tell it. Do you feel like this album offers more transparency into who Durand Jones is?

Durand Jones: Definitely, man. I feel like the work that I’d done with The Indications was done in collaboration. It was important for me to do a solo project, mainly to show the audience what a full art project from me would look, feel, and sound like. I wanted this thing to capture all the feelings that I feel about Hillaryville. I wanted this thing to not have this polished, clean sound because that’s not what Hillaryville is. I’m glad to know that’s coming across and it’s meaningful to folks because it’s very meaningful to me.

MM: Speaking of that, this album is a journey through your hometown, Hillaryville, Louisiana. How would you describe growing up there?

DJ: I would describe it as special. I didn’t realize how special it was until I moved away and got to experience America through other lenses. Growing up in a place that was full of wilderness and elders who held on to all these traditions. From the days of the past and being very close to the river as well as those plantations, it all meant something.

MM: What was the inspiration behind the album title?

DJ: The album title represented many things. Represented the spiritual, it represented a metaphor of going through a trial and getting through it and receiving your reward. Whether that be your crown or be seeing your long-lost family members. For me, it meant that hopefully by the end of this process there would be some spiritual transformation or some mystic evolution that would transform and elevate who I am. I feel like going through this process and taking on all these problems that I was facing for most of my life, and taking those on through art and song, allowed that to transpire.

MM: I want to go back to that process because was the approach to making this record different for you in a way? I’m sure there was still some collaboration with making this record. It’s different when you’re working with a group of people with these different perspectives, but for a solo artist now, how does it feel to be able to make this record in your own way?

DJ: Man, it felt doggone good. Because I got to try a lot of things that I’d never been given the opportunity to try beforehand. First and foremost, I wanted to make this project an art forward project. I took a lot of inspiration from James Baldwin, Yoko Ono, Toni Morrison, Fred Moten, Claudia Rankine, Nikki Giovanni, all these authors and poets. I brought their books along with me to the studio and we opened the books to my favorite pages and circled these quotes to talk about them and how they related to the music. We had these binders that had these prints from Glenn Ligon, the sound suits from this sculpture just named Nick Cave, as well as some quote paintings from Anna Buckner and murals from Teresita Fernandez. We use those as references as well, mainly for inspiration and for groove. I could go into the studio and tell these guys, ‘Yo, this is sounding way too purple. I want it to be a little redder.’ They were willing to dive into that vastness of abstractness and go with me to the deep end of what art could be. That was fun to do. Also, to sing most of these things live with the band is something that I haven’t done on any of my prior projects, which was fun to do. To do a song like “Lord Have Mercy” and know that the audience is hearing one full take or “Sadie,” “I Want You,” or “See It Through,” makes me feel like I’m following in the footsteps of a lot of my heroes and leaders of the past who did their music that way. That felt very special as well. It was a lot of trying out new things in the studio with this project, which made me happy.

MM: I want to go back to some of those inspirations because the last time we spoke about the album Private Space, you also mentioned at the time you were really deep into Eartha Kitt and unpacking childhood trauma. You mention the quote ‘If you don’t deal with your childhood trauma, it will show up in your relationships as an adult.’ Did you use those methods of Eartha Kitt on this record?

DJ: Oh, man, Eartha Kitt played a huge role with me facing my traumas and overcoming my fears, especially with this record. I must thank the people who made the autobiography of her “All by Myself.” Whoever made that, bless their souls and hearts. It really delves into an artist spending a long time with themselves and grappling with things that make them uncomfortable and uneasy. For me to do this process was a huge, integral part of doing that. I don’t think that I would have been able to realize the traumas within myself if it wasn’t for Eartha and the vulnerability that she showed, which is such a beautiful form of strength. She played a huge part. Thank you for remembering that because I have to go back and watch that documentary.

MM: I’m from Alabama. When I moved away from my hometown, and I got to see a whole new world outside it gave me a different perspective about where I came from. Some good, some not so good. When you moved away for the first time did you get that feeling?

DJ: Definitely. My first real experience of living outside of Louisiana, I immediately got impostor syndrome. Because the folks that I was meeting and hanging around. Hillaryville, everybody would say, ‘Oh Durand, you speak so proper, you have such a proper voice’ and all this kind of stuff. I got up to Indiana and went to grad school, I was hanging around all these hoity toity kids and they’d be laughing at things that I’d say that I didn’t even think was funny. Still sometimes that happens. Immediately, I felt out of place, and I had this imposter syndrome. But over the years, I’ve learned to overcome that and to really embrace myself and walk in my own lane. Be confident in the steps that I make. I’ve been able to overcome that imposter syndrome and really find myself as a citizen of the world, and especially as an ambassador of Hillaryville.

MM:  We can do a whole separate interview with us talking about our grandmothers. I think it’s a Southern thing. You share stories of your grandmother on this record, how motivating was that relationship with you two?

DJ: My grandmother was the light in the darkness of my life, my brother’s, and my sister’s life. When we were all young, our mother decided that motherhood wasn’t for her, and she left. It was heartbreaking and something was traumatizing. Something that Eartha Kitt helped me get over in many ways. But my grandmother was there, and she stepped in. She instilled a love of education and a love of reading. She took me to get my first saxophone. Whenever it came time for me to do college, she encouraged me to pursue that. She was always that encouragement whenever I needed that. That phone call to pick me up when I was sad or discouraged, she was always the first person that I would call when I would get in trouble. She carried this air of regalness about her in the way that a lot of folks who were followers and students of the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King. I feel in many ways she, along with the entire community of Hillaryville, raised me to be who I am. I wanted to honor them and pay homage to them because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for people like her.

MM: Now I want to talk about a few of the songs on this record, and I want to start by talking about the song, “That Feeling,” probably your most vulnerable record today. Speaking about your sexuality for the first time publicly. What was your inspiration behind making that song that was so personal to you?

DJ: I knew that telling my story, that I would have to be truthful with myself and include that as well. Because that was such a big part and role in myself becoming a man. Learning truly what loving someone means and feels. When grappling with this, it was while reading a James Baldwin book Just Above My Head. He really showed me and made me realize, kind of reiterating what Eartha Kitt made me realize, too, one of the most ultimate forms of strength is through vulnerability and finding true strength through and within that. When making this, I leaned on James and those things that he taught me within that book.

MM: What’s been the response since releasing “That Feeling” from fans and even from people close to you?

DJ: It’s been amazing, man. It’s been everything that I wanted it to be. I thought I would receive a little more backlash than I have. But honestly, it’s been the absolute opposite, and it’s been beautiful. Especially with all the crazy, messed up laws that are being made right now that politicians are putting out there that are restricting a lot of people from being who they are, especially in the LGBTQIA community. Knowing and seeing messages of folks, knowing that I am a member and have full solidarity with them, but also knowing that they have full solidarity with me and have my back, it’s been beautiful. Art can be polarizing at times and that’s absolutely cool to me. It’s kind of cool to me to see folks be like, ‘This isn’t like what he’s done in the past.’ But if you think that my solo record would sound like an Indications record, there’s more of me that you have yet to discover. That’s why I’m doing and feeling the need to do these solo projects.

MM: This album explores so many elements of Southern roots, especially when you’re speaking about faith. Your illustration of that is perfect on the song “Lord Have Mercy.” What was the inspiration behind that song?

DJ: The interlude that precedes “Lord Have Mercy” ends with me talking about my grandmother saying ‘Hillaryville is the place that you most want to live, when she first moved there.’ Anytime I go back nowadays, my friends tell me that I’m the one who got out. So, there’s this contradiction of this ideal and beautiful place that’s held within my grandmother’s mind. But in the mind of my generation, that place is no longer. I wanted “Lord Have Mercy” to feel like that. I wanted it to be raw and raucous. I wanted the vocals to be a little over the edge. In those binders, we had pictures of my dad’s trailer. I wanted the tune to sound like the way that trailer looked and really capture the rawness of it. My generation, while we heard and saw the stories and a little bit of the past of the elders, we are also we’re seeing the new Hillaryville being met with technology and the aftermath of the war on drugs, and many other things that drastically changed what Hillaryville was to our elders. I just really wanted to capture all of that within sound and I’m super proud of that one. It’s one that I’m most excited to go back and drive through town blasting in the car.