Falling in love at the beginning of a new relationship is universally cherished as a special time. It’s a time remembered for getting swept up in joy, anticipation, and a butterflies-in-the-tummy sense of excitement that’s “really pure” and “sacred.”
Caroline Jones delved into that exact feeling when she talked with friend and fellow singer-songwriter Alyssa Bonagura. Bonagura was in the midst of falling in love when the pair teamed up and captured those emotions in a breezy, 90s country-inspired tribute to new relationships, “Keep It Safe.” Jones recently caught up with iHeartCountry and reflected on the “friend to friend, girl to girl” conversation she shared with Bonagura, and her advice to “keep it safe, keep it close for now, just enjoy it and stay in the moment with this person,” (and, of course, how the two artists turned their conversation into a duet).
“Keep It Safe” — which Jones and Bonagura wrote in about an hour, they shared on a live-streamed chat on Thursday afternoon (January 26) — made its debut on Friday (January 27). Its release marks the first “tease” from Jones’ highly-anticipated upcoming solo project, which is set to release this year, though the exact date has not been announced as of publication time on Friday morning.
The powerhouse artist is gearing up for a big year in her career. After releasing her song with Bonagura, Jones is set to drop her new full-length solo album. The “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)” singer-songwriter is also scheduled to travel the globe on tour — including C2C headlining gigs in London, Glasgow and Dublin, CMC Rocks in Australia, and local venues in Georgia and Tennessee — performing her own sets as well as performing with Zac Brown Band (at this point, Jones feels “weird when I'm not touring”). The band is set to kick off their 10th North American tour, the “From The Fire Tour,” this summer. Jones, who has previously toured with ZBB, officially became a member (and the first female member) of the now nine-person group in late 2022. Jones told iHeartRadio that having the opportunity to perform in a band of Zac Brown Band’s caliber while also pursuing her solo projects is the perfect combination in her career as a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist.
“Keep It Safe” is the dawn of a new era in the evolution of Jones’ musicianship, telling “a real story” of two friends having a conversation about the earliest stages of a romance: “It's hard because sometimes you wanna shout it from the rooftops, but it's just those early days for relationship that are really pure and really special and just keeping that safe and sacred and not projecting too much and not getting too ahead of ourselves.”
Jones gushed over the song’s nod to ‘90s country artists that she’s long known and loved, listing Shania Twain, Faith Hill and SHeDAISY as an examples. In particular, the music’s production serves as a throwback to a different era of music. Jones explained that the duet “modulates keys quite a bit… it would change key in the chorus and change key in the B section. The song does that in what we hope is a really clever way that kind of tricks the ear, but his ear candy.”
Listen to Jones’ and Bonagura’s “Keep It Safe” here, and read Jones’ Q&A with iHeartCountry below.
Editor’s note: Q&A has been edited for length or clarity.
iHC: Do you have a favorite part about “Keep It Safe,” or a favorite lyric that stands out to you the most?
Caroline Jones: …We really tried to go 90s with (the production) and tip our hat to some of those 90s women that we love. In terms of a lyric, gosh, I have a lot of favorite parts. But I think my favorite lyric is probably, ‘this love story's never been told.’ Just the idea that when you're falling in love, you have to remember, I'm writing this story, I'm the author of this chapter, and so it's my job to write that in the way that I want to be. …I also love, ‘you don't wanna miss the magic, it's so rare to have it.’ Because I think when you're falling in love, it's such an exciting, indescribable feeling that sometimes you forget. How many times in your life do you really get to fall in love, and you forget to enjoy it because you're so busy thinking, ‘does this person like me? Is this the one?’
iHC: For people who might not be familiar with your music yet, how would you describe what your sound and what your style is like? What can listeners expect from your new single and your upcoming album?
CJ: That's a really good question. I have a lot of different influences, but I would say I'm pretty country-pop. My primary influence is the fact that I play a bunch of different instruments…so I'm always thinking about the music that I make from a musical standpoint, from an instrumental standpoint, and from a production standpoint being a player and a producer. And also, Alyssa's a producer and a player as well. So, this song's very musical. I would say my sound is country-pop, but with a very authentic twist of musicianship, and a lot of thought behind the instrumentation. It kind of has that rootsy twist to it.
iHC: Your current single, “Come In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable),” has gotten really popular, including on TikTok. How would you say your new music might be similar or different from what we’ve heard so far?
CJ: I think it's just an evolution. ‘Come In’ is a very sassy, stomper of a song and I'm so proud of that. I would say this next music is a continuation of that cleverness and that sass and that…instrumental kind of complexity and high fine nature to the production. But I have a lot of different influences. …It, too [Jones’ forthcoming record], kind of runs the gamut, and it's definitely my best work yet.
iHC: What were some of your biggest inspirations in creating this album?
CJ: That's a really good question. I'm always trying to fuse seemingly disparate artists. I mean, I have artists that range in all different genres. Probably my biggest heroes are Vince Gill and Keith Urban, Willie Nelson, these are guys in country who played lead instruments and were musicians as well as producers…songwriters and singers, and that's what I try to model myself after. And obviously Zac Brown, my other boss, is that way, too. And so I model myself after those guys who are in the musicianship, and that craft. But I also love Coldplay. I love this band called The War on Drugs. I love some new pop stuff. I love Lizzie McAlpine, I love singer-songwriters, so I'm always trying to fuse all those elements. I think they naturally find their way into my music.
iHC: Of course, many fans also know you now that you’ve officially joined Zac Brown Band! You’ve played with them before (including on the “Out In The Middle Tour”), but what has it been like to become an official member of the band?
CJ: It’s been such a joy and an honor for me, Kelly. It's a dream. I always say it's a dream that I never would've thought to have dreamed. I obviously opened for them, and I really owe the career that I have to Zac. I owe it to touring, and Zac was the first person to take me on tour. You know, he opened the door for me to tour with Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and the Eagles, and all these incredible superstar heroes and mentors that I've gotten to open up for. And then, to actually be invited into the Zac Brown Band, into their inner circle, onto their stage, it's just the honor of my career so far... It's kind of like the best of all worlds. You know, it's really the dream scenario to be a sideman in a band of Zac Brown Band's caliber and to soak up that knowledge, that experience, that musicianship, that mentorship. I mean, they're all like older brothers to me at this point. And then, to be able to continue to push myself as an artist, to challenge myself to write and sing and play and produce the music that's in my heart, you know, that I'm compelled to make. It's the dream scenario. It really is. And I'm so lucky and I love what I do, so the busier I am happier I am.
iHC: You’re about to hit the road on Zac Brown Band’s “From The Fire Tour,” in addition to headlining C2C: Country To Country and other performances (with the group and solo). What are some of the things you’re looking forward to most about kicking off tour dates?
CJ: It's so exciting. This will be my third tour as an official member of their band. …And I'm really eager to especially go to Europe and Australia. That is gonna be so incredible. What an amazing experience and opportunity, and opportunity to connect with the fans over there. And I'm also playing my own sets on those festivals as well as playing the Zac Brown Band. And then, add into the mix that I'm half Australian — my mom is Australian — so I get to go to the motherland, the literal motherland, for the first time in like 20 years. And I'm just so excited.
iHC: What are some of your favorite parts about getting to perform live, especially after working so hard on your music in the studio? What’s it like to finally share that with the fans in person?
CJ: It's so special, and I would say it's really — it’s what everything else is for, you know? …It means the world and it means even more to be selling out dates of my own now, slowly, in clubs and headlining venues for the first time. I mean, I've been dreaming of that for years. …(It’s) extremely exciting for me and for the team that believes so much in me.