In “This Is Country Music,” Brad Paisley averred that even cancer can inspire an honest lyric. The same is apparently true of autism, as Kat’Lee Jones can attest.
The Belgian-born Country singer/songwriter became familiar with the condition through friends whose children have been diagnosed with it. What struck Jones even more than its symptoms were the responses they triggered.
“The problem is mainly that the world needs to accept them,” she said. “People think, ‘Oh, no! I can’t be friends with someone who has autism because they’re going to have a big fit in the middle of a public place.’ Or, ‘I can’t move stuff around because that might set them off.’ They just say ‘no’ because they don’t know anything about it.”
It’s not unusual for stars to support causes that touch them personally. Jones does have a strong following in Europe. Whether singing backup with Joe Cocker or fronting punk bands Purge and Red Zebra, she has built a fan base in Belgium that continues to turn out when she makes her frequent return visits.
In the States, though, she is in the early stages of her career. After a performance onstage at the CMA Global Artist Party just before the 2008 CMA Music Festival, she settled in Music City. Recently, she finished recording her U.S. debut album, to be released by the Nashville Enterprises imprint.
Still, Jones made it a mission to put her thoughts about autism to words and music. She began by joining with Ryan Cole, Marketing Manager, Nashville Enterprises, to watch the HBO movie “Temple Grandin,” which recounts the life and work of the celebrated advocate for autism research.
Then they wrote two songs that examine the subject from different angles. In “You and Me,” they adopted the perspective of Jada, the autistic daughter of a Nashville friend. “It started with the first two lines: ‘When she walks through the door, she doesn’t have to worry anymore,’” Jones said. “That whole HBO movie is about being afraid to walk to the door because it leads to something she does not know. At the end of the movie, she realizes that it’s just a new beginning.”
The second song, “Autism,” takes a more general view yet still emphasizes humanity and understanding. “It’s not sad,” Jones insisted. “A kid spins around in a shop. Everybody thinks he’s crazy, but I just take his hands and start dancing with him.”
Both of these songs are available as downloads from Amazon and iTunes. Proceeds are being donated to Autism Speaks, a research and advocacy organization. Jones also performed Sept. 8 at the Fifth Annual Tennessee Walk Now for Autism Speaks event at Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, where digital and physical copies of her songs were sold as well.
“I really hope these songs go all over the world,” she said. “My name doesn’t even have to be on them. Just sell these two songs and bring in money for these people because they really need it.”