Don Dixon’s life always has been filled with music.
The singer-songwriter, bassist and producer got his start in junior high playing with a professional dance band.
“I just never quit. I’ve never done anything else really,” he said in a phone call from his Canton home.
The South Carolina native is probably best known for producing albums for R.E.M, The Smithereens and a host of other bands and performers, as well as his wife, Marti Jones. He’s also a songwriter and musician who has played in a slate of bands, including most recently Mary Chapin Carpenter’s band, a Pouge’s cover band, The Boys from The County Hell and Christmas act, The Ohio City Players.
Dixon met Marti while producing with A&M Records. The pair were married in 1988 and relocated to Canton. They have one daughter, Shane.
The couple has played all over the world—and continues to tour—but loves calling Stark County home.
“Why would we live anywhere else but the center of the universe,” he said.
Dixon, 68, knows his success in the industry is rare. And he has no intentions of stopping anytime soon.
“I do not advise anybody to go into this business. There’s just too many variables. A tremendous amount of people never get to do what I get to do,” he said.
“There are no tricks. You just have to keep trying to do the best work you can and hope that every once in awhile you get the proper sort of compensation for all the work you did,” he said, adding that success in music requires perseverance.
“It’s not just talent. A lot of it is just cultivating what talent you do have and being lucky, being in the right place at the right time.”
About 15 years ago, Marti Jones Dixon picked up a paintbrush for the first time in years. She hasn’t put it down since.
The 62-year-old Ohio native paints at her studio in her Canton home.
“It’s figurative,” she said of her work. “I like to paint people, not portraits necessarily, but people.”
Her work, including a well-known series of paintings of stills from films and Alfred Hitchcock cameos, has been featured in galleries across the country.
“I love painting from film. You can capture movement, you can make it move to get what you want out of a figure you’re studying. It’s cool. It’s really fun,” she said, adding that her recent paintings have moved beyond the film series.
Before she was a renowned painter, Jones Dixon was known for her music. The singer has been performing since she was 10 and found success both as a solo artist and in several bands. Her most well-known work includes her ’80s albums “Unsophisticated Time,” “Match Game” and “Used Guitars.”
Jones Dixon met her husband, Don, while he was producing her albums. They married in 1988 and had their daughter, Shane, in 1991. The family settled in Canton, not far from Jones Dixon’s hometown of Uniontown.
“I really am more of a homebody,” she said. “Being on the road is kind of fun and it’s freeing and you have no responsibilities, but it’s always nice not living out of a suitcase.”
The couple now perform and tour together, often opening for other acts.
“It is the reason we’ve been married so long. It’s hard when you’re the one left at home, and we’ve both done it, we’ve both been in those shoes,” she said.
“It sucks being home alone and it sucks being alone on the road. We can support each other,” she added. “We’re best friends, and we have been forever. So that helps.”
1. How did you meet?
Marti: We met when I was in a band in Akron which had been signed to A&M Records in Los Angeles. We’d recorded a 6-song EP (extended play) record. Some members of the band felt that some of the songs should be redone (I wasn’t one of them). The record company flew Don Dixon into Akron, who with Mitch Easter was working on the follow-up album to REM’s first album on IRS Records, which they had also produced. He met with us and essentially said, “Why would you want to re-do anything on this record? Let it come out and then get ready to make a full LP.” I couldn’t have agreed more and felt as though I was not a stupid girl in a band with no voice other than the singing one.
Don: Marti was in a band from Akron that was signed to A&M records. Color Me Gone. On New Year’s Day 1984, I flew to Cleveland and spent a couple of days working with them with the possibility that I would re-record a few songs for their first project for the label. I loved Marti’s voice and thought the band was interesting but didn’t think they should redo these songs which had already been produced by extremely talented people. I advised them to release what they had, then proceed to work on new material. Most of the band didn’t like that advice, but Marti thought I was right, so we bonded over that. But the band got their way. When she left the band about a year later, I was hired by Marti and A&M to make her first solo album.
2. When did you know he/she was the one?
Marti: I ended up making a solo record for A&M, and it was produced by Don Dixon. I had no idea that making a record could be fun! He quickly became someone whose company I enjoyed greatly. He made me feel smart, and he made me laugh. He was so easy to be around. I could be myself. I didn’t think we would end up together, but we did, and I am very grateful… But don’t tell him. I like to keep him guessing.
Don: We became friends while working on her first album, “Unsophisticated Time.” Good platonic friends, not just professional friends. Later on, after that first record was released, I realized that I wanted to be with her all the time.
3. What’s your favorite thing to do together?
Marti: Singing. And playing. And laughing.
Don: Watch “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.” Not really, but we do enjoy just hanging out. We’re both gone so much of the time (often apart) that our time together, whether on the road or at home, is always a treat.
4. What do you admire most about your partner?
Marti: I admire his ability to socialize. He’s always at ease around everyone.
Don: I initially admired Marti’s voice and singing style. Her ability to keep her emotions at arms length but still draw you in to a song. And her sense of humor. The cartoons she would draw about events in the studio were pretty funny. Her ability to capture the character of someone in a simple drawing is amazing, but as I got to know her better, I began to appreciate her painting. She is quite dedicated to whatever she pursues and has a tremendous amount of talent in a number of categories. She is so kind and giving that it sometimes minimizes her presence as an artist with a capital “A.” If she was more of an egotistical jerk, she might be taken more seriously. But I like her the way she is.