Caroline Jones is opening up about her fond memories of her mentor, the late Jimmy Buffett, praising his "creative fire" and "zest for life."

Buffett was an early champion of Jones', taking her on tour in 2018 and 2019 and signing the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to a deal with his Mailboat Records. They sang together on a 2018 live duet titled "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On," and again on "Gulf Coast Girl" in 2019, which also featured Kenny Chesney, Lukas Nelson and Mac McAnally.

Buffett died on Sept. 1, 2023, at the age of 76 after a years-long battle with skin cancer, and Jones tells Taste of Country that his love and passion for his life and work served as an important role model not only for her, but for everyone.

"The most important takeaway from Jimmy, for me, is just an example of a kind of creative fire and zest for life that you read about in quotes about life, all those cliche quotes," she shares, "but that he actually lived and exhibited."

"As Mac McAnally said, [Buffett] squeezed more juice out of life than anyone he's ever met," she adds.

"It's one thing to read about that in a motivational quote, and it's another to see someone living that up until their last day, at 76," Jones states. "I see so many people my age and younger, people in their 20s chasing this dream in Nashville, and they're already cynical, already jaded, already over it.

"And then you see someone like Jimmy, who, at age 74, 75, when I was touring with him, was still engaged in the setlist and his fans' experience in a way that I haven't seen matched. He was still thinking of marketing ideas for the music video for the song he wrote for me at the same time that he was running a global business empire [Buffett's Margaritaville restaurants, music and various lifestyle brands had made him into a billionaire at the time of his death], and making records, and making a documentary with his daughter.

"And when he wasn't doing that, he was surfing and sailing and flying his planes," she adds. "It's just inspirational. It sets the bar and puts all of us Gen Z'ers and Millennials to shame. It sets the bar for a life well-lived, and a worth ethic that's matched by passion. Which is very rare, because I think a lot of artists have an amazing work ethic, but they're not that happy or fulfilled in their life. They don't have a life, they just have craft. And he had both."

Jones is emulating her mentor in more ways than one. She joined the Zac Brown Band as a full member in 2022, and she's now balancing that with her own solo career, which saw her release a new album titled Homesite on Oct. 20.

Jones married America's Cup sailor Nick Dana in late 2021, and the couple are expecting their first child in November of 2023. Jones plans to take her child on the road, though she tells ToC she's not quite sure how that's going to work quite yet.

"Talk to me in a year," she says with a laugh. "But I'm confident; my husband and I are a really strong unit, I have a great support system around me, I have a wonderful team, and I have a great passion and love for what I do, that I want to model for my child. So, just like every other woman in history, I'll figure it out."

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