“I would rather sink on a ship giving people music that I know I fully believed in, than to keep my ship afloat giving music that I don’t really connect with”
From the very second our zoom call starts, JAWNY’s energy is through the roof. Fresh after dyeing his hair bright fluorescent yellow, he’s yelling, quickly roaming around his room in a pair of crocs. He never sits still, and if you know JAWNY’s music, this seems super fitting... “I’m wild, I’m fuckin’ hyper! That’s me with music too, I'm all over the place.” he says, with his bright yellow hair swinging all over the place. After listening to JAWNY’s full catalogue, I automatically assumed he was always the class clown character in school, and I wasn’t too far off. He tells me his classmates would have called him “something like that... I feel like nobody labels themselves as a class clown... I think if you said “oh hey I’m the class clown” you probably grew up to be an asshole.” he says joking around. He tells me he was always in trouble, not for anything bad - just for not shutting up. “I got in trouble a lot, I was always getting in trouble not for doing anything bad, just for talking or crack a joke... my teacher would say something and there would be a perfect set up, and I just couldn’t hold it in! So, I’d always get in trouble for that, and they would always tell my mom “He’s a good kid, he’s very polite... but he just doesn’t shut the fuck up.” he says laughing. This totally makes sense, with his music full of quirky one-liners, cheeky punchlines and an overall energy that reinforces that he doesn’t care at all, his music is his.
The sonically fresh artist has gained a new wave of traction from his super-hit of a song, ‘Honey Pie’ but is not letting this viral sensation take charge of who he is as an artist. Instead, he is listening to his gut over the charts. This mindset has helped him find his way as an artist, delivering music that doesn’t sound like “everything else”. He tells me that he follows his gut instinct regardless of how left-field the song may sound... "I just follow my intuition of what I feel is a tight song in that moment, and even if it isn't fitting the times or the trends, I just want to follow that instinct.” His ultimate care for his craft never leaves his fans disappointed. I was a fan of JAWNY before our call, but after we had our chat I was a super fan. He is an example of an artist who has remained true to himself, which has undoubtably lead to nothing but amazing music from the young breakthrough artist. He shares with me that his music is from the heart - he doesn’t ever make music for the numbers, just for him.
Since JAWNY launched into the spotlight, he has been constantly on the move, and his next play is an EP called ‘The Story of Hugo’. The EP acts as an extension of his last project, ‘For Abby’ which was focused on a deadbeat boyfriend, making a mixtape for the girl he lost. While this followed the breakup of the relationship, JAWNY felt like he still had parts of the story to tell, that part was Hugo’s. The project shows JAWNY maturing even more, and although there has only been just over a year since his last project, the evolution has been huge. Still giving us his signature alternative pop rock blend, he also shifts gears slightly to give us something fans may not exactly be expecting from JAWNY, because after all, who cares what people think about you “Just do what you want to do”.
What are some of your earliest musical memories, and how did they influence you?
My earliest musical memory that I can remember having some sort of effect on me was living in California when Green Day put out the American Idiot album, it’s the first time in my life until recently with Olivia Rodrigo’s album, where everywhere I would go and everywhere I would turn and every time I turned on the radio, I would hear Green Day. I'm a giant Green Day fan, I lived in the town that Green Day grew up in, I was outside of Oakland. That was a huge musical memory of life. Another one would be when Feel Good by the Gorillaz hit the United States and was all over the radio, I remember having that on my iPod nano... I was young at that point, probably in elementary school. I remember that song being a little bit of an awakening for me, I had never heard anything like that before, it was my introduction to British influence coming into American mainstream radio. Those were the two I really remember as a kid in my elementary school years where I was just like “This is SO crazy, I would love to do this one day”, it was the pipedream stuff when I was seven or so.
How would you describe your music?
I don’t think I can... and it's because I don’t stay anywhere for more than a song or two yet, every song I make is by whatever happens in the room that day. I can make an indie pop song, or it can be an alternative rock song, or it can be a soft sad piano ballad, or a really happy pop song... if I had to describe it without a genre, I would say... I don’t know, I hope that it comes off as something that when people listen to it, they connect with it, that’s what's most important. If someone can listen to something deeper that I put out I hope they can hear what I was maybe going through in that moment, or they can find that in themselves and it can help them get through that feeling. Or I hope it can channel people to different places, I hope I make music that if someone wakes up and wants to have a good day, they can put on a certain song of mine, or if someone feels like they're in a shitty mood and they want to be uplifted, I hope I have a song like that for them too. That’s what I hope. I think as you can already tell from this conversation, I’m wild... I walk around talking loudly, with my hands waving all over the place, I’m fuckin’ hyper! That’s me with music too, I'm all over the place. I can't stand still, and it kind of comes out that way. I’ve been like that since I was a kid, always bouncing off the walls.
Tell me about your writing style – where did it come from?
Where did it come from? I don’t know... If I had to give a guess it would be all the elbows I’ve bumped in music and all the people I've listened to over the years. As far as my process, it's all just what I feel that day. I try to put a lot of my life experiences into it and use it as an outlet for that. It could go either way, but at the end of the day it's me going into a studio, building a drum loop out and then usually tracking some guitar on top of that, if it's me by myself I'm doing it all on my own, or if I have a friend with me, I encourage them to grab a bass and fiddle around on it and we see if we can find anything that my brain connects to. This may sound like I’m being pretentious, but it is actually an insult to myself because I’m losing out on a lot of opportunities – but I’m not an artist that can just go to the studio just shit out a feature verse, I can't just write lyrics when someone wants me on a song, I’m not that guy... I can only make a song or write over something if I'm really feeling connected to it. So, there are pros and cons to that, pro is I'm giving my fans something that I’m connected to, cons are I can't make 100 songs like some of these cool L.A artists that are just running lines all day. It’s cool though, you learn your strong suits and your weaknesses, and you figure out how to make the art out of that and I don’t let it ever stop me.
“I just follow my intuition of what I feel is a tight song in that moment, even if it isn't fitting the trends, I just want to follow that instinct.”
I feel like being an artist on the rise is a little challenging with Covid – what have been some advantages of the pandemic for you personally?
Obviously Covid brought on a lot of bad, it changed everyone's lives and it fucked over a lot of my friend’s lives and even killed some people, and I will always shed light on that and acknowledge that that happened before I say anything else. For me personally, as fucked as it all is, the step back that not only the world took, but for me that step back really helped. We had just been switched on 24/7, getting to that point myself was amazing, I have been non-stop since I was 17, and I’m 25 now. So having that pause for a few months helped me more than I think I needed. If it didn’t happen, I would be in a completely different place right now, my headspace would be different, and probably not so much for the better... I was going on a path that didn’t have a good end. I wasn’t addicted to drugs or anything crazy like that, my life was just so on and my schedule was getting backed up and constantly full, not knowing what I was doing with music and I wasn’t sure where my compass was or what my calling was, and I was in a bad mental spot. So, it really helped me self-reflect and carve out my brain and find my new direction. As messed up as it was ultimately, I really needed it. This EP wouldn’t exist if it didn’t happen, there was such a butterfly effect to everything.
Tell me a little about ‘The Story of Hugo’
When I finished my last project, ‘For Abby’ the natural next step for both me as an artist, as well as for my label was to make an album. I gave myself a little time off after it came out, and I just wasn’t feeling ready to come back with a 12-song concept for an album, I felt like I still had things to say in the universe of the last project, I still had parts of the story to tell, unfinished business if you will. My solution for that was to make an EP before the album, to just get these extra feelings I had off my chest. For me, it felt like I had told the story about this shit-head guy who made a mixtape for this girl, but I feel like I never told his story... I told the story of the breakup, but I realised I didn't give him much depth. And so, I named him Hugo and now we are here with the story of Hugo. It’s kind of like the pre-dating start to finish of their relationship before he made that mixtape. There has been a lot of evolution between ‘For Abby’ and ‘The Story of Hugo’ - For starters, I made most of the first project at my house during lockdown, and when I got to make the Story of Hugo this year, the world was a little different and the studios were starting to open up again – that mixed with a better perspective made this nice little cocktail where I was clear on where I needed to go, as well as having more resources in the studio. With ‘For Abby’ I was learning as I went along, I had the story sort of clear, but I was still figuring things out. For this one I was a lot more focused in on what I was doing. My sound evolved a little more into something not many people have expected from me, maybe they’ll like it, maybe they won't... I respect both opinions. It was something I felt like I needed to do before I give the world my album.
You’ve said before that you want to always stick with your gut – can you elaborate on this?
I’m like any artist, I see numbers and I see playlists and billboard spots or whatever it is, and that does get to my head sometimes... but for the most part, I genuinely don’t ever make music for those reasons. And following your gut for me is not making music for anyone, I'm not in the studio thinking about how I need to make a song for the radio or anything, I just follow my intuition of what I feel is a tight song in that moment, and even if it isn't fitting the times or the trends, I just want to follow that instinct. I would rather sink on a ship giving people music that I know I fully believed in, than to keep my ship afloat giving music that I don’t really connect with, but I know will stream well. I could write a bunch of pop songs and do some dances and be sexy, but I don’t want to do that! That’s not what I like. I owe everything to my fans; I have a little army of followers and I only want to give them music that I love myself. And I know how it feels to deliver something you aren't entirely loving, I've been doing this for a few years and I have learned and I have made a couple of mistakes along the way, now as of recent I just follow my gut. I don’t follow trends; I just want to make what I think is cool and tight.
What do you hope to bring to the current landscape?
I don’t even think of myself as a big enough player to do anything to really change anything honestly, I don’t think I'm doing anything groundbreaking, if anything I would just want to be known in the music landscape as someone who is putting out shit that doesn’t sound like everything else. I don’t really know where I even fit in the musical landscape, you said before I was an artist on the rise, and I was like “Am I?” I didn’t even know that. It would be cool if I was respected among the community and the critics, just some validation and respect from a couple of people and they know that I am a musician that puts out what I care about, then that’s good enough for me!
Listen to JAWNY's latest EP 'The Story of Hugo' on Spotify below:
Words by Oli Spencer
Photography by Oli Spencer, shot over FaceTime