Sitting somewhere on the fence of chart pop and contemplative folk, Jonny Carroll’s sound has been cultivated by his eclectic taste in musical extremes and his manic depressive sense of creativity. Hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, Carroll cut his teeth by busking the streets of West Michigan for a living, spending winters playing shows and street performing in England and Scotland. His debut EP “The Willow” was nominated for 4 WYCE Jammie Awards in 2014 and his music has been featured on a number of regional radio stations spanning from Midwest America across the Atlantic, as well as in the award winning short film ‘Step One’ by Chris Eckenwiler.
It was my pleasure to get to know Jonny a bit better by having a chat. When I find gem of an artist that you can truly connect to their music on a deep personal level, I like to get to know what was the inspiration and the story behind those songs. His album ‘Leaving on the Light’ is available on itunes and spotify now.
Hi Jonny, your new album has been released, how have you been feeling in the lead up to this?
I’ve been insanely busy, but all in a good way! The concept for this record began coming together about 22 months ago, so it’s been a long journey to its realization.
Were you happy with the reception ‘Leaving On The Light’ in the first few days?
I’ve been very grateful for the amount of people who have commented, messaged, and tagged me in posts the past several days. Everyone keeps saying that it’s far better than they were expecting, and I love that.
Can you sum up ‘Leaving on the Light’ in 3 words?
Hi-Fi, Catchy and Honest
Your press release states that your ‘sound has been cultivated by his eclectic taste in musical extremes’ can you elaborate on this for us?
I grew up listening to a lot of what my mom was into (ABBA, Dire Straights, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel) and then later what my dad was into (James Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, CSNY, Norah Jones, Simon & Garfunkle) and later developed a taste for so many other genres. You can find me on any given day listening to west coast hip hop, traditional Irish folk, or nineties one-hit-wonders. It’s all come together to influence a unique sound for me.
Have you always wanted to be a musician? Have your family and friends been supportive of choice of career?
I first wanted to be a musician when I was about 6 I believe. I just wanted to be a rock star and entertain everyone in a powerful way, like I saw in the cartoons and Disney channel original movies. My family has been a driving force of support, constantly bragging about my work. It’s truly been unbelievable.
That is great to have family support, I found this to be the case “The songs are very pop in melody, but folk in narrative.”
One of the reasons that I felt the need to put my headphones and lay back to listen to your songs is the after the first listen I knew that it was not the usual pop album that is great to listen to but lacking in depth of meaning. I receive a lot of those albums. I feel that many people will be comforted by your music and know that they are not alone having the feelings that you sing about. As an artist how does this make you feel?
That makes me feel absolutely amazing, Jen. Just what I’m striving for. I believe that pop music doesn’t have to be bound to simple lyricism. As an artist that is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I find my manic tendencies in the catchy musical progressions and structure that I write, and my depressive tendencies in the vulnerable story-telling of the lyrics. Ultimately, I want my music to be a home anyone can be welcomed into — through the front, back, or side door. I’m so glad to hear this was the case for you.
I think that I connected to your music due to a failed marriage and for years I struggled to get back to the person I was prior to the marriage. It was a tough time and unless you have been through it there is little empathy. Was it therapeutic for you to write these songs to help you heal? Do you feel like it was a necessary step to recovery?
Absolutely. I often times write as a means of shuffling the emotive energy out of my head space. I found a great deal of release in writing, “Leaving On The Light”.
The lyrics and the title means that that you still have hope alive that your relationship might not be over? Is this the case?
It was when I first started writing the song. In this case, I was staying at a friend’s flat in London when I wrote the first verse and chorus, and when I traveled to Scotland for a few weeks I tucked it away. It wasn’t until nearly 6 weeks later I found myself in his flat again finishing the song. At that point, I was fine with ending the narrative of the song on the lyric, “I’m staying sober and I’m wishing you goodbye”. This particular song has a huge arch in it that takes the listener through the real journey that I experienced — that is, the cycle of grief one struggles with in those kind of scenarios.
Well I guess, if you take one positive out of that painful time it is that people can listen to your music and it can make them feel better.
If you could have a dream collaboration with any band/artist who would it be and why?
I would love to have a whole week writing songs in some kind of northern remote area with the likes of Passenger, Ed Sheeran, and Gavin James. Those three gents are my go-to in nearly every category of singer-songwritership. I hope to one day be among them as peers.
I can imagine you with those artists! That would be so cool.
What is next for you after the release?
Next, myself and a small crew leave this Sunday for a 44 show national tour in which we will be turning into a documentary called, “Blue Collar Pop”. It will high light the struggles of being an indie pop artist in very real ways. Fans can follow the journey at facebook.com/bluecollarpop.
Thanks Jonny for your time and all the best for your release.
Thank you, Jen! It’s been a pleasure. Xx