Something we really enjoy here at Dork, you may have noticed, is when acts are a fun, enthusiastic and not afraid to poke fun at themselves, the world, us - anything and everything. It's a nice break from worrying about 'the state of things', especially when 'the state of things' feels so bloody bleak. Remember when we were all complaining about 2016? Little did we know.
One of the acts brightening up many a miserable corner, is Jawny - formerly Johnny Utah. His upbeat, personality-packed songs are guaranteed to smack a smile on even the glummest of faces, a mission he's already taken to millions with viral hits such as last year's ridiculously catchy 'Honeypie'. More recently, he's been working on a longer project, 'For Abby' - which he's teasing today with new single 'Super Bad Mantra (Feat. Christian Blue)'.
Give his new 'un a listen below, and get to know the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/internet sensation a little better, too.
Hi Jawny, how's it going? Are you having a good summer?
Hi! I'm having as good as a summer as anybody can have with the world's current climate. Staying inside but also staying busy. Been working on new music for a majority of the summer and that feels good!
What does a typical day look like for you at the moment, has the virus mucked up your routine much?
Honestly, my daily life has not been affected that much outside of not being able to go out to restaurants to eat. For the most part, I stay inside and away from people 95% of the time. Now with COVID, I stay inside and away from people 100% of the time. Growth.
What first got you into making music, was there a moment where you suddenly thought 'this is what I want'?
I had first gotten really seriously into music at about 12, and at 13 I had that moment of, this is all I want to do with my life. Somehow I want to do this. I was obsessed. I would watch a live concert DVD of Green Day's Bullet In A Bible movie every single day after school. By the time I had gotten to be about 15, I think all of the goals of being a rock star and a professional skater seemed to not feel like obtainable things, and I spent the next five years really having no idea what else I wanted to do with my life. At 20, after spending a couple of years producing music and getting pretty solid at it, I had a moment where I suddenly thought, "Why can't this be an option? I'm good at producing. I think I'm ok at writing music. I know how to record. I have all of the tools sitting in front of me. The only thing stopping me is me and myself." Never looked back since… and here we are, hahaha.
How are you finding being a musician so far, is it living up to the hype?
I'm grateful for the position I am in and like a lot of my peers you find out it gets intense the higher you go, but that feels like the same story with any job. I'm happy with what my life is in this moment, but I also have more goals that I've set out to accomplish. I'm forever grateful to every person out there who believes in me and listens to my music as a fan, and I'll continue to navigate around this Wild Wild West world of artistry and learn more about where I stand in it every day.
What prompted the swap from Johnny Utah to Jawny? Do you like reinventing yourself?
I do like reinventing myself, and this name change gave me a chance to do that. I had based the name Johnny Utah from a character in a movie called Point Break played by Keanu Reeves. In December at a Spotify Grammys party in LA I was tackled to the ground, knocking me unconscious. When I finally came to, and my vision made its way back, I was staring up at Keanu who pointed at me and said, "You have one week to change." I immediately knew what this was in reference to so the next week I called a boardroom meeting with my label asking everybody in the building, even the interns, to come help me with this task. After 6 hours, we came up with the genius idea of knocking Utah off of what my Instagram and twitter handles are @jawnyutah.
What can you tell us about your upcoming project, has it been a long time in the making?
Ya absolutely. In technical terms, this project is a year in the making. I signed to a label with what I thought would be the backbone of my project and was beginning to work on finishing those songs. In February, I was asked to travel the world and showcase some of these songs to different countries to give them a taste of what was to come. Very quickly, I learned while performing that I wasn't connecting to them myself. I spent the next month playing shows in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Australia, Berlin, Oslo, and every time I got to the part of the set where I would showcase new music; I would feel sad; almost as if I realized that I had made songs for the wrong reasons. After the trip, I took a risk by basically going to my label and basically saying, "Yo what's up guys! I know you just spent a lot of money sending me around the world showcasing these songs that we are about to put out. Would it be insane if I asked for some extra time and restarted my entire project from scratch. Square one?" That turned out to be the best decision I ever made and I now have a body of work that I can say with 100% confidence is my best work, and right now in this moment, I am proud. If in two months this changes my entire career or drives it into the ground none of it will matter because I know I gave it everything.
How do you approach curating the tracklisting for something like that?
Well, in my case, I came back from that tour and immediately started writing music. I had tricked my brain into not thinking about a project. I just wanted to sit down every day in my studio and just make something that I loved. Two months in I had taken a step back and realized I was onto something bigger than I had anticipated and then came up with the concept for the project: 'For Abby'. Then once I had the blueprint, it was all a matter of filling in the blanks. "Oh I need an interlude to get this point across narrative-wise these two songs together, oh I'll move this song to track two because narrative-wise it makes way more sense, ok I'll put this right before the last song so that it kind of ties it all together."
What do you make of the TikTok explosion this year, does the way people find music via platforms like that impact the music you want to make?
I honestly don't know what to make of it. I don't have anything negative to say, but it also feels really dystopian to me to know there are boardroom meetings for giant artists revolving around figuring out the best way to get their song going on TikTok. What I can answer is that it does not impact anything I make at all, hahaha. My entire reasoning for going back to square one on my project was to make a body of work that did not have the radio in mind, did not have playlisting in mind, and did not have any apps of any sorts in mind. If they come naturally, I will welcome it with open arms and be very grateful of it, but I want to always make music that I love so when I give it to people who support me they know they aren't being handed a vinyl titled "ME. Selling Out. An Album by Jawny".
Has racking up a load of plays on YouTube and the like opened new doors for you?
It has definitely inspired me to explore that platform a lot more. YouTube for me was always just a place to upload music videos but seeing my channel build up a community in itself it's made me branch out and start coming up with ideas for other things that can live on YouTube. I bought a camera and started to vlog (I know, trust me even me writing that made me cringe, I just grit my teeth… but I promise I think I'm doing it in a way that's not, hahaha). I just hit 100,000 subscribers today actually while doing this interview, so I'm pretty stoked about that!
What inspires you, both in music and in life?
I've been on this kick lately of trying to change my mindset into waking up every day and striving to be 1% better. Just every day, trying to wake up and recognise maybe one thing that I can do differently or maybe change a thought pattern to something more optimistic. I feel like this isn't fully a correct answer to the question, but I love you Dork, don't hate me.
What do the next few months look like for you?
So much. New music videos. My ten-track major-label debut. New singles. Then once the project is out, it doesn't stop there. I'll be continuing to put out more. There will never be a period of time in my career where there is a gap and people are waiting for music for months. Those days are over. It's Jawny season. I love y'all.
Jawny's project 'For Abby' is out 27th October.