Interview: Jonny Carroll

jonny carroll interview

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, spellbinding singer/songwriter Jonny Carroll has spent years honing his craft busking and touring on both sides of the Atlantic. His debut album Leaving On The Light ranks amongst the best releases of the year. His raw and honest lyricism perfectly embodies his mantra “pop hook, folk heart”. With some beautiful music to his name and with his star set to rise, Belwood Music was lucky enough to have a chat with him:

Thank you for your time! You’ve recently released your amazing debut album ‘Leaving On The Light’, are you proud of the end result? Did it turn out the way you hoped it would?
Hey James! Yes, the album was a long time coming, and the vision for it evolved a lot over the process of writing it, planning it, and tracking it. I am very pleased with how it turned out, and feel it is a very exciting and necessary step to the expansion of my sound.

Did the writing and recording of the album come with any unexpected challenges or was it all smooth sailing?
It’s interesting, I actually had a different album concept planned and mostly written, but a massive change in life setting found me in the UK touring for a couple of months, and I wrote the current album mostly out of that experience. During the creation of the album I was mostly self employed as an indie artist exclusively, so the funding for it took a lot more time than I anticipated. A lot of lessons learned for the next time around.

Your music comes across as very personal and heartfelt, as though you’re using it as a kind of coping mechanism. What does the music mean to you?
I definitely think songwriting is a therapeutic process at first, but it usually evolves beyond that at some point. There comes an instance, for most songs, that it is less about coping for me and more about sharing something powerful and relevant to an audience. I have certain songs that I keep for myself that are just therapy. I don’t generally share songs with the world unless I think others can benefit from it.

What message would you like fans to take away from the album?
First and foremost, I want people to pay close attention to the album as a concept, front to back. It tells a story of unreasonable courage, impractical love, devastating loss, coming to ruins, and ultimately finding a deeper sense of purpose, and a more refined quality of life by the end. I think it is always a good decision to love more, dare more, pursue more, and give more than is culturally reasonable. If I can inspire more of that, this album is a success.

You spent a lot of time in the UK busking and playing gigs. In your experience how do audiences, and music scenes in general, differ between the UK and the US?
Busking is definitely a lot more of a celebrated thing in most places I went in the UK than it is in the Midwest of North America (where I’m from). There are niche places here for it, but it was a lot more viable for me to do a busking tour in the UK. Also, the music industry in the UK is more cohesive in my experience. Lots of promoters and places to play loads of genres. It’s easier to navigate than America is for me because everything is in one place. But of course I love touring both.

Who would you say are your biggest influences?
Loads over the years, and it always changes. The past few years have been Passenger, Ed Sheeran, Noah Gundersen, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, to name a few. More recently I’ve been into pop rock ‘n’ roll, so James Bay, NEEDTOBREATHE, Marc Scibilia, and the singles from Shawn Mendes’ new album have been in rotation.

You were recently invited onstage by Passenger to play a song, that must have been quite a big moment for you!
It was! And totally unexpected. You can find the video my friend Thumper took on my facebook page. Mike is a very generous guy, and of course he knew that was a dream of mine to play a gig with him. That moment happened when I was finishing a national independent tour that wasn’t faring so well in a lot of ways, so he really gave me a courage top off to keep going.

What’s next for you? What do you hope the future holds?
I’m currently doing crowdfunding for a new (used) tour van, as I have no vehicle to get to shows in right now. After that, I’ll be spending most of autumn growing my online audience as well as taking the ‘singer-songwriter’ thing to the next level by getting a full time band together. I have some new songs I’m working on, so after I finish touring ‘Leaving On The Light’ next year, a new EP will likely be in the works.

Massive thanks to Jonny and best of luck with the tour and the quest for a new old van! His album Leaving On The Light is out now.