Jonah Smith, un de mes récents coups de coeur.. et comme cela m'est arrivé à plusieurs reprises, je n'ai pu m'empêcher de faire connaissance avec lui en lui posant quelques petites questions...
Eric : Hey Jonah, how are you today ?
Jonah : I'm okay. I'm recovering from a month of shows in Spain where I ate too much, drank too much, laughed too much and pretty much decided not to sleep. Then I got home and left the next day for Tennessee to play the Bonnaroo Festival. More of the same, but add intense sunshine, dust and hippies into the equation.
So tell me now.. Where are you from and how did you fall in Music ?
I grew up in Syracuse, NY which is about four hours away from New York City. There wasn't much to do
there growing up and I had a big brother that was really into music so I just gravitated towards it. Plus, was allowed to be a member of my neighbor's fake basement band when I was only six years old, which gave me a taste of the life. We didn't actually play instruments, we just put on Kiss records and thrashe around. For the last seven years I've resided in Brooklyn, NY.
Do you remember a LP or an artist in particular when you were child ?
I remember really loving the Journey "Escape" album around the time of the fake basement band, which is funny because now I'd shoot myself in the face before listening to that!
Tell me about your influences, you and the band ?
My influences are all over the place. Once I left Syracuse I started discovering all kinds of music that I wasn't exposed to on the radio there. Once I heard Miles Davis, I wondered what else the world had been conspiring to keep me from. I spent about five years of my life listening to tons of old soul records by Marvin, Donny, Stevie, Otis, etc...I also listened to a lot of jazz around that time. Then as I was studying music composition in school I became partial to minimalists like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass. That moment passed rather quickly. For the last several years, my main focus has been on songwriters - John Prine, Malcolm Holcombe, Bob Dylan. But I pretty much listen to anything good. I can't speak for the rest of the band, but I can tell you that Marko was partial to Iron Maiden growing up. The mere thought of that makes my stomach churn.
Your music, your sound are incredibly groovy, how do you work on them ?
I pretty much write something and then ask myself - "How can I make this incredibly groovy?". It generally involves taking all of the notes that the band is playing and dividing it by four.
What are your sources of inspiration ?
Really great writers are an inspiration - Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Michael Chabon being among them. Also, I like listening to really bad songwriters for inspiration, too. It's like Charles Bukowski said, "When I'm feeling down about my writing, I just read someone else." They are not in short supply.
Tell me more about the band, what are the roots ?
I met Ben Rubin while I was in college. We've played together in several bands and over the years have developed a style together that makes my left hand and his playing seamless (at least when all is going right). I met David Soler in my local Brooklyn bar through a friend. He had a Mohawk hair-do at the time and said he played pedal steel guitar as well, so he was pretty much in. He came over the next day and we played and it sounded great. Plus, he was pretty impressed by my collection of Frank Zappa CD's.
What do you listen to these days ?
Lately, I've been listening to Sufjan Stevens. I love his orchestral approach and arrangements. Anders Osbourne - great voice, great player....let's see, looking at my "last played" in my iTunes: Dayna Kurtz, Gomez, Elliot Smith, Wilco, Jamie Lidell, Pat Metheny....
If you could choose an artist to work with ?
Any of the people mentioned above. I'm also into certain producers and mixers like Tchad Blake, Andy Wallace, Nigel Godrich and Ethan Johns. I'd also one day like to have Jim Keltner play drums on one of my albums.
What are your upcoming projects ?
I'm going to be heading back to the studio to make my fourth album soon.
Any chance to see you perform in France in the not so distant future ?
There is a chance! I was lucky enough to play in Paris a few years ago and had an amazing experience. Universal Records is putting out our latest record in Spain in September and I'm hoping that it will be released in the rest of Europe shortly thereafter. So, a European tour is not that far off in the future.
And finally,is there anything you'd like to say to your French readers.. in French if you'd like...
Like Al Green says: "Amour et bonheur"
Thank you Jonah !