JAWNY, previously known as Johnny Utah inspired by Keanu Reeve’s character in Point Break, found himself thrust into the spotlight after his song “Honeypie” went viral last year. Listeners were drawn to the catchy beat and hand tambourine, but what kept fans intrigued was his unique voice and quirky attitude.
He just delivered his newest single from his upcoming EP For Abby. “Sabotage” is one of those songs that hits you really hard, in the best way possible. Fuzzy vocals and piano blend into a full-on instrument drop. It makes you forget that you might be sitting alone in lockdown. Instead, popping this song into your earphones transports you to that car ride full of friends and euphoria.
JAWNY has a loyal fan base and countless Reddit threads commenting on his recent name change. “I stood in front of the Interscope Council to hear my fate,” JAWNY says. “Keanu Reeves was NOT happy that I had been using his name from the movie Point Break and that I had been sentenced to life in the prison of Azkaban,” JAWNY jokes. “I begged and pleaded not to send me there. They agreed to my counter offer on one condition. If I changed my name. So here we are.” Here we are, JAWNY is rebranded but his music is as lo-fi and delectable as ever.
LADYGUNN sat down with JAWNY to talk about his upcoming EP, his weird-ass Youtube channel (which of course I’ve binge-watched), and how the quirky fun guy is staying sane in quarantine.
What was it like dropping Honeypie and seeing your life change as the numbers went up?
It was one of the most beautiful things to ever happen to me in my entire life and at the exact same time one of the most dangerous things that could have ever happened to my music career. I spent nearly 2 years releasing music on the internet and SoundCloud and always hitting a glass ceiling. I was happy with where I was as an artist but I seemed to be stuck in this certain level of artistry that I couldn’t get out of.
Then when I release a song that not only breaks me out of that mold but also is one of the biggest indie songs of the summer and has me sitting in rooms with people who have put out records that literally made me want to become an artist; it really can start to fuck with your head. You start to have this internal dialogue in your head of well when I wrote THIS kind of song it did this much impact for my life, but when I wrote THIS type of song it changed everything for me you can start to write music for the wrong reasons.
That’s why when I decided to rewrite my project it was for myself and fans. I had to look in the mirror and realize if I’m writing a song to try to piggyback off of this other song, that’s not genuine to my fans and most importantly, that’s not genuine to me and is not why I started making music. I make music to create art that inspires me to keep going and that’s how it’s going to stay. With all that being said I am so very grateful for Honeypie’s success and its existence in the world. It has opened so many doors for me and I don’t regret it for even a second. I’m just happy I took the right path and didn’t sell out and start making music for the radio and the wrong reasons.
I watched your video last week to see if pop rocks did in fact make the baby explode. Can we expect more of this kind of Youtube content soon? Weekly vlogs perhaps?
Hey thank you for watching that! I hope you hated it but then also I hope you didn’t. It was such a cringe thing for me to get used to doing because holding a camera and talking to it just felt so awkward. I think I am getting the hang of it and I do plan on making more and continuing to do so pretty actively. I’m not going to say every week verbatim because then if I don’t do one week some kid may come to my house and beat the shit out of me. Oh ya I got a house! I’m pretty souped about that as well.
Who is your dream collaborator?
Mac Miller which can unfortunately never happen now so rest in peace and power but if I had to pick some others it would definitely be the Gorillaz or if somehow Tyler, The Creator would ever want to get on something I made. Maybe Jesus idk. Hit me up J.
What can we expect from this upcoming EP?
I think a much needed change of pace. I had written what I thought was going to be a project from February to November of 2019 and signed to Interscope with the intention to release it. February of 2020 was a turning point in my life. I went on a nearly month-long tour overseas and at the same time went through a pretty public breakup. By the time I got back home on our soil I felt like my entire life / home had turned completely upside down. I had just spent a month performing a new single that I was not proud of night after night and came home to an empty feeling house that once had life and then on top of that was told I had to isolate myself and stay inside because of COVID. Then I just decided to do the only thing i am good at to stay sane : make music. After about 2 weeks I started to see that I had written 2-3 new songs and after about a month I was starting to feel like maybe I was on to something. So I called up my label and asked how everybody would feel if I could have more time to restart my project from scratch and I was met with open arms and support. 4 months later I finished what I think is my best body of work that I have ever put together. I made this for the people who have supported me since day one. I didn’t think about the radio, or playlists, or numbers or if it sounds like it could be on Tik Tok. I wanted to clean slate make a project that was 105% me and I think that’s what people can expect from my project.
What have you been doing in quarantine to pass the time?
Writing so much music and also just having time to think about things I haven’t had time to think about before! Like I decided the other day I wanted to write a short film and I have the time to do that? That’s kind of beautiful. It’s very easy to be caught up with how ugly the world is right now and the only thing I really can do is try to make some positive come out of such a terrible situation. I hope everybody’s families are safe and in good health during these crazy times.
Let’s talk about the song. I like it, it’s funky. What was the inspo behind the beat and the lyrics?
I made the instrumental nearly 2 years ago and never touched it again until my first session back after my tour in February. It was the first time I had made music since I had been back home. I don’t know how to honestly answer what the inspiration was but what I can say is the energy of exactly how I felt in that room that day came out in that song. All the vocal takes were not supposed to be in the final either that’s why you can even hear some of my mess ups. It was originally supposed to be just a reference track to go back in later and redo but there was something about the energy in the room that day though that I would not have been able to recreate so I decided to just keep it how it is.
You’ve been referred to as bedroom lo-fi, pop, and funk. What genre would you consider yourself?
I’m whatever you want me to be baby. If you are a country fan but you like my music, mask off then I’m a country star. I would say if I had to gun to my head, I would call my genre Lil Baby.
How are you staying mentally sane during quarantine? or is that just something no one has figured out yet?
I’m definitely not the one to ask that one. I try and do my best but I’m definitely not there. Let’s go find an expert and get that answer together because I need to know too.
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photos / courtesy of artist
story / Sam Berlin