Like the candied taste of lemonade on a blazing afternoon or the innocent whimsy of a new romance, emerging Nashville-based musician JONNY P is bringing the emotionality of soul music back to the forefront of the contemporary music industry. Though his sound is sweet and easy-going like the malaise of a hazy, passing summer, his career has been anything but, having rather been a journey of determination and a long sought after pursuit drawn from his nostalgia for honest expression and hunger to create what feels personable to him. With the recent release of his new EP, Good To You and a number of projects in the works, the music world is about to have to catch up to Jonny P’s evolved vintage soul sound – and then take a step back to slow down to recognize his eased, blissful view on life. // JP – Jonny P
You had always been involved with music growing up, but is there any moment that you remember when you realized that you wanted to start pursuing it and singing publicly?
JP – Yeah, I was involved with music on the instrumentation side, like, I grew up as a drummer. I always, I guess, essentially hid behind the drums or that was my weapon of choice and it took until I was kind of early-twenties, at the tail end of high school maybe that I started to get interested in singing and I had always sang, but just privately in my house even away from my parents and I didn’t have a ton of confidence in that because I didn’t have any sounding board to just let me know, ‘Hey, that’s good,’ or, you know, ‘That’s something that you might be able to pursue,’ so it took a while even though I loved music and I loved all aspects of it. The singing/songwriting side was never really in my mind as a dream.
In your experience growing up in the Bronx, you must have been around so many genres of music. How do you think that influenced you as an artist today?
JP – I think it just really showed me that it wasn’t one style of music that moves people. It just showed me that individuality and perspective and art was paramount and it was really important for me to just simply choose what I thought I had the best opportunity to move people doing. Even as a drummer I had go-to rhythms or go-to grooves that when given the opportunity to play that one to do my shit, that was winning over that audience or that label executive, whatever it was, I still knew certain styles moved certain people and you just had to do the best at that one. So, growing up at that time I just saw how different cultures attached themselves to music and it inspired me and it gave me no limits in that way and I still write like that way. It still influences me to this day, all different styles and incorporating those things.
Why do you think it’s important to preserve the genres that influence your sound?
JP – Well, I think for most artists, in general, I think everyone has a formula that makes them who they are as musicians, depending on or whether you’re a historically or traditionally R&B or black artist, so to speak, and I’m not saying only black artists do things like hip hop or R&B or jazz or blues in certain ways, but more predominantly, I guess, you identify with that. There is a certain code or a certain combination of things that led you to your sound, whether it is gospel, jazz, R&B, so for me, I just think all the different influences that I had growing up just became my combination, it became the combination that unlocked the artist inside of me, and I think that’s important for most people. If you only listen to one thing, chances are only one thing is going to come out and not only is it going to be just one thing, it’s pretty much just going to be a remake of that one thing and that’s pretty much the antithesis of originality. That’s the same thing for me, and I know we are not talking about style, but when it comes to fashion, I like street style, suiting, I like skater stuff, I like beachwear, all those different things help me to make up my style, like one outfit you have to choose different textures, different palette, different styles to make up that one individual look and, as a music artist, I think that’s the importance of immersing yourself, if it’s possible, in different genres because it helps unlock your combination.
Your music is very contemporary and new, but you do hold onto vintage imagery and you incorporate it into your sound, as well. What is it about the past that you are attracted to or perhaps trying to bring into music today?
JP – I love the old music and the greats, most times, in my opinion, because it was most honest. For me, personally, I just loathe the thought of being a hypocrite in any way, shape, or form, and I would rather you just show me who and what you are and let me take it from there and let me make my own judgment call. So, when I think about older times before technology took over assisting people with vocal challenges, assisting people with playing that rhythm all the way through on point, people had to really bare their soul and they had to really work on the craft, so I think it also rendered to the listener honesty and allowed them to just make the judgement call. So, for me, at any point in time if I am showing myself to someone just for the sake of my own piece of mind, I want to just know that they have my full body of work to make the judgement call and they can just say, ‘Hey, that guy is good and I know he’s good because it was just real,’ so I chose soul music, number one because of my vocal style and how I feel like I can sing, and because I just thought it would be best to showcase in that zone of honesty and just the actual way that I sing and allow people to take it or leave it as it was. I feel that soul found me than I chose it.
Soul music is a really effective storytelling device. What stories do you hope to tell through your music and what sort of emotionality do you think soul lends?
JP – I definitely do hope to tell stories of honesty and love and romance and I think I’m a romantic person and just the true emotions of it, the not-cliche emotions of it, and sometimes if they are cliché, finding a new way to say that, but also, I think soul music and the greats before us that are trying to do it now, we owe it to ourselves to talk about things in society and I think more than singers these days, hip hop artists have kind of taken on that torch, people like Kendrick Lamar, and so I aim to get back to that. I do aim to have my own, ‘What’s going on?’ sort of songs in my career where I can really talk about stuff that is happening in a way that‘s honest and palatable and doesn’t feel like I’m attacking anyone, so those are some of things I aim to tell and convey with my music and future and have in the past, just talking about society and things that I think we can do to make it better for the next generation.
A lot of your songs are about the power of love. Why do you think we need this in music right now?
JP – Sex sells and sex has always sold and I feel like TV and commercials and all the things just tend to be getting more graphic, getting more promiscuous, so I feel like it is important to kind of wipe the ship in some ways, and trust me, I am all for a good time with my lady, let’s be honest, but with exposure these days, there is not much that shields younger people from older people’s conversations. When I was a kid, whenever adults were getting into heavy meaty shit, you had to leave the room, and these days, if you tell a kid to leave the room, they go and see worse things than you’re even talking about on their phones, on their computers, and I get that it sells, but where does it leave us fifty years from now? You know, at the end of the day, it’s just not how I was raised. I just want to show people, I want to give people emotion and feeling and have them turn around and say, ‘Well, damn. He didn’t have to get graphic. He didn’t have to say XYZ. I can still tell what he meant.’ I have a daughter, so the stuff that I write, the things that I sing, I know she will find it one day and it’s important to me that when she does find it and she does comprehend it, she will be able to say, ‘At least he put an effort into just being creative.’ At the end of the day, it’s just going back to being creative. I mean I can say whatever, that’s easy, but it’s harder just to put it in poetry and put it into a beautiful way and give people a little bit of imagination, let them dive deeper into the lyrics and let them paint their own picture, rather than being blunt and not really gentlemen-like. That’s my goal. That’s why I like the way that I wrote, so that all across the board no parent has to say, ‘You can’t listen to Jonny P.’ No older person wants to say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that he said that,’ like I just want it to be for everyone and I don’t know why you wouldn’t. That’s the better business plan to me.
You have a new EP out. What do you hope this collection of songs reveals about yourself and you as an artist?
JP – I’m really proud of this EP as a preview of who I am as an artist and I think for people that can listen to the stuff that I did four years ago, it will show immense growth in myself and the people that were involved in it, Goffrey Moore who produced it, and just show a journey, just show an honest progression of artistry. For people that are newcomers to me and to what I do, I think it will show a nod to the greats that came before me and inspired me, but also show that this guy is progressive in what he’s doing and just excite people what is possible and capable from me as an artist, that’s what I am hoping to show. I think a lot of catchy, easy to listen to, easy to chill to, easy to drive to, and easy to share songs are on this EP, so I am really excited to put it out.
You said you’ve been on a journey as an artist the past couple years. What has that journey been?
JP – I think for me the journey has been long. I met Raphael Saadiq, who is an idol of mine, I don’t have many, but he is one, I met him and he was really complimentary to me about my music in its current state and where he thought I should go, and he told me something that I won’t forget. He just said, ‘The road of soul music is a long and lonely road,’ is what he told me, and I think my journey is really that, just staying true. I know that I can sing and I never switched the game up in the hard times, I never tried to change, chase something that I wasn’t just because it was something that was hard. I want people to know that, that this is who I have been. This is not a bandwagon. You can get on my Instagram and scroll back seven years, six years, and realize that this is who this guy has been and he has been falling and fighting just to have a shot and I am only on the ground floor, but I am being true to myself and as an artist, I would want at the end of the day people to respect the consistency and the belief in myself and my perspective on music, even if it meant waiting for the music industry to catch up to where I was or to what I was feeling. That is what I feel has happened. More than anything, I am proud of being resilient and holding onto the dream.
You said you started out drumming and you grew up in the Bronx, but now you’re pursuing a solo career in Nashville. Is this the future that you imagined for yourself?
JP – No, not at all. My life is nothing like as I thought it would look, not even a small percentage of it. I have been fortunate enough to be born with very impulsive characteristics and traits and not allowing fear to really stop me from doing things that I think were necessary in that moment and it hasn’t always worked out, but I would tell anyone that life is a long road and if a new dream presents itself and you can get that dream and if you can get people in your life to say, ‘Hey, it’s worth a shot. We are here as your security and your trapeze net,’ just try. You don’t have to be pigeon holed down by anyone’s expectations of yourself, just try to live your dream and as many dreams that you have or have been allowed or allotted in life, maybe you should pursue them all until you reach what you think is happiness. I talk to my parents all the time and all they ever say to me is, ‘We thought you had things inside of you and you were capable of things, but we never saw you being able to do anything that you’re doing,’ and that makes me feel good that I am surprising even the people that raised me. It’s a big part of my story and just trying to be the best that I can no matter if it’s highs or lows, always just feeling like I am living my potential or I am chasing my potential.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add or any upcoming projects that you’re working on?
JP – Well, I think it is important to add that I’m in a movie that’s coming out on August 4th that’s worth mentioning. It’s called Detroit and it’s a really powerful film that chronicles crime, race, music, and it’s got an incredible cast directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. It’s a massive honor for me to be a part of it. Also, look out for shows this summer. I’ll be traveling during June and July playing shows, so keep up on Instagram and iamjonnyp.com because I would love to meet some fans.