If you don’t know Jon Lindsay, then you don’t know one of the best names in Charlotte music. Since his debut release “Escape From Plaza Midwood” Lindsay has become one of the most potent reasons why the rest of the world should pay attention to the Charlotte music scene.
The last album Lindsay released was a Christmas EP, a short but sweet EP featuring three quirky, radio-ready holiday tracks. Before that, Lindsay put out his debut album, “Escape From Plaza Midwood.” This pop and roll gem gave listeners 15 tracks of one of the best albums to come out of the Charlotte in recent history.
With “Summer Wilderness Program” listeners dive into a side of Jon Lindsay slightly darker than his previous releases. But it’s still all you’d expect out of a Lindsay album and more. Classical pop sounds/vocal layering? Nostalgia-filled motifs? Lyrics of masculine vulnerability paired with upbeat delivery? Check, check and check.
Fans of musical acts such as The Drums, Phoenix, The Decemberists and Vampire Weekend will be able to fall deeply in love with Lindsay’s music the same way so many in and out of the Queen City already have.
I was recently fortunate enough to catch up with Jon Lindsay to talk about his newest release “Summer Wilderness Program” and what went into crafting it.
Has the routine in creating a solo album changed since “Escape From Plaza-Midwood”?
The biggest difference in “Summer Wilderness Program” and “Escape From Plaza-Midwood” is that this new one was demoed and completely written prior to going into the studio. Easily over half of EFPM was written right there in the studio during the recording sessions. So that’s a pretty big difference.
I’m making another LP now called “Deeper Into Madness.” I’m working the same way: writing and recording crude demos prior to formal tracking. I think that for the foreseeable future I will continue to work this way. I know it’s conventional and probably the way more people work than not, but there’s a reason for that.
I’m a firm believer in the revision process, and making sure I’ve got the songs I want going in. On “Escape From Plaza-Midwood,”, I was just green in what my own process is, because it had yet to thoroughly be explored.
Also, on the first LP, I purposefully put myself into an environment that was high pressure and a little over my head, just to see what would happen. I do love that record a lot and am real happy with how it turned out. I am surprised – now that I work so much this other way – that it turned out as nicely as it did without all the planning and pre-work.
I still think with a good road map, you can achieve tons of energy and most of the desirable stuff that you get when you come totally off the cuff – you just get the added benefit of figuring out what doesn’t work before full on tracking.
What was Mr Walldorf’s role in the creation of “Summer Wilderness Program”?
Chris was hugely instrumental in this one, same as he was on the first LP. He is the only other human that goes thru the process of record making with me from end to end, once I enter the studio to start making the records full on. He’s not there for early writing and demoing, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t consult him there, too, it’s just yet to start that early in the process for us.
I am a little crazy when it comes to the work, and he’s a real hero for putting up with me- sincerely. Kanye had “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” but I’ve got “My Long Crazy Emails.” We talk a lot about the tracks during the recording process, a lot of times by email, reviewing rough mixes and going back and forth. There is a lot of passion and obsession involved on both our parts, that I wouldn’t trade. It seems to be essential to the process.
But most people would have shot me in the face long ago… I can never say enough about Chris’ role. He constantly pushes me to be the best I can be, and he continues to push himself from album to album in his drumming, production work, additional instrumentation and just the way we think about records and record-making. He gives me great perspective that I desperately need. In case you haven’t noticed, I rattle around inside my own head quite a bit.
It’s really great to get the hell out of there as often as possible, and Chris definitely helps there, too. He knows a lot of times where it is that I want to go with a song, and he’s great helping me facilitate and execute those visions. But at the same time, because we’re so close and there’s a lot of trust there, I accept a level of input and suggestion from him that I’ve never asked for or accepted from anyone else in this process, because I know that a) he’s got some great ideas; b) we can always go back to my dumb ideas if I don’t like his c) generally the magic is when we both get strong ideas/vision into the same track.
Fun fact: he’s also sneaky, too, when it comes to influencing me to go a direction he’s interested in us following in my music. On this last record, he would “accidentally” leave tons of Flaming Lips, Dirty Projectors, Phoenix, Air, Nilsson and records like that just lying around the studio. Of course, I end up taking home stuff that’s sitting out. Then next thing you know we’re overdubbing the freakiest shit you’ve ever heard and sneaking it into the mix… I’ll take it though, for sure.
I’ll just come out and tell you that on this particular album, every song is highly confessional and contains some kind of personal experience for me. Even in the songs where the speaker or point of view is 2nd person, female or otherwise seemingly not me – I have injected something of my own experience into all of these songs and characters. Possibly more-so than anything I’ve done yet.
[I'm] not going to lie, this record hurt me the most to make over anything I’ve ever done. Emotionally, that is. It was a tender time in my life. Beautiful but acutely painful. I was going thru the breakup of a 4-year relationship, and toward the end, was still living together with my girlfriend after the breakup. Which, um, I don’t recommend to anyone.
The important thing to remember with me- though not a hard and fast rule, is that more often than not I tend to enjoy the marriage of personal experience and imagination/creative license/asking “what-if’s.” And that’s true here too on this LP. I get bored easily when a song is just 100% confessional, because it is thru expanding personal confession into semi-fiction, that I can figure out for myself personally what is really going on in the undercurrent of my own experience that I’m the most interested in or want to explore.
I can take an impulse, an experience, and enhance it into so much more, which allows me to spend time with the original experience, and somehow work thru it by making it something else. And maybe that something else also makes the original experience more relatable to others. Maybe not! Who knows…
You’ve mentioned that the album is broken down into “acts.” Can you expand on that?
Without giving it all away, yes, that’s true. Basically, if you think about Summer being the middle season in life, it’s a good metaphor for Love in its prime, right in the meaty, hearty middle of its course.
So this album offers tracks that explore Love on its own continuum: there are characters on this record who experience almost all properties of Love’s dynamics and stages. There are people just starting out, there are people in the thick of it who are happy – whatever that is; and there are people who are in the thick of it and unhappy, and people who are in the death throws of it.
If you listen, it’s not too hard to tell what’s what.
I understand you plan on releasing an album a year indefinitely. Is that still the goal?
I’m sure I said that somewhere, and I still feel that way. It’s just who I am and what I do. A lot of people perform a lot of music but might not put the emphasis that I do on the album experience as an art form. Which is totally valid for them – to each his own, for sure.
I can’t see a time when consistently capturing these finite artifacts- LP’s – is not a huge central focus of mine. I don’t plan on releasing crap, that’s for sure. If I didn’t have the goods one year, I wouldn’t just put something out just to do it. I just love making records more than anything, hopefully I keep getting better and better at it.
What are your plans as far as touring for SWP?
We’re working on that right now. Lots of stuff going on. Plans for Europe, etc. You will see us sally forth and play some more shows this year for sure. I feel like I lived a few lifetimes already in just the past 2 and half years since the Jon Lindsay thing took off. There have been two EP’s, two LP’s and a side project [The Catch Fire, which made Niner Times' best of 2011] , and a lot of Jon Lindsay touring.
I’m dangerously close to having all my new songs done for the next LP, and at that point, I’ll get bored quickly and [I'll release the tour dates for that record].
What is the next step for Jon Lindsay?
[As far as my solo plans go], steady as she goes would be the deal. Just trying to keep it between the ditches. It’s so hard to plan anything in this life or this business more than the current albums and tours in front of you.
I know I’ve been so back and forth in interviews on the subject of collaboration with others when I get asked about it – but I’m realizing that mostly for the better, I can’t seem to get away from it. I just love it so much. All I’ve ever said is that I didn’t want it to take away from the Jon Lindsay records and tours. But the deeper I get into my thing, the more it seems like other projects are not only possible without compromising my stuff too much, but maybe even necessary just to keep my perspective fresh. Some things that are going down include:
Machine Theatre is back from hiatus and Matt and I are writing a musical. We had intended to start this a while back, but he had some hard hitting personal family stuff go down – which he took like the biggest champ I’ve ever seen. He’s truly a best friend/life-long friend, and I’m so excited to be working with him and Machine again.
Look for a production in ’13 and more announcements on this soon. I’ll also be producing some other bands soon, and even playing making some live appearances in groups of friends. Life is good!