INTERVIEW: Music, art and parrot talk with JAWN

We asked Singaporean singer-songwriter JAWN to tell more about his latest music releases and what he has in store for us in December. Of course, we couldn’t help but also ask him more about his adorable little friend – Pip!

After a 5-year hiatus, JAWN’s recent release ‘Feel Too Much’ is far from a single that feels too much on the heartstrings. 

According to JAWN (also known as Jonathan Chan), this new song is a feel good one!

“I was really tired of having to enter that sort of melancholic emotional space as with all my other songs, having to constantly excavate in order to perform. I wanted to write something that made both me and the people around me feel good!”

Indeed, we do feel that it exudes more of a feel good emotion with its guitar chords, string accompaniment and shout-out country folk vibes – reminding us a little of OneRepublic’s ‘Counting Stars’. Listening to it, and all you want to do is get off your chair, put your hands up and dance – all folk and country style. It’s a beautiful piece with layers of indie rock vocals that you would want to play over and over on the radio. The anthemic colours are riveting.

Also read: JAWN returns with solo single ‘Feel Too Much’

Before the release of ‘Feel Too Much’, JAWN also released another texturally wonderful piece – ‘Simple’ – a collaboration track which he worked on with fellow Singaporean singer-songwriter lewloh. 

AL365: Hi JAWN, Vanessa here from AsiaLive365. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Congrats on your latest singles ‘Simple’ and ‘Feel Too Much’. We are loving the happy vibes off ‘Feel Too Much’. The indie rock country-like vibes remind us of OneRepublic’s ‘Counting Stars’. Such a banger to dance to! 

We’re also getting an indie folk vibe from ‘Simple’. It’s a beautiful piece that gives a “cathartic solace amidst the cacophony of the world” sort of feeling. With this song released just a day after the end of ‘Circuit Breaker’, what sort of feelings do you associate this song with when you wrote it and what was it like collaborating with lewloh on this track?

JAWN: Hi Vanessa! Thanks for having me and for the questions. These are really good, and I really appreciate the opportunity to do some reflection and thought-gathering!

Circuit breaker was a weird time for all of us. It was this strange, enforced stillness amidst hurtling world events, and I think Simple captured that sort of quiet expectancy and waiting. I associate it a lot with memory and reflection – the song was written a couple of years prior, but we’d only gotten around to releasing it this year.

Lewis is a beautiful soul, and he’s always a joy to work with! We’d been friends for a while through the Noise Music Mentorship programme, and we loved singing together, so this was quite a natural extension of that. He’s got the voice of an angel, with the intention of doing good to match it

AL365: Besides the release of these two singles, what are you working on at the moment?

JAWN: I’ve got 3 other songs in the pipeline, and they’ll be released in December, and throughout early next year! I’m especially excited about a collaboration that just wrapped production with this amazing artist from KL called JAIE – but it’s really different from my usual folk and acoustic textures, so I hope people will still accept it as it is.

Aside from that, on the visual art front I’m working on some graphics for music videos for Singaporean artists, an interesting piece about an influential figure in Nanyin music in Singapore, and a narrative animation with an environmental message for a theatre production! I’m also working on some of the lyric videos and artwork for the upcoming singles. It’s been busy – for which I am very grateful, and very sleepy.

AL365: We noticed an adorable cutie on your IG account. Tell us more about Pip. What breed of parrot is she/he?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2ictCzHsFU/

JAWN: Pip!!!! Pip is the queen of the house. She’s a masked lovebird, and is easily bribed by millet and sunflower seeds. If she were a human I think she’d be playing mahjong and having super gao kopi-o with heaps of sugar, constantly swearing, with a cigarette dangling from her lips. Like that auntie from Kung Fu Hustle.

AL365: Speaking of parrots and your love for birds, have you visited the Lory Loft at the Jurong Bird Park? They have this wonderful feeding session where you can feed a cup of nectar to these endearing little parrots, and these birds fly up to you and literally perch everywhere on you. They come to me, even when I don’t have food. 😉 Having said that, there’s a certain reciprocal (non-judgemental) affection that animals give, especially during these strange times of “social distancing” don’t you think? It’s very comforting…

JAWN: That’s so true! She also makes a very punctual alarm clock, which is good motivation to wake up whether I like it or not.

AL365: We see that you love painting too. What sort of things do you love to paint/draw? Landscapes? Animals? People? Any favourites or inspirational one that you like to share?

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6Kws6rn8a1/?igshid=8tnx75qf6713

JAWN: Oooooof. This is a hard one. I used to really enjoy painting and drawing from life – we used to do that every week in art school. There’s a certain therapeutic quality in zoning out and observing something for hours at a time. Animals are a really hard subject matter though, because they don’t stay still.

I really like painters that have a way with light and composition. Monet, Thomas Moran, Caspar David Friedrich – even modern digital artists like aenami.

ASL365: Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration?

JAWN: Okay this is going to sound reaaaally nerdy but, first thought, off the top of my head – Sam Riegel, from the Critical Role cast. I think he taught me that it’s okay to be grown and silly – that there’s no stereotype for how a man should be. He’s an example of how you can work through and with depression and that desire for attention and celebrity to become a well- balanced person capable of forming lasting and meaningful relationships.

ASL365: Live performances (with a physical audience) have been somewhat on a “standstill” since mid March. There have however been a lot of livestreams (both on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and even through Zoom sessions). What was the last livestream performance that you attended (whether as an artist or as an audience) and what do you miss most about live gigs with an actual audience in front of you?

JAWN: I last watched BGourd knocking everyone’s socks off on a Singapore Community Radio show – that guy has so much energy and I really enjoyed his set!

To tell you the truth – I don’t miss it. I am very happy with the new normal. I used to enjoy that honesty of performing, and that intimacy with an audience, but that constant excavation when you’re singing songs that are so personal is exhausting, and I’d rather leave some of that re-enactment behind.

ASL365: With the recent announcement regarding live performances which states that “from Nov 1, live performances can resume at designated venues, with up to two zones and each having a maximum of 50 people in the audience”, how excited are you as a music artist, that these are slowly starting to make a comeback?

JAWN: Uhoh. HAHAHAHA. I look forward to attending other people’s shows!

ASL365: Is there anything you like to say to your fans and out there?

JAWN: I hope you are well, and that you have a safe, warm space you can call your own and be yourself in. I hope that you are in a good place mentally, and that the songs bring you some further measure of release and catharsis even so.

ASL365: Thanks again JAWN! We look forward to listening to your upcoming songs!

JAWN: Thank you!

Follow JAWN the singer-songwriter, JAWN the artist, and Pip the lovebird on Instagram.

Cover photo: Lenne Chai

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