ADD TO QUEUE
JAWNY Is Listening to Olivia Rodrigo, Rascal Flatts, and a Lot of Green Day
This is “Add to Queue,” our attempt to sort through the cacophony of music floating in the algorithmic atmosphere by consulting the experts themselves. Our favorite musicians tell us about their favorite music—the sad, the happy, the dinner party-y, and the songs they want played at their funeral. In this edition, we speak with JAWNY, the L.A.-based singer and songwriter, who is about to launch a North American tour of his latest EP The Story of Hugo. Below, JAWNY shares an aughts-heavy playlist that smells a lot like Gen Z spirit— from Green Day to Rascal Flatts, and, of course, Olivia Rodrigo.
ERNESTO MACIAS: I’m melting in Brooklyn. Where are you in the world?
JAWNY: I’m in Los Angeles, not quite melting though my band is from New York and Philadelphia, and they came out here like, “How was it colder here than in Philly?” So I guess y’all have been hot lately.
MACIAS: Tell me about your stage name. What’s the story behind “Jawny”?
JAWNY: At first I felt like it separated me as a performer from me as a person, but now those lines are pretty blurred. Over the years it just melted into one because I’m not really pretending to be anybody else. I picked a name out of this movie, Point Break, with Keanu Reeves, and he was called Johnny Utah. I went by Johnny Utah for years. When I got the Instagram handle, I had to shorten it to JAWNY because I couldn’t get the original @johnnyutah. All roads lead back to Insta.
MACIAS: What sparked the idea for this new EP, The Story of Hugo—and who is Hugo?
JAWNY: After I finished my last project For Abby in October of 2020, the next step was, naturally, to begin an album, but I don’t think I was ready to make an album yet. I felt like there were still some things I wanted to say within the universe that I created with that project: I was telling the story of two people’s love and I was trying to win this girl back, but I never told a story about the person. So I named him Hugo. If you listen to it from track one to the last track, you have about 16 minutes runtime, it has a through-line storyline and I think that’s a really cool thing.
MACIAS: You mentioned your previous album For Abby. What would you say is the biggest difference between the music that was on there and this EP?
JAWNY: When I was finishing For Abby, lockdown had just started, and I finished 98% of it in my house. COVID still exists now, but fast forward when I was making the EP studios in L.A. were open again with rules and regulations. I got to do some things I couldn’t have done on For Abby; I got to get an orchestra on a track, I got people in there to help me scream stuff. I’m a pretty gifted producer, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best. Sometimes it takes a village to do really cool shit.
MACIAS: What is the last song you listened to?
JAWNY: Hot Chip’s cool. I started listening to them again recently. I like “Ready for the Floor” and “Over and Over.” Those are obviously the two big songs, but they’re sick.
MACIAS: What are the musical influences behind “Take It Back”?
JAWNY: Definitely The White Stripes for the instrumental of that song on the chorus, and for the vibes of the verse, maybe Beck. I pulled a lot from those two people for that song specifically.
MACIAS: I was listening to Beck this morning, on my way here. What music did you grow up listening to?
JAWNY: My mom was a fucking wild card. She would have “Cotton Eyed Joe” and “Funky Town” on in her car. Her palate was versatile and she would always be playing this music and she’d pull up to a red light and be pressing on the brakes to make the car bump. My dad and my step-dad were two fucking dudes, like manly men kind of guys so, they always had the classic rock stuff. Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and shit like that around the house. The first band I really loved was Green Day when I was seven.
MACIAS: What artists have you recently discovered that you’re loving?
JAWNY: I’ve been listening to this new Bleachers stuff, like this song “Stop Making This Hurt.” My buddy that does my music videos has a band called Vanillaroma, and I’ve been listening to them a good bit recently. They’re on the come-up. Also “Serotonin,” by Girl in Red, is fire. Their new record is awesome.
MACIAS: What was your first concert?
JAWNY: The first concert that was supposed to go to was Green Day’s Bullet in the Bible tour, in the fucking Bay Area. Mom bought me a ticket when I was in fifth grade or something. It was when “American Idiot” just came out. The concert was in the United States, fucking in California, and Green Day’s hometown. That shit was everywhere, it was on the radio every day, on MTV. It was my favorite band. Then I got in trouble in school and my mom wouldn’t take me. Love you mom, but that fucking sucked. The first concert I ended up getting to go to was a fucking Rascal Flatts concert. No hate, Rascal Flatts, “Life is a Highway” is a bop, but I really wish that Green Day was my first concert. Taylor Swift opened for Rascal Flatts on that tour. I was in sixth grade, so Taylor was like in high school. Nobody knew her music, and I remember leaving there being like, “That girl is really good.” Two years later she has the biggest songs ever. I was an A&R at fucking 12 years old.
MACIAS: What songs remind you of your hometown?
JAWNY: Green Day’s album American Idiot. That was my song when I was a young kid living 20 minutes outside of Oakland. It was like that Olivia Rodrigo album that just came out which no one would shut the fuck up about. Not talking shit, her record is sick. But that whole American Idiot album was everywhere. When you went to Walmart, when you went to a gas station, when you got in a car. I feel like that shit consumed my life for like four months, so that will always come to my head when I think of my hometown.
MACIAS: Do you remember the first music video that left an impression on you?
JAWNY: There’s two. My mom used to play MTV every morning before school. She’d have the music videos on in the living room. I remember the music video for Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” would play every morning. She’s about to get married to this dude, then it’s all slo-mo running and stuff. Also Weezer’s “Beverly Hills.” That music video would come on every morning at that same time. That was the year I decided I wanted to be a rock star.
MACIAS: And here we are.
JAWNY: I’m not a rock star, yet, but man, I want to be one so bad.
MACIAS: What, in your opinion, is the best breakup anthem?
JAWNY: “Gives You Hell” by the All American Rejects. That’s such a fucking tongue-in-cheek psych-out song. He’s like, “truth be told, I miss you. Truth be told, I’m lying.” It is like the pettiest song ever written. My music is like, “I suck, I’m the worst.” Back in that era, everyone was just like, “Fuck you all the time.”
MACIAS: If you were building a playlist for getting high what would you put on it?
JAWNY: I haven’t smoked weed in years. Do weed kids like Mac Demarco? Maybe Mac Demarco. Those are cigarette smokers. I don’t even know if Mac Demarco’s the weed crowd. When I smoke weed, I freak out, I become convinced that the government is trying to kill me. So I don’t smoke weed.
MACIAS: All right, what about for a barbecue?
JAWNY: You’re going early 2000s. I would literally play exactly what I have my manager play before my concerts. When you play a show, you should 100% control aux cord, because half the vibe of the show is the party beforehand, when they’re waiting for you to come on. We always do early 2000s throwbacks. We do Fat Joe and Ashanti, get some Nelly in there. Then I’d throw some other alt anthems in there, like “Teenage Dirtbag.” Maybe even some wild niche one-off country songs. Man, you can get away with anything at a cookout. That’ll last for a couple of hours.
MACIAS: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
JAWNY: I’ve only done karaoke one time. We played a show in Paris—and killed it, by the way—then we went to karaoke. I did Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” I have a video of it, I had the whole bar singing it together in Paris. It was tight, I felt like the fucking man for like three and a half minutes.
MACIAS: What’s one album that you think has zero skips?
JAWNY: That Olivia Rodrigo record is great. It’s the first time that I’ve genuinely been hearing sounds like that be so mainstream in a really long time. As an artist, I think that’s fucking sick. In the last few years, everything’s been super pop-leaning super rap-leaning, or super like formulaic. To have a song like “Driver’s License” be number one, to have those alternative-leaning songs be mainstream, and have the cheerleader girls that I went to high school with listening to it, that’s cool. One time, she showed me some love on Instagram, so now she’s got a fan for life in me.”
MACIAS: What song do you wish you had written?
JAWNY: I wish I wrote, “Alone Again (Naturally).” I really wish I wrote “Beverly Hills.” I think that song is fucking awesome. I also wish that I wrote Beck’s “Loser” because I love the way he fucking delivers his verses. I love that he doesn’t give a fuck the whole song.
MACIAS: What’s your favorite song from your latest EP?
JAWNY: Maybe “Tombstone Grey.” I think “Tombstone Grey” is cool because it doesn’t follow a typical structure. You only get that big chorus once and then you never get it again. Each chorus is different. I didn’t tune any of the vocals, didn’t do any crazy effects on the vocals. I just wanted to keep them very raw to the song.
MACIAS: So you have the EP out. What’s next for you?
JAWNY: After this EP gets the love that it deserves, I’m getting started on a little record, definitely going on the road to do some touring, and trying to get back to some sense of normalcy. As long as everyone keeps wearing a mask, and everyone gets that shot in their arm, we’ll be good.
Listen to JAWNY’s playlist below, and follow Interview on Spotify for more.