Emerging Bay Area multi-instrumentalist and artist JAWNY (real name: Jacob Sullenger) embarks on his first headlining tour today across North America starting with San Diego’s Casbah and making his way to Los Angeles at The Roxy later in the week (Thursday, November 4).
The tour is in support of JAWNY’s July EP release The Story of Hugo, featuring the anthemic 90s-tinged “Take It Back” a sort-of follow-up to earlier funky single “Best Thing” about crushing really hard on someone. It thematically follows up 2020 album For Abby as somewhat of a prelude about young love gone wrong. Formerly known as Johnny Utah, JAWNY began guitar at age six and experimented with beats with his brother at the age of thirteen. His sound is a blend of rock, pop, funk and hip-hop, with some 90s flair along the lines of Beck. JAWNY completely throws genre out the window and just creates.
“I think I’m a hybrid artist in the sense that I don’t think I have a genre, I think I’m just a multi-instrumentalist who makes whatever he wants”, says JAWNY. “I make whatever I’m in the mood for that day in the studio. “Take It Back” is like Beck/White Stripes-y”.
Perhaps the variety of sounds comes from being born and raised around Oakland, later moving to South Carolina as a teenager and then finding himself in his twenties in New Jersey and Philadelphia before migrating to Los Angeles.
“Before my music got to where it was I was tracking everything myself”, said JAWNY. “I play the guitar but I also play the bass, drums, piano and synthesizers and stuff. I’m not great at any instrument, even at guitar, I’m just decent at best. Some people are good at math, but the one thing I knew when I was a kid about myself is that I can write hooks to songs. I just hear melodies – like if I’m in a session with another artist, by the time it gets to the chorus without even hearing it I can just let out a chorus”.
JAWNY wrapped his biggest festival appearance over the summer, on the lineup for Chicago’s Lollapalooza and he thoroughly enjoyed his experience. It was also his first proper show post-pandemic so it was a refreshing moment for the rising artist.
“Lollapalooza was my first real festival so far, as a fan and as an artist”, said JAWNY. “I did one in Arizona and other things here and there, but this was my first festival that people come to from all over the world. I had a decent set time, especially having the first show back, you spend a year inside, it’s already a mind game but as an artist the entire feedback you have as an artist is all numbers and streams and likes and shares. So here I am in my house wondering how people will respond to my new song “Take It Back” and then people were going nuts from it. When you play live you get to see how humans are interpreting your music. You also forget about what you have until it’s gone. I personally don’t like touring that much, I like the hours on stage, but not the hotel rooms and the travel and being away from your home. Before Covid I was like shows are cool but touring really gets on me, but then when touring gets taken away from me I’m like what the fuck is wrong with me? I was like why was I ever complaining”?
Fast-forward to November, JAWNY now has a number of songs in his arsenal for the tour. Going all the way back to 2019’s “Honeypie”, the standout pop/rock track is nearing 500M streams across all platforms and he’s hitting a groove with other tunes such as the funky “Anything You Want”, the whimsical “You Got A Man”, the psychedelic “Trigger of Love” and the guitar-led ballad “4Tounce”.
“To actually have people come to your show, people are buying a ticket to see your show, that’s crazy”, said JAWNY. “They just wanna see you win. When you play your own headline shows everyone is there to see me win. That’s a little freeing mentally. Last time I played anything of that caliber I was a baby, maybe not in age but in the industry and with my name, literally our entire set was every song we ever made and the set was like thirty minutes. Now, this time I have like two projects-worth of songs, and some new stuff from another project. I feel like I have more material and there’s more range, a chill song, songs that will make people jump, others that will make people happy. I’m looking forward to people having the range of dynamics whereas before it was more of a flatline”.
With musical range, come varying looks and hairstyles as well. Now LA-based, JAWNY creates in his self-built home studio.
“I’ve always been growing my hair long, but in terms of dying it a wild color I think it’s all a reflection of me, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing in the first year-and-a-half and during Covid and like shit, gaining weight. I got my health back, got into shape, more walking and eating right. I think I got more confident and decided to get a little wild with myself. Music is one form of expression, but also your little skin prison – if you want to put tattoos on, it’s all another form of expression outside of music. Whatever I’m wearing is a reflection of how I’m feeling. It signifies a new chapter when you dye your hair or something.
New songs are in store for The Roxy show – JAWNY looks forward to seeing the crowd reaction to see if they sing back to “Take It Back” or “Tombstone Grey” – but he likens testing out new songs to that of a comedian to see how people react.
Speaking of reactions, JAWNY was on a plane for a bizarre situation with a woman who got a little out of hand last month and he had no idea it was going to happen. Nor did he know that his post on TikTok was going to make national news.
“Something crazy happened and I just put it on the internet for my people to see it and didn’t think it would go bananas or viral but like news sources were trying to talk to me and I was like no, I don’t do this, I don’t want to be in this little circus”, said JAWNY. “This lady stood up and started expressing whatever the fuck she believes and exercise her freedom of speech but there’s a time and a place. Definitely not when you’re trying to land a fucking plane. I think rule #1 on a public aircraft is don’t disturb the fucking plane”.
JAWNY plays The Roxy on Thursday, November 4 with support from Vanillaroma at 9:00 PM. Tickets are $16.00. Other dates include Vanillaroma, Spill Tab and Huron John.