After his father passed away two years ago, Jonas Martin says he fell into a deep, dark depression. Rather than allow it to consume him, he redirected that energy into passion projects. He made an album. He won awards. He got married. And now he's getting ready to leave Dallas to go to New York City.
“I think of [making music] as a job. I set goals for myself in that way. As far as subject matter, that is all over the map. If I’m thinking about social issues, I might write a song about that; or if I just watched The Land Before Time, I might write a song about dinosaurs. Whatever. I don’t want to ever be stuck with one thing.”
One could easily describe Martin as eccentric, but that would be too easy. Perhaps the best way to explain it would be for you to listen to Chokecherry Jam, his debut solo album which was released in January 2015. It's the perfect introduction to a songwriter like him: raw, fiery and impulsive, with a sidecar filled with devilishly cool charm. And to hear him speak on his writing process, it’s no real surprise.
When he lost his DJ father late in 2014, Martin was a member of indie rock outfit Goodnight Ned, but by early last year he'd thrown himself into his solo work. Following the release of Chokecherry Jam, he was hailed the winner of mtvU’s The Freshman for his video “Let Them Drown.” A month later, he scored the grand prize spot in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s rock category for his song “Wake Up.”
But before Martin and his new bride, Classic Cult singer Miller Pyke, ride off to Brooklyn (where the newlyweds will live with two comedians), he’ll leave Dallas with a new album called The Color Scheme. “It’s less jammy,” he says, comparing the new record with its predecessor. “And I mean that in the musical sense. The way I wrote the songs was different; I wrote them from a solo artist’s perspective.”
Last September, Martin created an account with a crowdfunding site to help him raise the funds to bring a more polished project to his fans. After just a few short weeks, Martin had not only met, but surpassed, his goal of $10,000. The production of The Color Scheme began shortly thereafter.
According to Martin, Chokecherry Jam was written from the mindset of someone in a more collaborative, band-type setting, which is fitting, considering his role as key master in Goodnight Ned. But in that sense, his debut album wasn’t, in his opinion, fit for smaller, more intimate shows. “You know, being put in the position of trying to play those songs at Twilite Lounge, by myself — those songs don’t sound the same without an organ or a drum kit behind them,” he says.
After setting his mind on developing The Color Scheme, Martin says he took a different approach. “I was going into it this time knowing that I’m going to be able to do all of these songs by myself,” he says. “This is the best way to put it: I wrote these songs knowing I should be able to do them completely by myself, with no accompaniment, just me and a piano.”
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As far as the overall vibe of The Color Scheme goes, Martin describes it as truly encompassing the grief he felt after the passing of his father, combined with his coming to terms with what that meant for him. “I wouldn’t say the album is about my dad,” he says. “But it’s very much all of the feelings; all of the subject matter is what I’ve been going through since losing him.”
For now, Martin is neck deep in stuffing packages full of promised Kickstarter rewards for his backers, in between prepping for Friday’s release party for The Color Scheme and packing for the East Coast. It leaves him in a particularly reflective state of mind: In addition to the influence of his father on his music, he credits his friends with allowing him to ask the basic questions — the questions a lot of people would be too embarrassed to ask. And he encourages others to do the same.
“Find mentors and ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to ask everybody questions on things you don’t understand,” Martin says. “I think that’s the only reason I’m semi-successful at anything is because I sought out people who were doing better than me, asked them how they did it, they told me and I tried it.”
JONAS MARTIN’s The Color Scheme Album Release show featuring Ronnie Heart and The Van Sanchez will be held at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19 at Doublewide, 3510 Commerce St., $10.