Almost five months ago, Jonas Martin was seated amongst his fellow band mates of local roots rock outfit, Goodnight Ned, in an Oak Lawn Avenue coffee shop on a warm July morning, anxiously awaiting the album release party of their sophomore album. It is January now, and Martin is seated alone. And the temperature is far more frigid.
This Saturday's album release show at The Prophet Bar is looming, and Martin is feeling, well, a little apprehensive.
"Yeah, it's kind of...scary. In fact the band hasn't even rehearsed yet," admits Martin, rather collectedly.
Martin's debut solo release, Chokecherry Jam, eliminates the collaborative input that exists in Goodnight Ned, and strips the sound down to a rather gritty and raw foundation. Songs like "Apple Peelings" tickle the sweet senses of the musical palette, whereas "Wake Up" is not unlike biting into a raw banana, peel and all. The muddy guitar rhythms, the gospel-vibes of tambourine tapping and a choir accompaniment, and the haunting sounds of an old organ are the key ingredients to a song portraying the agonizing nature of sleeplessness.
The video, which was directed by photographer/videographer Will Von Bolton, depicts scenes of a weary Martin, pacing anxiously and deliriously throughout his home, where the video was shot.
"The song is about insomnia, and my girlfriend's mother has really bad insomnia and she said she couldn't watch the video because she related too much to it. She was like, 'It made me feel like the feelings I have when I can't sleep,' and I was like, 'That's awesome!'" Martin says with a laugh. "That's exactly what I wanted."
Martin released this first foray into his solo endeavors, having just capped off a rather successful year in Goodnight Ned, who received Best Group Act honors at the 2014 Dallas Observer Music Awards just last month. So although it may seem like an odd time to dip his toes in the solo waters, his reasoning is pretty straightforward.
"You know, I'm a songwriter, I write a lot of songs, and I love making albums, so it's just like, why not? Goodnight Ned is extremely collaborative, so you know, we make a record a year with 10 songs on it, that's three songs per writer," Martin explains. "I'm writing many more songs than that per year. So it's either some of them disappear forever, or I lay them down."
Martin also has an unabashed love for the art of recording.
"I like playing live, but recording is like the coolest thing in the world. That's my favorite place to be, in the studio, for sure. That's the most exciting and creative atmosphere for me," he says. "I'm very excited to get this on the stage and play for people, but really what I want is for people to listen to the album. Because that's what I do, I sit at home and listen to records, you know?"
He also admits that some of the material he pens would be too personal for the collective, synergistic nature of Goodnight Ned, and these songs necessitate the sole ownership of a solo endeavor.
"I have ideas that, some of them are just personal. And I just can't imagine doing them with Goodnight Ned," says Martin. "For instance, my father passed away a few months back. I had an idea to make a record that is a tribute to him, I couldn't do that with Goodnight Ned, that would be a little weird."
In what began as an inexpensive and thoughtful Christmas gift for his family over a year ago, a little five-song demo, in essence, would become the groundwork for his first solo release. And Martin's devotion to the studio is perhaps what breathed life into his undertaking a solo project.
"Playing live is a rehearsed production. I mean, now of course, there is improvisation that goes on, but mostly we're playing what we rehearsed," says Martin. "With an album, with a record, the possibilities are endless...with enough time and money."
His approach to recording Chokecherry Jam was very organic. In comparison to Goodnight Ned, which relies heavily on group contributions, tracking each song was inherently jam-based due to the nature of its components -- namely, the musicians he brought along to record with.
Enlisting the help of producer Jason Burt, Nate Wedan and Wade Cofer of Somebody's Darling, the initial backing musicians were in place. Then Nick Jay, who co-owns the Nest Recording Studio and was going to be hanging around during tracking, soon joined along with friend Jon Knudson, who just so happened to show up one day. Knudson hammered out the organ pieces on "Wake Up," and was never seen again, at least by Martin.
"Basically the way we recorded it was we'd all sit in the control room and listen to the demo that me and Jason had put together and we'd rehearse it maybe four times, maybe 10 times, but we usually got a take down within an hour or two hours on every song, in four days. It was quick. It was kinda crazy," Martin says. "I didn't expect it to sound so good. So that's the raw energy like I said, we're just jamming in the studio, over and over again, until it came out right."
It's apparent that any artist who works on a solo project will inevitably have their sound compared to their associated band, particularly when one is still active in said band. But Martin's stylized brand of songwriting and overall sound leans no one way or the other.
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"It doesn't bother me. I mean you know, somebody asked me that: 'Is this a follow up to Goodnight Ned? And I was like no. If it sounds anything like Goodnight Ned, it's because I'm in Goodnight Ned. If it doesn't sound like Goodnight Ned, that's because the other guys from Goodnight Ned aren't on this record. I mean that's the best that I could put it."
JONAS MARTIN performs with Oil Boom and Wesley Geiger, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 10, at The Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St., $10/$12 under 21
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