We’re proud to premiere the brand new video from the achingly talented anti-folk singer-songwriter Jon Campbell. Produced by another Spindle favourite, Jamie Irrepressible, the video is simple and stripped down, enhancing the beguilling power of the song. We caught up with Jon to talk about his art on the day his debut EP ‘About A Boy’ is released.
We absolutely love ‘In My Dreams’! What inspired you to write it?
‘In My Dreams’ was inspired by a straight boy I was secretly in love with. He was a friend who lived close by, so I couldn’t really get away from him. Instead, I had to confront my feelings for him on a daily basis. You need an outlet for all of that emotion, and I couldn’t express it to him directly, so I put it into music. When you have a really fantastic dream, there are those few seconds when you wake up before you realized it was a dream, and then there’s that moment when reality hits you. That moment is when ‘In My Dreams’ starts. In this case, it’s a dream of a boy with a ‘Midas touch’.
What was the visual concept behind the video?
Jamie Irrepressible directed the video and he had the idea for the solitary setting and single spotlight. The song lends itself to that kind of bleak, mysterious setting; it’s got a sort of old-timey fairground feeling about it, and I think Jamie captured that really well visually as well as in production, and in a very minimal way. I’m also a total space nerd, so maybe that also inspired him to film the disco balls in darkness, like stars in a strange, lonely universe.
As well as being a singer-songwriter, you’re also a visual artist. Would you say living in Berlin inspires you to be as creative as possible?
Berlin can be an inspiring place. As a city that’s always re-defining itself and in constant state of flux, it feels safer to explore your own identity here than other places which are more rigid and demanding. Of course, you can lose yourself in that as well. There’s an intense and sexy energy in Berlin which is reflected in the kinds of people who choose to live here. It’s a bit of a refuge for creative types who don’t fit in anywhere else. When I first came here, I felt like the ‘bee girl’ in that Blind Melon video!
An obsession with Nirvana encouraged you to learn guitar as a teenager, did Cobain’s honest song writing inspire your honest expression of your sexuality?
No, at least not directly. I suppose on a subconscious level it may have impacted the way I approach lyrics, which is basically to say whatever comes to mind, unfiltered. With each song on the EP, I didn’t imagine a large audience in front me – I was writing specifically and directly to the subject of the song. So the songs’ sincerity really comes from the fact they were approached more like love letters than song lyrics.
Your velvet baritone voice is a signature part of your sound, is this something you want your musical direction to play on?
I’d like to write more songs to be sung in baritone, but unfortunately, with the way I write, the songs kind of take on a life of their own at some point in the process, and if the song says it’s going up into some higher registers, I’ve just got to follow it! So either I’ve got to learn to harness my creative impulses a bit better, or I need to learn to sing higher (hahah).
We saw one of your shows at The Forge recently (which was amazing!) How have you found touring recently with The Irrespressibles?
(Thank you!) Performing with The Irrepressibles was like a dream come true! They are a group of beautiful people and incredible musicians. The shows at The Forge were really wonderful experiences for me. Chloe, who plays cello in the band, described the feeling at that venue as being enveloped in a big, warm hug, and I can’t think of a more suitable description. It’s a beautiful and intimate space, and it was very intimate being on stage and singing with Jamie, because the audience is also aware that we’re in love. There was a lot of love in that place – you could really feel it in the air. The energy from the audience was awesome – I’d never experienced anything like it. Now I’m hooked!
What’s it been like working with Jamie Irrespressible on both a professional and personal basis?
Working with Jamie has been amazing for many reasons. His arrangements are just beautiful, and his production is great because he knows me not just as an artist but as a boyfriend, so he understands me on a deeper level than anyone. That level of understanding and trust can only really benefit a collaborative work. And I see the EP as a collaboration between the two of us – a labor of love.
Would you like to branch out to my music genres or experiment further with anti-folk?
I obviously don’t tend to stick to one specific genre, as is evident in the seven tracks on the EP. The newer songs I’ve written are pretty varied as well, so I don’t anticipate settling down into one genre anytime soon. Although I think the folky undercurrent is always kind of there, even in electronic songs.
What does 2016 hold for Jon Campbell?
It’s a busy year! I have a solo painting exhibition coming up in April at Galerie Michael Schultz, in Berlin, which is an external exhibition of my Gallery Molly Krom, in New York. So I’m up every night painting in my studio until the sun comes up. I’m continuing to write new songs and record them for an eventual full-length LP as well. And we’ll be touring my EP around Germany, the UK, and Europe in the spring and summer! So there’s loads to look forward to – it’s a very exciting year for me!
- Jon’s EP ‘About A Boy’ is out now!