We caught up with musician JON SANDMAN following the release of his stunning single ‘SELFLESS ISOLATION’. Read the full interview now!
Hi Jon, tell us about yourself?
Hmm. To summarise? I’m a dry-humoured ambivert with a deep interest in sound, visuals. I work in the R&D department at legendary audio console manufacturer SSL, and on the side, I like to write music. I’m a big fan of wordplay, and I believe in people. I like to understand how things work. That covers some of it, I suppose.
What is your songwriting process?
More often than not, I don’t have one! I find I often just sit down with my guitar, or at the keyboard, and something starts to flow, from my train of thought, or my current mood. Sometimes I hear a phrase that I like, and I kind of follow the thread to where it leads me. This is certainly how I tend to write lyrics.
I also have literally hundreds of midnight whisperings recorded on my phone. When I’m trying to clear my mind for sleep, I sometimes start to hear a song in my head – often at the witching hour, which is a bit spooky! So that I don’t forget, I tend to record the idea, usually a combination of singing, humming and beatboxing. Unfortunately, upon listening the next day, I usually can’t tell what the hell I thought I was doing because I did it all so quietly.
Tell us about your latest release ‘Selfless Isolation’?
So, ‘Selfless Isolation’ is probably the most stripped back thing that I’ve ever written, to be honest. It’s gentle. I tried to capture empathise with how everyone might be feeling about our limited interactions, and how lonely it’s been. It’s interesting. I unintentionally put myself in everyone’s shoes at once, and the lyrics kind of just fell out. There’s also a bit of a political rebuke in there, concerning the UK’s response to the Coronavirus.
‘Selfless Isolation’ was recorded across two days; how did the process work?
When I was home to see my family for Christmas, I holed up in the attic – which is where they store me – and suddenly decided that I needed to record this song and release it while it was still relevant. At this stage, I’d written it exclusively on acoustic guitar, with a single vocal line.
The first thing I always do nowadays is map out the whole arrangement first, or as much as I’ve nailed down already. Then I start to build it up, brick by brick. I especially love to create a soundscape by layering fingerpicked acoustic guitar.
It was a little bit difficult since the attic isn’t the best recording environment. Unfortunately, my baritone resonated exceptionally well with the snare drum about half a meter away from, so it wasn’t the cleanest of recordings – but sometimes, that’s not what you’re looking for!
You studied ‘Acoustical Engineering’ at the University of Southampton, what was that like?
Pretty cool. I learned about all kinds of interesting things: psychoacoustics, directional audio, how sound travels differently underwater. We had an anechoic chamber there, which basically means that there are no reflections, and the sound is completely dead. If you spend too long in there, your brain adjusts, and you can hear the blood pumping through your head.
You are also a member of the alternative rock band ‘Pylon Heights’ and folk-rock duo ‘Jon & Abbie’, what prompted this solo release?
I guess, for me, writing solo is a personal outlet. I love collaborating, but a lot of what I write in my own time and space feels like it shouldn’t belong anywhere else. I’m quite protective of it. I’m sure it’s a point of contention with my bandmates!
Who are your musical influences?
I really started developing my own music taste in the early 10s, I suppose. Bombay Bicycle Club, Beirut, Arctic Monkey, Sufjan Stevens, Lykke Li, Grizzly Bear and Doves are all formative for me. I listen to a lot of different stuff, and my music taste is pretty broad. More recently, Big Black Delta and Miami Horror have had a big impact on me.
Who are your non-musical influences?
Everyone I’ve ever interacted with. All these people are part of my world – and for me, every experience I’ve ever had is pretty much intrinsic to the creative process, I think.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
I think the main problem I’ve faced personally is that it’s hard to know how to reach potential fans. There are so many different platforms and channels, and sometimes it can feel like you’re putting a lot of work in, and not getting much back.
I was an artist born (not literally) in the Year of the Coronavirus, so I don’t have a frame of reference, but I imagine it’s been awful to not be able to gig. A lot have adapted, but streaming just isn’t the same. I’m sure all musicians get a real buzz out of performing live, connecting with fans and other creatives in person – it must be quite difficult to suddenly not have that great thing anymore.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
I guess I just want to see if I can find my audience. I want to start gigging – both solo, and with Pylon Heights and Jon & Abbie. It’s important for me to get more comfortable with performing. I’d love to meet more creatives and regularly collaborate – I get a real kick out of this!
FVMusicBlog January 2021
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