Interview: Getting Personal with Jon Pattie
Jon Pattie opens up about his music, influences, and battling anxiety and depression.
In a relatively short time, Jon Pattie, an indie pop musician from Austin, Texas, has managed to make big steps toward establishing himself as a recording and touring artist as well as develop the musical career he envisions. When it comes to Pattie’s sound, his songs show the impact of a number of artists he cites as his influences, such as Ed Sheeran, James Bay, and John Mayer. But it is Pattie’s distinctive vocals and the personal character of his lyrics that stand out the most in his music.
Pattie’s first EP, The Home Inside My Head, was released in 2015 and merged acoustic melodies with synthesized backgrounds, darker chord progressions, and warmly distorted sounds. The EP 3, 2, 1, Pattie’s last release from August 2016, is more straightforward, its production cleaner and less experimental than the previous one. For each of the three songs on the EP, Pattie is also creating a complementary video.
For the first track, “Stranded in the Ocean,” he filmed an acoustic performance showcasing another side to the music, different from the exactness of the studio recording. For the second song, “Home”, Pattie released a personal cut of a number of home videos from early childhood to adolescence to the present day, including shots of his early music-making and teenage live shows. The video is an almost nostalgic look back on the days passed and a grateful nod to Pattie’s family and friends, personal but now shared.
It was Pattie’s last release and its visual counterparts that we focused on in our conversation – which led to such topics as the issue of struggling with one’s mental health and the power of music to be a solace and a point of safety.
Teal Magazine: Let’s start by talking a bit about "Home", for which you’ve just recently released a video. Was there any specific inspiration behind the song?
Jon Pattie: Yeah, of course. A lot of my music, so far, has been based around my anxiety and depression that I regularly deal with and that was a big part of “Home.” The whole idea of the song is that everyone has (or should have) somewhere where they can return to or go to to feel safe and at ease when they are dealing with overwhelming circumstances. The chorus line, “just follow my voice and I'll take you home,” is really saying that music itself can be a safe place for people, like myself.
TM: This brings me to my next question – has music always been a safe space for you?
JP: Yeah! Ever since I can remember, really. I've always felt a calling for music. I'd spend hours after school or on the weekend just practicing music and learning songs. Not for any particular reason, really, other than just for the love of playing.
TM: Music really does have a kind of healing power to it. When it comes to things like anxiety and depression, do you think it's important for musicians and public figures to speak about them openly?
JP: Of course. Depression and anxiety have always been somewhat of a “taboo” subject to talk about simply because it is unpleasant and no one enjoys talking about unpleasant things. The fact-of-the-matter, though, is that a lot of the population suffers from some sort of anxiety and I think it's important to address that in order for those people that do suffer to feel safe and welcomed.
TM: I agree! It's so incredible to see just what a huge impact artists talking about those things have on other people who deal with mental health problems. It's so helpful just to know one is not alone.
JP: Exactly! It's also a known fact that depression and anxiety are more relevant and rampant in the arts because we deal with our emotions so much more on a regular basis.
TM: One more thing about anxiety – do you ever feel like it hinders what you do as a musician? For example, can it be difficult to share your songs, knowing that they will be scrutinised and maybe criticised?
JP:At this point, no. I've been writing music for almost seven years now and because of that, I've gotten confident in my abilities as a songwriter. When I first started off, absolutely.
TM: That's great to hear. It's always tricky to share art, especially at first, but anxiety adds a whole new level to that... Going back to your last release – is there any common thread in the three songs? What made you want to choose them to be released together as an EP?
JP: For this EP, not really. I recorded these three songs because I felt that they would be a great representation of myself as a musician. If there is anything that ties them together, it'd be that all three tracks sort of ask a question. "Stranded in the Ocean" asks “how can I get through this situation without you beside me?”; "Home" asks “where can I go to feel safe and at peace?”; and "Tied Up in the Sheets" asks “is true love real and is this it?” The entire EP is really me just voicing my questions as I wander through life like everyone else.
TM: I really like how "Stranded in the Ocean" works acoustically in the video for the song. Was the idea to make a video for each track always there?
JP: Actually, I didn't come up with the idea until a couple months after I released the CD. I like it, though, and I may try and continue doing that as my career continues. Similar to the Save Rock and Roll videos by Fall Out Boy.
TM: Do you think these kinds of videos make songs seem more “human”, in a way? It's always so interesting to watch acoustic performances of songs you love – it makes for an entirely new experience sometimes. Do you find there is this kind of a new quality to the acoustic versions of your songs?
JP: Of course. Releasing an acoustic video or other videos helps show another interpretation of the music as well as what the artist may have really wanted to try to say with the song that he or she was not able to.
TM: The cover art for the EP is also very interesting, especially what stands for the title. Did you make it yourself – or was the idea yours?
JP: I actually have a friend that I grew up with who now runs his own graphic design company and he created it for me. He had designed the EP art for my first EP, The Home Inside My Head, before and it has a similar design. I really liked the first EP's design so I asked him to do something similar with the cover for this EP.
TM: Both covers have this kind of dreamy quality to them that is just so nice.
JP: Yup! That's what we were going for!
TM: Now for a possibly unanswerable question – you recently tweeted that you are first a guitarist at heart before a lyricist. Do you prefer writing music to writing lyrics?
JP: You're right, that is a hard one to answer. To be honest, I would say that I enjoy writing lyrics more. I still really enjoy coming up with progressions and chords and melodies for my songs but I feel like I am able to put a bit more emotion in my songs through my words.
TM: I also saw your tweet about being an avid reader. Do you ever feel like books inspire or influence your lyrics?
JP: Oh, absolutely. That's one of the primary reasons I started reading; to become a better writer and lyricist. It's helped me expand my vocabulary and creativity as well as give me all sorts of new sources of inspiration.
TM: Do you have a favourite book? It's so unfair to ask, really, because I can never pick just one.
JP: I totally understand. That's hard to say, but the last book I really enjoyed that I read was Love in the Time of Cholera.
TM: Alright, one more sort of "favourites" question – are there any albums that really “made you”, so to speak, as a musician?
JP: Continuum by John Mayer and X by Ed Sheeran.
TM: What about your plans, currently? Any touring? Maybe more writing?
JP: I've been writing a lot and eventually I will be approaching a well-known producer with my material to record. As far as shows, I will be playing at the Balanced Breakfast Showcase during SXSW 2017 and I have some other shows in the Austin area lined up. I don't have any tours planned just yet, but I do plan to move out to LA later this year, which will be an exciting change!
Find Jon Pattie at www.jonpattiemusic.com and his social media - @jonjpattie on Twitter and Instagram.