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SU Spotlight: Jon Waltz, Pushing Culture Through Complete Works of Art

With just one click of a mouse it’s easy to see that Jon Waltz is an artist of many accords, the Memphis native released his seven track “Alyss” EP last year along with a written project to go along with it.  His website is an interactive work of art complete with distinct designs for each track on his project along with the story of Alyss, a confused 21-year-old seeking attention in every which way.  A current full-time college student, Waltz recorded his EP in a studio at his former school and is pushing culture and social issues in a way that young people can relate to.  Recently featured on London’s DJ Semtex list of ones to watch in 2015 along with Tink, Danny Seth and OB Obrien, Waltz is one that lets his talent and not his ego do the talking for him.  Press play on his EP while you read through his thoughts in our featured Sway’s Universe Spotlight interview.  You can connect on Twitter @JonWaltz.

Interview conducted by @taylorlovaas

TL: So along with the “Alyss” EP you released a story of sorts, what would you classify that as?

JW: I don’t know, I think I would just call it a project.

TL: What came first with that?  The music or the written project?

JW: I had the idea probably like three years ago but I never knew how to do it.  So I started making music for it (the written project) and I started making tracks with certain themes to them and then I tried to fit them together but I think I approached it the wrong way.  The next go around I’ll probably make the music first and then connect the story with it after.

TL: So what’s the story behind not featuring yourself in the “Bang” music video?

JW: The song itself is a story and I always thought it would just be kind of corny for me to jump in the video and be rapping it like a regular video.  The song is a narrative so if I went on camera and was rapping I don’t think I would have gotten my point across. 

TL:  There’s a Cozz cameo in the video, you have anything in the works with Dreamville?

JW:  We’ll see in the future. [laughs]

TL:  Are you guys pretty tight or was that just a random situation?

JW:  I used to mess with a lot of people in Cozz’ group called The Committee, we were tight and they made sure the “Bang” video was funded, this was before Cozz was big.  He just kind of randomly showed up in the video and it was cool, the director for “Bang” also directed Cozz’ “Dreams.”

TL: So what’s next?  Do you have a sequel to “Alyss” coming or is it a whole different story that you’re trying to tell?

JW:  I’m working on it now and it’s a sequel, it’s a continuation of the same story line but I don’t know, it’s different.  I’ll have to start putting out the singles and piecing it together to get more information about it like that.

TL:  Did you draw any inspiration off Childish Gambino and his screen play for “Because The Internet?”

JW: Sort of, I think the main inspiration behind my project though was Kendrick’s album, “Because The Internet” to me was a little too shallow in a sense that there’s still a lot of forward thinking in it and it’s a lot of like, what’s the word I’m looking for?  It just has a certain theme around it to where it’s thinking about life itself a lot and that’s cool and all but I wanted to attack social and political issues on this project.  I wanted to touch on subjects that a lot of musicians aren’t touching on.

TL:  How are you looking to push music in a new direction with talking about both sides of controversial issues out there? 

JW:  I feel like the majority of mainstream music is very one sided and it has a certain agenda that I don’t really agree with.  I feel like I’m good enough to make a crossover pop song that will catch peoples attention that might have a different surface meaning but when you look into it there’s a lot more there.  Eventually that’s the point I want to get to, I want to make classic tracks that have some pop and kids can sing to but at the end of the day they’re learning something. I don’t want to sound like a conspiracist or anything but it just sounds like these labels are telling people to rap about fucking bitches and shooting people, it’s just like can we change the subject content?  But the thing is it sounds cool like “imma fuck your bitch” I’m singing along with them but we need something different because kids like 14, 13, 12 are listening to this shit too and they’re singing the lyrics and they actually think it’s cool to do this stuff.  They don’t know it’s just entertainment as much as kids don’t like to admit it.

TL:  Looking at your work it’s easy to see that you’re really involved in the whole art behind making music, how important is that aspect to you and where does that motivation come from?

JW: I took an art class a while ago and then I started realizing that people click on art that’s cool and people appreciate good looking art. I just really wanted to make sure to create a whole vibe with everything like make the whole package because if you have decent cover art it’s cool but you’re not going to gain nearly as much traffic and hype as if you make a complete product. 

TL:  So you’ve had Allan Kingdom on a few of your tracks and you’ve talked about artists like The Stand4rd and Kevin Abstract who are pushing the boundaries in different ways, how do you see yourself and people like that making an impact in the music industry?

JW:  If you pay attention to Allan Kingdom you start to recognize that first off this guy has crazy cadence.  His ability with cadence is unrivaled, I don’t think anybody, at least I’ve never heard anybody thats done it to that extent.  Second, Allan doesn’t cuss a lot and a lot of people don’t notice it because normally if you don’t cuss in a rap song it comes off as kind of corny but Allan does a very good job of being able to make it pop.  Have you heard “Blast?”  I think he cusses like three times and that record is a big sounding record so if he can do it without making it sound corny then that’s pushing the envelope in my eyes.  With Kevin Abstract it’s just the whole package, he knows how to create moving art.  I pay attention to that a lot and I want to develop something like that, something to where like the package is a whole experience to people.

TL:  Well I think you definitely succeeded in that mindset with “Alyss” and combing two different bodies of work.  There’s different ways to interpret it and that makes people think, that’s something we need in music right now.

JW: I definitely tried to make it into one of those things to where anybody thats like under 25 can relate to. 

TL:  It shows man, I can relate to that project a ton.  So what’s in store for Jon Waltz in 2015?

JW: Man, working on a lot of singles and the music I’ve been making recently is a lot different than what I used to make.  I’ve just been focusing on making the records sound big and since I moved back home I’m just, I don’t know I’m in a weird space creatively so I think that everything is going to reflect on that.  The music sounds big in some senses but it sounds a lot more weird too because that’s the type of mind state I’m in right.

TL: I’m excited to hear it man, you have a time table for any new music?

JW: I think it’s safe to say that the first single for the next project will come out next month.  I did some tracks with Allan Kingdom, a couple with Pell and I have a track with Rome Fortune.

Stay tuned to Sway’s Universe for new music from Jon Waltz and let us know what you think.

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