It's a rare gift that someone can hold their own on the stage in multiple ways. Rocker Jon Patrick Walker manages to do just that. He's an accomplished actor who has held roles on a slew TV shows and Broadway productions. He's also just released his second LP People Going Somewhere that showcases his abilities definitely extend themselves nicely beyond the script. I had a chance to exchange a few emails with Jon Patrick and here is the conversation we had.
Rob 1340 (RF): Hi Jon Patrick, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you please tell us a little about you and how you came to fall in love with music?
Jon Patrick Walker (JPW): My earliest memories are of playing my parent’s records on our living room stereo; I was an only child and it was something I would do on my own. I remember playing lots of Beatles (Sgt. Pepper, especially), and reading along with the printed lyrics. To be 3 or 4 and absorbing stuff like, “We were talking about the love that’s gone so cold; and the people who gain the world but lose their soul--they don’t know--they can’t see--are you one of them?” (“Within You Without You”), was pretty mind-expanding, mystifying stuff. Bridge Over Troubled Water was another big one; Also the “Hair” Broadway Cast Recording…”Sodomy...Fellatio...Cunilingus…!” Of course, I had no clue what they were singing about, but it sure made me curious! So, yeah, music just hit me in a really deep way, and very early on.
In high school and in college I was in a number of bands, and after moving to NYC upon graduation, I started writing songs and recording demos on a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder that I bought; but I never really considered making a go of it. I’d been bitten by the acting bug early on (I grew up in New Haven, CT and got cast, at the age of 8, in a production at the Yale Repertory Theater), and that was that: I decided I would be an actor when I grew up, come hell or high water. Even though I loved rock and roll, loved songwriting, it just didn’t seem like an option.
RF: You have a bit of a career as an actor. Do you find there are a lot of parallels between being an actor and a musician?
JPW: Well, I do love being onstage, so both paths afford that opportunity. But for me, making music, songwriting, recording, performing, it’s all so gratifying and joyful for me. As an actor I generally have so much less control, I am there to sort of help fulfill someone else's - the playwright’s, the director's vision, and while it can be very satisfying and rewarding, there’s just nothing like music making, for me.
RF: You’ve been involved with stage productions for some pretty big names (Springsteen, Townsend) did your love of music influence your desire to be in these productions or did these productions influence your taste in music?
JPW: It’s funny, it took me many years pounding the pavement as an actor, enduring tons of rejection, but forging a career, before it dawned on me that I really had blinders on, and hadn’t allowed myself to consider devoting my creative energies to my deepest, truest love: music. In my 30’s I started going out on musical theater auditions, and ended up getting cast in a number of “rock musical” type shows; it’s sort of like the universe was trying to point me in the direction of a musical path, but it wasn’t until about 5 years ago, when my mother got ill and I was taking care of her (she passed away in 2011), that I had this epiphany. It was a couple of months before my mom died, I got randomly “friended” on Facebook by some guy named Foday Bojang. I ended up writing a song, very off the cuff, called “Foday Bojang Friended Me,” and as soon as I’d sort of finished it, I had this sort of lightning bolt impulse telling me to book a studio and record it. A week later I was hanging with a songwriter friend who lives in Nashville, and I played him the song and he said, “Come to Nashville.” So I booked a flight, and 6 weeks later I was there, my friend had assembled a group of killer musicians, and we laid it down. I actually stayed at Pat Carney’s house, slept in his bed! (He was out on tour with the Black Keys). The experience in the studio was amazing, I was hooked, and ended up going back to Nashville a bunch over the next 6 months and put together my first album, “The Guilty Party.” Now I’ve released my second, “People Going Somewhere.” It all feels sort of miraculous, somehow. And it’s weird to think that if Foday Bojang hadn’t friended me, I might not be talking to you about all this right now!
RF: What were you listening to while recording People Going Somewhere?
JPW: I am always and forever listening to Beatles, Who, Kinks, Stones, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys… But I was blown away by last year’s Father John Misty record, “I Love You, Honeybear.” Just a phenomenal album. And he’s great live, too.
RF: What are your favorite songs on the album and why?
JPW: Oh, gosh, I love them all! But the title track, and “Mother’s Going to Shrug Us Off,” they both mean a lot to me as they express my worries, hopes and fears about the state of humanity at this critical juncture in our evolution: we’ve got ourselves to this point where we can either choose to sort of evolve and learn to live sustainably and peacefully on Mother Earth, or we very well may go the way of the dinosaurs. And soon. Very interesting time to be alive.
RF: What is the story behind the artwork for the album?
JPW: I love the photo on the front cover; it is a picture taken when I was about 5 or 6 years old (I’m third from left!), and we were a bunch kids in a hippy, parent-run daycare in New Haven. It seemed fitting with the album title. And the use of the two colors for the words on the front evoke the Clash’s “London Calling” record, which is a direct homage to Elvis Presley’s first album.
RF: What are your favorite things about living in Brooklyn?
JPW: I love the neighborhood we’re in; great restaurants and shopping, and lovely neighbors who have become good friends of ours.
RF: If you could stand on top of any building and yell something for the world to hear, what building would you go to the top of and what would you yell?
JPW: Hm. I guess I could do worse than the Empire State building; I’d shout, “Feel The Bern!!” Because we need to make sure he is our next president.
RF: Where can people learn more about Jon Patrick Walker?
JPW: I have a website, JpWalkerMusic.com. Come visit!
RF: Thank you very much!