Wilmington-based singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist Jonathan Carroll rolled onto Wilmington’s live music scene on piano for The FLU about six years ago. He learned the blues by playing with the likes of Bryan Harrell and Chicken Soup, and more recently recorded three albums with Sean Olds and the Church of the Eternal out of Kitty Hawk, NC. Now, the artist is celebrating his first self-titled solo EP release, featuring four original tracks, at Calico Room on Thursday, Dec. 22.
“It really revolves around me being in my mid 20s and the relationships that surrounded that time,” Carroll tells of his project and the themes he gravitated toward during its making.
His collection of work has been a long-time coming, according to the musician. To open Thursday’s show, he will play as part of the band Ordinary Men, featuring Ryan Lee and Zac Nobles. Throughout the evening, Carroll will welcome several other guest players onstage. Also, he will be selling his new EP for $5, as well as have other merch, like posters and stickers. encore spoke with Carroll last week to learn more about his forthcoming EP and release party.
encore (e): Exactly hat kinds of relationships did you write about on this EP?
Jonathan Carroll (JC): Women from my life—how they affected me at that moment in time. “Soft but Spoken” is all about one single night that inspired me to write my first song. I woke up the next morning and put down the whole thing in an hour.
e: Are all the songs being debuted for the first time on Dec. 22, or have you been collecting them here and there to develop over time?
JC: They are collection of songs I have written over the past three to four years. Being written over time, the ideas and feelings vary between songs, but all have been written with piano as the backbone.
e: How have they evolved over the years?
JC: I began most with a riff, a hook, this or that to begin. I never had the … confidence, I guess … to finish them. They sat around till more recently. I decided it was definitely time for me to get my original stuff out there. My views on life and music have changed over the years, so they definitely have evolved with me.
e: Can you tell our readers about one or two songs in particular that you’re excited to release on this EP?
JC: I’m really excited about “Treasure Island.” It is kind of my opus. I started writing it four years ago as just a pretty piano riff and it has developed into a track with such depth lyrically and musically.
e: What is “Treasure Island” about and how has it grown?
JC: I wrote it with the idea that love is a treasure locked behind bars, and guarded by all the fears and insecurities we have in life. That it takes that “thief at night,” as I called it, to break in and steal it from someone, but that can be Pandora’s box—because you never know what else they may be stealing for you.
e: Did you venture into any new sounds or musical territory with the EP?
JC: Well, the biggest venture was really spearheading a musical project. I have recorded with a few different bands before, but it is so different being the mastermind and bringing everyone on board—having them see the vision. Thankfully, I worked with great musicians and my recording engineer/producer, Worth Weaver at Red Room Recording, NC, helped me tremendously!
e: Aside from you being a part of Ordinary Men, why have them open for the night?
JC: Zac Nobles has been working for a long time to put together this project. He has put his heart into writing the tunes and finding the right collection of dudes to really fit. It just seemed too perfect to be able to debut this project on the same night as my EP.
e: How does your solo work specifically stand apart from projects like Ordinary Men? What are you tapping into musically with them you might not otherwise do, or vice versa?
JC: I have a much more blues/rock style with my writing—simple, fun, grooving tunes. While I like to use fairly complex chords for depth, Ordinary Men has helped me focus on details in voicing and song structure.
e: Who are some of the local musicians joining you onstage this weekend?
JC: We will be performing a set of the EP and a few new songs first. It will include Sean Howard, Joe Starr from Dubtown Cosmonauts, Jeff “Dr. Rhythm” Coleman, Dylan Coleman, Richie McGivney, Adam Cox, and Gabe Chesher. Afterward, we are going to get a little looser and have a few special guests join.