‘DREAM … YOU’RE AWAKE’ – IN CONVERSATION WITH JON MCLEOD

Brighton-based singer-songwriter, Jon McLeod paints the strange intensity of the human experience on a never-ending canvas of folk-tinged pop, often discussing themes of personal experience and emotional responses to the outside world. The upcoming artists most recent release entitled ‘Dream… You’re Awake’ blends a melting pot of indie, folk and blues, with an authentically personal twist. Originally from Canada, Jon has left and returned to music, discovering how vital it is during his travels. The EP is a truly excellent project that provokes thought and challenges the conventions of pop folk in a very understated way. We spoke to Jon below regarding the project and what inspired him to create the five songs.


YMX: Can you tell us about yourself as an artist? Where are you now, how you started, and what are your goals.

JON: I was originally born in Canada and moved to England at a young age. I’ve been listening to music avidly for as long as I can remember and started to write songs when I was a teenager. But didn’t start playing in bands until my twenties. I used to play under the name; The Focussed Distraction, which was more of a one-man band thing, where I combined using a looper, guitar and effects modules.

I moved to Brighton a few years ago and that’s when I really started to get back into making music again. It’s a great place to be in for that reason. There’s a really healthy music scene down here. Even if the current COVID situation has slowed things down. So far I’ve released one EP under my own name, and a couple of EP’s and a few single releases under; The Focussed Distraction.

YMX: Some of our readers might not be familiar with you yet, how would you describe your sound?

JON: Ahhh… I knew this question was coming! I’ve heard the term: “Indie Folk” get used a lot… but I prefer Folkish Indie. It’s got a better ring to it and sounds less refined. I’ve gone back to basics and simplified my approach, for now, writing with an acoustic guitar and creating songs from that, whereas before I’ve been in situations where I’d write songs based around a rhythm sequence or riff I’d created electronically or through a looper. 

YMX: Who have been your biggest influences so far?

JON: There have been so many at different times… this could’ve been a bigger list for me. Some of the direct influences on what I’m doing now would be Elliott Smith, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, Radiohead, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, Beck, Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, Bob Dylan and LCD Soundsystem.

YMX: You recently released ‘Dream… You’re Awake. Can you tell us how that project came about?

JON: ”Dream… You’re Awake” was the first song I wrote when I moved to Brighton, so felt it was appropriate to give it the title track. Although the EP was actually recorded and mixed in Canada, Sept 2019. I went over to visit family and record it at the same time. My cousin had a studio in Toronto, which since has closed due to property developers taking over the area. I’m very glad we were able to spend a few days getting the songs in place before it’s closure.

YMX: 2020 has been a hard year for everybody, but the music industry and arts, in general, took a heavy hit. How did you guys cope with that, musically speaking?

JON: For sure! It was pretty frustrating at the start of this… along with the feeling of uncertainty. I was planning on releasing the EP and tie it in with some shows when we first went into lockdown, so wasn’t able to promote it in the way I wanted. However the coping was contained in songwriting. It’s given me plenty of time to reflect on the current situation and I’m feeling positive about the number of new songs and ideas I’ve come up within the last few months.

YMX: Do you consider important working together in a team, or do you prefer working alone?

JON: It depends on what stage I’m at. When it comes to songwriting, I prefer to work alone. When you get to the recording stage, working with others is a great way of taking on the fresh direction and bouncing ideas off each other. You don’t want to become stagnant.

YMX: What are you looking for, in terms of promotion? What do you think could be helpful to promote your music around?

JON: A manager… haha! In all seriousness, I think building up good relationships with musicians, promoters and people working in the local music scene is very helpful and could benefit in the long run. Contacts and acquaintances become friends and it develops from there. As much as some may not want to hear it… you really have got to be business-minded in this age. It’s not just about writing great songs.

YMX: What does playing live represent for you? A way to make yourself known or a way to express yourself?

JON: I’d say more for making myself known. For me, the majority of the expression comes during the songwriting process. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing live. It’s something I’ve truly missed doing in the last few months. Can’t wait to experience that again!

YMX: Finally, what are your plans for the future? (releases, gigs etc.)

JON: My plan at the moment is to have a new single released by the end of the year (I’m currently finishing off the final tweaks for that), followed by an album in 2021. These will be taking on more of a D.I.Y/Lo-fi sound as everything has been home-recorded on cheaper equipment during lockdown periods. I want to “keep it real” and be authentic in that approach. 

The album will be a collection of songs I’ve written in the last few months and will follow my thoughts and themes of what’s been taking place in 2020. Although we’ve been living through some pretty strange and depressingly unique times, there is plenty to write about.

Check out ‘Dream… You’re Awake‘ and follow Jon Mcleod below!