"Fear and change is never easy but it's definitely a great tool for good songwriting." -Jon Hill.
Addiction, divorce, and heartbreak; those are just a few of the struggles that Jon Hill has faced in the past few years of his life. However, through those pains and re-workings, Jon has managed to push throughout the other side of that darkness and create some fantastic art. Of course, most musicians use their personal hardships and struggles to breathe life into their respective creative outlets, so has Jon done it well with his new album? Considering the perfect score that I gave his debut record in my recent review, I’d say yes - absolutely! 'Rebirth' is a whirlwind of emotion and ambience, burying deep into your heart and holding your interest like a vice-grip of well-done hooks and pure honesty. The album proves that even on our worst days, that even in our darkest of times, there is a light at the end of the enclosing tunnel. With that in mind, I spoke with Jon about the creation 'Rebirth', the ins and outs of The Jon Hill Project itself, and how his personal experiences shaped this debut LP into what it is.
Jon, you’ve created something special with 'Rebirth'. After reading your backstory and hearing the record, I think you're a huge inspiration. You’ve been through quite a rough time in the past year too. How has this transitional period in your life influenced your songwriting for this record?
While we were writing the record, my ex-wife & I were on the rocks and talk of divorce became more and more. So I was still married and living the life I was used to, but the pain and fear of a divorce during those days definitely made me wonder what was to come. I think that fear and in some cases, the refreshing thought of a new start fueled a lot of the songs that we’re proud of how they turned out (for example ‘Take The Next Step’ ‘Would You Save Me Now’ & ‘Show You The Stars’). Fear and change is never easy but it's definitely a great tool for good songwriting.
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For sure! Honestly, I feel that any of the songs off of 'Rebirth' could have been chosen as the lead single. They’re all incredible in their own ways. In that sense, what made you chose 'Would You Save Me Now? as the first released song though?
We chose ‘Would You Save Me Now’ because it had that catchy chorus sound we were looking for and it had a sound that we thought a wide span of people would appreciate. The main reason we chose it though, is we thought it was the perfect representation of what to expect from the album as far as the pain and desperation. In the lyrics & sonically, it’s what sums up what the album's like.
One of the things I love about 'Rebirth' is that each song has its own style. Sometimes the genre even changing too. You go from listening to a dreamy indie rock song like 'Take The Next Step' and be immediately thrown into 'Drifting Towards The Sun', which sounds like something off of a Tarantino western score. It’s crazy, but it works! What inspired you and your team to write music in this almost ever-changing manner?
What really inspired us to write that way was to make my dream record that consisted of a collection of songs that would cover every single style of rock I loved. That’s why it has elements of indie rock to heavier alternative rock like ‘Hang em high’ to experimental rock like ‘Lesson learned In seconds’. But what really made it all come together and sound like a cohesive album was the lead guitar riffs that Tides Of Man’s Spencer Gill added on top of the rhythm guitar that he did. He did a great job at making it all come together!
Nice. Speaking of, how did you end up teaming up with your producer Spencer (Bradham) and then your songwriter Spencer (Hill)?
Bradham and I have been great friends since I was tracking drums for my drum covers back in 2014. We shared the same taste in music and humour so it just came naturally to write together. But what really made me team up with him and Gill was when I was playing in a bunch of local bands and was unhappy with the direction they were going. I was frustrated and Bradham being a good friend, I was just venting to him. That’s when he came up with the idea that I should do my own album and hire Gill to start writing with us. It was initially going to be an instrumental album until we thought to get two vocalists I loved to sing on each half of the record. It wasn’t until later when I decided it would be amazing to get a different vocalist on each song. I’m so grateful it all worked out in the end and every singer was down.
Well, did you have specific singers in mind for certain songs and how did you end up bringing them in?
There were a few songs we had written for certain singers and other songs we had no idea who would sing on them. For example, ‘Take Me Up’ featuring Michael McGough was the last singer to get on the album and the song he sang on was the first we ever wrote together. For the most part, Bradham would reach out to the vocalists with his connections, but a few I direct messaged through Instagram and just asked if they would get on the track. They would ask to hear a few options of instrumentals, and luckily they felt they could write to them. It's amazing because I know a singer just jumping on a strangers' instrumental isn’t common and they have to feel a personal connection to the track to even start writing to it and make it come to life.
That's awesome to hear! Were there any vocalists that we’re supposed to be on the album that didn’t make it?
There were a few singers that were supposed to be on it that didn’t end up being on it for a few different reasons. But at the end of it all, I’m so happy we got everyone who did because I can’t imagine the songs any other way. The tracks seemed to end up with exactly who they were supposed to have on them.
It’s amazing to see how well you’ve been doing after such a dire major life event; creating something amazing with 'Rebirth' and I hope it'll grab many in the same way it did with me. However, did you have any advice for those out there who might be facing similar struggles in their own lives - whether it be addiction divorce or both?
As far as divorce, all I can really say is that it makes you so strong to fear the worst of losing someone & your old life to see it all unfold and end up with true confidence in the end that you can really make it through anything. I never in a million years thought I’d be happy any other way but taking a step back and seeing where my life is now compared to where it was, it’s truly a blessing to get stripped down and rebuild yourself. It’s like lifting weights, you tear down that muscle only to make it bigger and stronger in the end. Another thing is I needed to be humbled terribly bad, I lost myself in all that glitz and glamour toward the end of my marriage only to be brutally and forcefully humbled in the end even when I didn’t want to be. Going to rehab in Texas this past summer helped with that as well. It was the opposite of what I was used to - I was around a bunch of older cowboy type people where the things I thought made me cool, like diamonds and designer stuff made me feel like an alien. It was just easier to let all that stuff go once I got to know these people and see what really mattered in life: human connection rather than trying to feel superior to others. I didn’t realize I was doing that until I got hit with a dose of life problems and real pain. Pain is beyond important in life, it makes you uncomfortable, and that discomfort forces you to try something new to escape it.
As far as getting clean, any advice I can give anyone is that it isn’t as impossible as it seems. It's by no means easy, but definitely doable if you want it bad enough, which I desperately did. I was so sick of waking up sick but the main reason is I wanted to finally feel what it was like to feel again and live like everybody else. The other morning I woke up and was boarding a flight and it really hit me how grateful I was to be in a good mood naturally and be try to be a positive light for strangers. I thought about this like I do almost every day, I’m fine the way I am & coming from when I was on drugs for 12 years, I never thought I could function let alone be in a good mood without being under the influence of something. To anyone still struggling to stay clean or get clean, just be patient with yourself and get a support team of people who love you for you - it helps so much. Also creating anything, in general, is a huge factor of myself staying clean.
Well said, Jon, and thank you for being so open with me. Are there any plans in motion for the future of The Jon Hill Project to tour? I’m sure many, including myself, would really love to hear this material live in some way!
Thank you! Yes, there are definitely plans for another TJHP album and more music videos for this current album. As far as live shows for ‘Rebirth’ we’re setting up some festivals and trying to jump on South by Southwest this upcoming year. Also, a tour is being talked about as well.
Great! Are you going to continue writing music for this project or are you going to explore other endeavours?
We’re definitely going to keep writing for this project, but I’ve been interested in acting for years, as well as doing another album with myself singing playing guitar and drums. I really feel like once this album was done, I felt like nothing was impossible and that’s opened up so many ideas for myself and I’m excited to pursue more things than just drums.
Lastly, I’ll end on an easy one: what’s your favourite song or songs off 'Rebirth'?
I would say my favourite song off of the album is ‘Flatline’, featuring Tanner Merrit. That songs' sleepy & spacey vibe puts me in the same chill relaxed mood every time which I need because I get uptight a lot of the time. The closest one next to my favourite though is ‘Take The Next Step’.