Brisbane-based uncut gem, Jon Marsden has been delivering songbird lilts to our ear holes for years now, but he's capitulating again with his latest single 'Mirror.' The track begins with the beautiful tippy-tap of the ebony and ivories, and then goes into a rich, soulful swagger.
"This song is one of the many written throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. I wrote and produced a demo song almost every day for a year with no intent to release any of them. It wasn’t until recently that I spent some time looking through the catalogue I had written and picked out a few that I would really love to perform live. I felt that 'Mirror' best encapsulates and sets the tone for the music to come."
We caught up with Jon to scrape his noggin on this cream of the crop, life and music:
I know that you recorded & mastered the track in your home studio, as well as played all the instruments. With all the weird Corona stuff happening recently, a lot of artists have been able to channel the extra free time at home into being productive. How were you affected by the recent pandemic, and what advice would you offer another artist who’s struggling with the current times?
"Great question. Around the start of the pandemic, I just froze. There was no obvious direction for artists and creatives, and it was quite scary. Eventually I figured that this whole situation was mostly out of my control. The only thing I could control was whether I was going to spend time doing nothing or spend time doing what I love. I'm incredibly privileged to have a great little studio setup at home that I can spend hours every day immersing myself in music. So almost every day I would go into my studio and write anything, a lot of it was terrible, but there were a few gems. It was really fulfilling and liberating to just write for the sake of writing, with no intention to release or pressure to perform the songs live. My advice for artists struggling through these times is to immerse yourself in whatever art it is you practice, listen to heaps of music, and create all the time."
At what age did you pick up instruments while growing up? I know you played every instrument on this beautiful track, I was wondering how long you’ve been playing guitars, keys & especially that spicy FLUTE?
"I remember playing around with my dad's old nylon string guitar when I was probably 9 or 10 years old and picking it up every now and then to make some noise. The neck was way too big for my hands so eventually dad bought me an electric guitar for my 13th birthday. Violin was the first instrument I played when I was very young, and the school forced me to play it. Naturally I hated it. So, when it came to guitar, I just learned everything online at my own pace and I just adored it. It was sort of the first thing I was good at, and it felt good to do, so I did it every day."
"Keyboard is a weird one, because it just sorts of happened. I knew when I started producing, I wanted various keyboards and pianos in my music, and I really didn't like how tedious it was to program MIDI notes into the DAW. So instead, I just spent hours trying to learn how to play the parts I had written, transposing it from guitar onto piano, which probably took more time than I'd like to admit."
"The flute and I still have a lot of work to do. I can get a note out of it and every now and then I'll splice some sort of melody together by recording each not individually, but I'm far from being able to play anything that remotely resembles a song. I think Mirror had a bit of flute on it but that was basically just one note repeated over and over."
You stated that this song deals with themes of imposter syndrome as an artist, and that “The themes that I’ve been writing about have been much more introspective and hit topics that are closer to home, 'Mirror' is a great example of that." Could you expand upon this, and tell us more about this banger track? I’m curious to know where this song comes from and the sort of things going through your mind whilst writing it.
"After I released my last single 'Validate Me' in early 2020 I took a lot of my focus off my original music and spent a lot of my time producing music for other local artists. I've always had great experiences working with other artists on their music. But it's an entirely different mindset and mental game that you have to play with yourself. Suddenly you have an outside perspective scrutinising everything you do. Then you end up overthinking what you do, thinking "am I the right person to be doing this, am I even good enough to be producing music?". These feelings of imposter syndrome."
"Interestingly, my mindset around 'Mirror' started like, why can't I be different or be better at what I do, I just want to change. But as I came to the final production stages I realised that 'Mirror' was really a song of affirmation, "I check the mirror, and the reflection hasn't changed the man I'm so familiar with". Deep down I know that I'm half decent at what I do, and that skill isn't going anywhere any time soon. The man in the mirror is the same one that's done so much and achieved so much before."
You stated that you wrote a demo track every day for a whole year during the pandemic. Incredibly impressive! Can you tell us more about any of these tracks, and will we be seeing any more released in the future?
I did write something almost every day for a year but a lot of it was really bad. It was more an exercise in consistency. The point of the exercise was just to show up. Showing up to the studio every day (even if the "studio" was just 2 steps into the next room) to write anything at all. If you don't show up there is a 0% chance that you'll create something you like, whereas if you show up there is at least some chance you'll write anything, and maybe it'll be great. Some days I would spend 10 minutes writing a track and some days I would spend 10 hours working on a single song. It didn't matter, as long as I was showing up with intent to create."It sounds a lot more impressive than it was. ‘Mirror’ was one of those tracks that was pretty much done in a day. Again, I had no intention of releasing anything, but as I’ve started flicking back through the catalogue, I’ve found some music that I’d really love to share."
I’m curious to see the music behind the man. What kind of music and artists have you been listening to lately?
"A lot of the music I listen to is older, the music that directly influenced the stuff we hear today. Recently I've been on this classic 70's/80s RnB groove kick. Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Shuggie Otis, and Funkadelic, that kind of thing. Marvin Gayes album 'What's Going On' gets played at least once a day. I love the raw energy of Funkadelic’s album ‘Maggot Brain’ that I don’t know could ever be sonically replicated."
If given the opportunity to play live with any particular bands or artists, who would you love to support or be supported by?
"I’d love to support D’Angelo. The guy is so mysterious, it’s hard to find much information about the man and how he works. I’d love to just pull apart his whole live setup and see how it’s all done so effortlessly."
What can we expect from The Great Jon Marsden, going into 2022 and beyond?
"I’m really excited for 2022. I’ve got a bunch of music that I’m so keen to share. Hopefully if everything goes well, the band and I will be getting back to playing shows as much as possible."
Now I want to see some slayage on the violin! Thanks again to the wise & insightful Jon Marsden for his incredible answers and powerful track. Get amongst it and listen to 'Mirror' on any platform you can. You'll thank your ears later. A testament to human perseverance, the man, the myth, the fkn ledge; Jon Marsden has done it again. Get out there and put your thinking caps on! Create every day, kids!