What is there to say about Jonny Craig that hasn't been said already? Large mistakes have been made in the past, and Craig has made attempts at redemption. A few days ago, Craig had announced a $20,000 Indie-Go-Go campaign for an upcoming EP due out this Summer, which has gotten it's fair share of negative and positive responses. I talked with Jonny on Friday afternoon to discuss the reasoning behind the EP, as well as his upcoming tour, etc. Since talking with him, he has nearly $4000 closer to his overall goal. You can follow Jonny on twitter, as well as check out his campaign here.
First off, you've fulfilled your contract with Rise Records. I have to ask, was there an offer to re-sign?
Actually, I was still obligated to do more CD's, and I had to buy my own contract out, that is the actual legit story. There was a bunch of shit going around saying that they dropped me, but yeah, I had to buy my own contract out with Rise Records.
Are you still on good terms with all the guys over there at Rise?
To be honest, I'm not going to bad mouth them, but I don't talk to them. Craig refused to talk to me for a long time, even after I apologized for all the stuff that went down. Real talk, he kept me out of jail, so I have a lot of respect for him, and I went to him after everything happened and I apologized, all of his money got paid back, but he still refused to have a relationship with me and that's where my manager stepped in and was like "Hey, if you don't want to continue to do this, we need to think of something else because we're trying to move forward", and he was holding us back a little bit. We had to work something out with him so he would get paid and he could let us go.
So you're currently a free agent for the time being, but would you be open to other labels offers in the future?
Of course, that's kind of the plan right now with the campaign. What we did was I recorded three singles in which I paid for them out of my own pocket, we went into a local studio with a friend of ours, his name is Zack. We set up this campaign so we can start recording with someone of actual worth with a bigger name, so we're going to release these singles and hopefully people able to donate will be able to do that, and hopefully we'll get attention from other labels, that's what we're hoping for. Maybe someone will bite and say "I like the sound of this, you've raised this much, maybe we can throw a little bit more on this and sell it bigger", something like that, you know? Maybe it'll happen.
Alternatively, have you thought about doing something like a mixtape instead? I'm sure there's plenty of people that would want to work with you.
Yeah, there's a dude I'm working with, his name is Kyle Lucas and we've been sending songs back and forth. And obviously it doesn't cost anything for me and him to record or do a mixtape together. It's not a crazy studio level, but we're thinking about doing a mixtape together, maybe while we're doing this fundraiser; we thought about it just for fun, maybe it'll give people a chance just to see what they're going to be paying for.
Sure, and there's plenty of people that are willing to jump on that, so you should be good in that respect.
Yeah, I feel pretty good about it.
The big deal about the campaign is the price tag, $20,000. A lot of people have the question of "Why should it cost $20,000 just to fund it?"
Yeah, and that's a pretty good question, and I saw a lot of it on twitter asking stuff like "What costs $20,000?". I have $7,000 raised right now and literally speaking, I could go and record an EP with the money that's already raised, but I would be working the same people that I've always recorded with. I love Kris Crummett to death, he's one my favorite friends and he does an amazing job with my vocals, but our goal for raising this amount of money is to record with some people we've already lined up that already has their name out there, we're just working on getting our schedules aligned. That's why our goal is a little high. We could record the same stuff we've always recorded, or we could try and do something a little different for once, and that's our goal.
Let's talk about some of the incentives. A lot of the earlier ones are sold out already, but some of the later ones such as one where someone gets to have dinner with you, why the $500 price tag?
If you think about it, there's not really a whole lot that you can do for the perks that you can do. I've looked at a few of the other ones that have been done, what's that one band...
The Classic Crime?
Them, and there's one that made a shit ton of money too...
Protest The Hero?
Yeah, Protest The Hero. There had a bunch of perks, but there's not a whole lot that we can do, so maybe someone would like to do something like go out to dinner, be on the album - Protest The Hero did that one, and it charged like $5000 for that. Obviously our goal is only $20,000, we don't want to charge $5000 for someone to be on the album. We kind of did things that we're hoping that people would want to take advantage of, the goal with a few of them is to get them sold out, we've actually put another one up there with a backstage option. We pick things that we think people would want to do, and some of them are working and some of them aren't.
Someone wanted me to clarify the $250 VIP "Golden Ticket" option - does it get you AND your guest backstage, or does it only get YOU backstage?
I think it gets both of them backstage, it's kind of like double credit, the first golden ticket was only $100 and this one is $250 which includes the backstage window with me.
The $1000 acapella performance is also one people are talking about, saying it's too much money. Instead, have you thought about doing a pre-show fan club where a very limited amount of people could come who have purchased that option and have you perform 3-4 songs acapella?
Yeah, kind of. There's an acoustic option as well, but the idea behind this one is that we wanted to have someone who would want to pay that, and it'd be all funded. I'd come down and I'd sing without any instruments or anything, they could be originals or covers, whatever I pick. We kind of thought that it'd be cool, but like I said, we didn't really have a lot of things to choose from; we've posted the first set of perks and saw which ones were working and which ones weren't, we're putting up a few more that we think will work a lot better than the ones that aren't right now.
Yeah, but you know with the acapella option, I think if it were cheaper it would fly off the shelves and more people would get excited about it.
Yeah, like I said, we're going to add some more options. But I think we're going to bring the price tag down on the ones that are a little higher, but we want to be aware of what people want, and what people will pay for, and now that we know that I think we'll be able to reach our goal now that we post these new perks, and I think it'll go really well.
Not to mention you have plenty of time too, you still have nearly 40 days or so to reach your goal.
Yeah, like 37 or something.
Can you explain your songwriting process for this EP?
My songwriting process has always been the same, except it's a little different now because I'm not in a band. But the way I write is still keep pretty well to that. Now we're out-branching out to other people to write music, different kinds of songs, and I'm getting 5-10 songs a week from different people picking the style that I want or the things I like; we're picking who's writing the stuff right now.
The way I write, I write the song and then I'll throw some shit over it, just me and my computer and then I'll go record with my friend Zach who has a studio and we kind of just do that, and that's how it pans out, it's not too crazy. I don't sit and focus on the songs too hard, I feel like people spend too much time stressed out and they spend their entire time on tour writing a song. I go in the studio and I sing what I feel, and I stop it at that, I don't overthink everything.
Is there a specific idea lyrically you want to get across on this EP?
You know, it's not that I want to get anything across on the EP, I think this EP to me more "me" than anything I've ever done. I just want this to show fans and even people who don't give a shit about me that "Hey, this kid's got talent, whether he fucked up or not, he has what it takes". And that's what I want to do with this EP, I just want to show EVERYONE.
I've noticed you've been pulling back on Twitter/Facebook and haven't been posting as much over the past 5-6 months or so.
Yeah. Obviously when I was getting high and fucked up, I tended to talk a lot more shit and stuff. And now that I'm not using drugs, it's just not as fun, you know? It took all the life out of it, being rude and all that shit. I kind of have a new found respect for people have that have stuck around...and even ones that have talked shit, they're still following me, so I know they have a little bit of faith in me.
I noticed that tweet a few months back in response to what happened with Mitch [Lucker], and that's something that sticks with me. Showing the amount of humility and respect to admit that was good to see.
That dude was a good dude, you know? Obviously a little bit of a problem between me and those dudes, I was a little bit too much for them and it came across as bullying and whatnot. But you know what, despite the whole track, that dude didn't deserve that. It makes me feel a little shitty, because I've done a lot of shitty things and I whether I deserved his fate or not, that dude has always been a good dude and he's always been positive and he's always fucking done everything he could for his fans. And it makes me feel shitty as a person, to know that it wasn't me and it was him, and I'm still here and that really made me focus on the things that I'm doing right now. A lot of people can hate me for all the things that I've done, I know that there's a chance for me out here, and I'm going to help people and change their lives and hopefully they don't stick with the bad shit forever. If I can keep focusing on it, I know I can move past it.
The EP is going to be a lot different than your solo debut, correct?
Yeah, especially since that one was full band and I think this one is going to be focused on a more sexual/"Weeknd" type of feel, and not just full band.
And that's great, because I wanted to bring up The Weeknd. You went to go see him recently, right?
Yeah, my Fiancee' went and bought me tickets for Christmas, and we went and saw him.
What about his songwriting and his performance do you enjoy?
It was cool, I've never seen The Weeknd before and I heard a lot of rumors that he doesn't sing very well live, and I watched a couple videos and it was 50/50 for me - there were a couple of videos that were amazing, and then there were videos where he was off, which I'm sure is the same type of thing for my bullshit as well. When we went to the show I was real iffy and I didn't know what was going to happen, and the dude blew it away.
There was only one thing about it that I didn't like, and it wasn't just him, but a lot of singers do it. They write something on the album, and then when they do it live they change the melody a little bit and I'm all for that, but sometimes it kills the song sometimes. It was still amazing though, he had backup singers and they did perfect harmonies, it was really good.
Do you feel like watching a performance like that pushes you harder as a musician?
Oh definitely, definitely. I'm a real driven person, and I know how well that I sing, so when I watch someone like that I'm always thinking "This can me, if I pull my head out of my ass". It definitely pushes me to be stronger.
What kind of stuff have you been listening to lately?
A lot of hip-hop, I've been listening to that new A$AP Rocky record, but nothing singing wise. I've been listening to a lot of older CD's like the first Men In Black soundtrack, which has a lot of R&B shit on there, Nas, etc.
Has there been a rock album that sticks out?
Nah, I haven't really been listening to any rock stuff, but I actually listened to the Hail The Sun record because they're coming on this tour, and that was actually really cool. Their music is great, and their lyrics crack me the fuck up.
Focusing on the scene itself, who would be the top 5 vocalists in your opinion?
Like I said, I haven't been listening to it. But I know that Matty Mullins (Memphis May Fire) kid is doing pretty good, I know that Kellin Quinn (Sleeping With Sirens) grew and finally put in some work and has being doing really good right now. Tyler Carter (Issues) has been doing pretty good. Vic Fuentes (Pierce The Veil) been doing good too. I really don't know who's out there and who's doing good, I couldn't really tell you who the top 5 would look like, but I've been following these guys and their grooves.
Yeah, I noticed there was a video with you and the Issues guys in their van recently. Have you been in pretty close contact with those guys?
Yeah, they came down in Sacramento and I went to go see them play. I text Tyler every now and then, but we've had a little bit of a falling out. Those dudes are cool, and I wish them the best of luck. Everyone is always asking me and Tyler to do songs together, he's busy getting his band off the ground and I'm just trying to get my solo stuff out.
He's actually doing a solo EP as well
Yeah, I think he told me about that. Hopefully if we're both together and around the same time, I'm sure he'll ask me to be on it, and I'll be on it, I'm not trippin.
And you'd be open to have him on your EP as well?
Yeah of course. We talk about simple and small stuff like that, but he's been occupied with getting Issues off the ground and going. I don't really know what happened with him in Woe, Is Me, so I didn't really get into it with him.
You're going back out on tour, heading to SXSW and surrounding areas. You're bringing out Kurt Travis as direct support. What led to the decision to bring him out with you?
Well, Kurt and I have always been friends, he was my friend before he became the Dance Gavin Dance singer and my first actual solo tour he played guitar/keys for me. His girlfriend and my girlfriend are best friends, so we get together a lot and I just said "why not" and made him direct support. He's a really good friend.
How does it feel to be on a full tour again?
Feels pretty good man, I'm just sitting at home and doing a lot of nothing, I try not to go out and get too crazy. I've been keeping myself surrounded with people that actually want to see me excel at what I'm doing. Now that I'm actually able to go on tour and show people that I'm actually sober, I think it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm hoping it turns out to be a lot better than I'm thinking.
What songs are you looking forward to playing?
I actually haven't made a full setlist yet, so I'm not quite sure. I want to play at least 4 new songs.
Are Emarosa and Dance Gavin Dance songs fair game as well?
You know today I actually thought about putting an Emarosa song in, as an acoustic song. As for Dance Gavin Dance, it wouldn't work out because of the two vocal parts.
Do these new songs include the covers that you just put out?
I have three singles that I'm about to drop, which I we recorded before the campaign started, so we can release them during the campaign and be able to generate a little bit more hype. So these three songs, but a musical director and I have some stuff written and I'm hoping to play two of those songs as well. But I will be playing the covers, like the Justin Timberlake cover, the Amy Winehouse cover and I think there's some other ones in store, I'm not going to give it away, but there's some good ones.
Shifting gears a little bit, let's talk about The Voice - is that a legitimate possibility right now?
Yeah, I can't talk about it, I signed a confidentiality agreement with NBC. I don't want to disqualify myself, so I just can't talk about it.
Lastly, what are your biggest goals for 2013?
I just want to turn things around for me, not only in my life, but I want to turn things around for the way people perceive me. I know that I've always been an asshole to people and I've done a lot of stupid shit, but I want to turn that shit around. I want to support my fiancee, and live my life to the fullest and enjoy myself and not live so negatively.
So at these shows fans can always expect to get something signed or get a picture if they'd like?
Yeah, of course. I usually come to the merch table afterwards and I know I didn't really do that before, I hid away and did drugs and shit. After all these shows we're playing I'm going to the merch booth, so If you want something I'm there.
You don't believe in the "VIP signing" deal that some bands do?
I mean, obviously we have VIP for our shows but you get to come and eat pizza and hang out with me, so it's not just a signing. Some bands do the "VIP" option where you get stuff signed, but we wanted to do one where a little bit more intimate, and worth more than just getting stuff signed. If you catch me on the way to the show I'm gonna sign your shit.
I hope he keeps moving forward and keeps making good decisions. He's been down and out, and he's been faced with the situation where he had to ask himself "What are you going to do about it?", just like many of us have been in various points, albeit not to this degree. He's doing something about what he doesn't like, can't get upset about that.