For Jon Vinyl, songwriting is a means of figuring out emotions. Although his voice matches the self-assuredness of the R&B greats, his songwriting carries the image of a young man striving to pick out the exact phrase that gets to the root of his feelings. The Toronto-based soul singer channels the vulnerability of golden era crooners, falling in line with his idols like Luther Vandross and Jodeci with a sound he’s been developing since he was a teenager. He spent five years testing the power of his own voice in his home studio before releasing his first single in 2017 and since then, he’s applied his dulcet tones towards collaborations with the likes of LOONY and his music has been championed on OVO Sound Radio.
His unguarded songwriting is front and centre on his new video single, “Always,” and his recent album Lost in You. The ambivalence is obvious in his tone, like he’s drafting the perfect daring message in his notes app, before shifting to send a big risky text. His smooth falsetto chorus and lush instrumentation keeps the mood light in an otherwise melancholy video. In the “Always” video, Vinyl drunkenly wanders down Toronto’s streets, dressed for a black tie event, seeking out his lost love but only finding more and more chaos. It’s an entire Lynchian dream sequence packed into three minutes.
RANGE caught up with the R&B upstart to chat about life in his Pickering, Ontario hometown, his approach to vulnerability, and opening up a new era in his artistry.
What does an average day look like for you these days?
The pandemic changed everything man. It’s sad that these Toronto lockdowns have prevented me from spending time with friends and family. Most days, I’ll start the day off with a workout to clear my mind, whether that means going for a run, cycling, or even doing some HIIT cardio at home. I’ll have breakfast with my brother and manager, Jamil, who is hella talented in the kitchen. Then I’ll typically spend the majority of the day in the studio, songwriting and cooking up new music. Maybe I’ll get distracted by a one-two friends checking in on me. And then my day ends off with dinner with my mom and brother, some reading, and of course, a good skincare routine before bed.
How did you get into playing music?
Although I released my first single back in 2017 when I was only 20 years old, music has always played a significant role in my life. Growing up in a single-mother household, I spent most of my Sundays helping my mom with chores while jamming out to her collection of old school R&B, from Luther Vandross, to Jodeci and Maxwell. For years I would imitate these artists and rave about their lyrical vulnerability, until my brother (now manager) Jamil, encouraged me to pursue the talents in my voice. We worked together to build a home studio where I began making music at 15.
What’s the first piece of vinyl you bought with your own money?
Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually not a big time vinyl collector/connoisseur. Despite my name being Vinyl, I actually never owned my first vinyl until I dropped my first EP, Dangerous, where my team produced a collection of Dangerous-branded vinyls for sale on my website. I knew from that moment that I was reaching a new milestone in my artistry.
The “Always” video looks like a rough night out, starting with you waking up in the middle of the street. Can you tell us how the concept for the video came together?
“Always” is a special track off my recent project Lost In You that I really wanted to bring that extra bit of life to. The visual takes viewers on a wavering journey that commences with confusion and humility, but quickly ascends into a relatable relationship narrative tapping into forgiveness, compassion, and my own self-awareness. The new music video follows me as I mindlessly roam through an intoxicated night encountering extraordinary moments that coincidentally get me more drunk, driving me further and further away from self-understanding. The entire experience is meant to replicate this immense longing for my love interest while I chase her around a bustling city in hopes of winning her back after breaking her heart with a foolish mistake. Although I opt for grand performances and masked feelings, I’m eventually forced to take a deeper look at my own reflection to gain clarity and come to hidden realizations about what it takes to both give and receive real love.
The video also features a dance sequence full of extras in one of Toronto’s busiest intersections, Yonge-Dundas Square. What was it like performing that in the moment?
That was my first experience working with dancers and it was honestly such a thrilling vibe. Yonge-Dundas Square is already this lively, bustling intersection and people who see it know, yup that’s Toronto. We all felt like it was the perfect fit for a location to have some fun while pairing the bright lights of the city and countless pedestrians with the chaotic conceptual ideation we were aiming for.
Was there a certain situation (or person) that inspired the chaos of the video?
For those that truly know me, I love to kid around and have fun. But in all honesty, I’m a lover boy at heart. My music is based on true, real life experiences and relationships I’ve encountered. “Always” was inspired by my past relationship.
What inspired you to start making your own music?
Aside from the inspiration born during those lovely jam/cleaning sessions with my mom, I’ve always been someone with a keen sense of emotion. I feel like society conditions men – Black men in particular – to believe that bottling up our emotions is central to masculinity. But in my honest opinion, I consider these notions to be some of our most destructive societal issues.
With my artistry, I aim to break through stigmas around male emotion and masculinity by boldly defying emotional barriers and tapping into some of the most vulnerable moments in my life. Even if a topic is difficult to discuss with others — whether it be a tough breakup, rough patch, creator’s block, etc., you’ll typically find me pouring those pent-up emotions out on paper as I conceptualize the lyrics for my next song.
Can you tell us a bit more about how your music comes together? What’s your creative process like?
It starts with the experience of just living life and going through the ebbs and flows of relationships, whether intimate or even with friends/family and my career. First, I try to tap into an experience that moved me, no matter if it moved me positively or negatively, and build from that. Then I try to bring myself back into the mindset I was in when I was going through that situation. The emotions come back to me, along with the thoughts, past conversations, memories, etc., And the narrative typically unfolds endemically from there.
What are some things that you want people to know about you – both as a person and an artist?
Over the years, my goal has been to maintain a strong sense of authenticity, realness in my songwriting and storytelling, and most importantly, to challenge myself by stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’ve got some masterpieces cooking in the studio right now and listeners can expect something very different than what they’re used to from Mr. Vinyl.
What’s the perfect way to spend a day in your hometown of Pickering?
My perfect day in Pickering would start with taking my puppy Milo for a nice long walk by the waterfront, followed by some snowboarding and then diving into some new music at the lake in my whip. I like the simple things in life!
We found a video online of you jamming with fellow Pickeringite Shawn Mendes. What are the chances that we’ll get a collaboration?
Shawn and I have been homies since way back and most times when we’re together, we’re kicking it with all of our friends, just chillin’ and having fun. Oddly enough, it’s kind of like our getaway from music. There are definitely times where he’ll play something and I’ll play something, we’ll give each other feedback and bounce ideas off one another. But no discussions of a full collab as of yet. Maybe one day.
Anything else you’d like us to know? What’s next for Jon Vinyl?
Although the pandemic seemed to put a lot of artists at a roadblock in terms of live performances and production, 2022 is looking to be a promising one for me. I’m thrilled to share that I’ve got a brand-new single and music video dropping called “Don’t Care” at the beginning of February. I’m so excited for listeners and viewers to get a taste of this new era in my artistry.