Bay Area-bred songwriter/multi-instrumentalist JAWNY (fka Johnny Utah) makes music that lives way outside the limits of modern-day bedroom pop. A self-taught producer with a savant-like ability to come up with addictive melodies, he instills his songs with both raw emotion and outrageous humor, brightening each track with unexpected elements of soul and funk and R&B. With an instinct-driven process he describes as “very scatterbrained and manic and all-over-the-place”—and a happily warped musicality equally inspired by Luther Vandross and STRFKR—the L.A.-based artist creates all his output in his self-built home studio, with no one else around.
“I prefer to work alone, ’cause I’m a little weirdo, and because being alone allows you to be way more vulnerable than you’d ever be in front of other people,” says JAWNY. “I don’t have to worry about sounding silly; I can just be whoever I want in that moment.”
Now at work on his debut project for Interscope Records, JAWNY channels his heart-on-sleeve sincerity and goofball sensibilities into songs like his recent single “Anything You Want.” With its jangly guitar riffs and dreamy falsetto, the funk-infused and feel-good track showcases the wildly original songcraft JAWNY’s previously displayed in hits like “4Tounce”—a November 2019 release that premiered as a Beats 1 World Record on the Apple Music show from Zane Lowe, who noted he’s “never been more excited about a hybrid artist since Beck.”
Born Jacob Sullenger, JAWNY grew up outside Oakland and started playing guitar when he was just six-years-old. At age 13, he downloaded FruityLoops and began making beats with his brother, eventually landing placements with several rappers in the soundcloud scene of the late aughts. “I was mostly making beats ’cause I never thought I could put out anything with me singing on it, ’cause I don’t have a great voice,” says JAWNY. “All I wanted to do since I was a little kid was make music, and that seemed like the best way to do it.” But soon after moving to Philadelphia in his late teens—“Someone told me it was one of the most affordable cities to live in on minimum wage,” he explains—JAWNY experienced a life-changing revelation. “At the time I had a girlfriend who was really into the underground DIY music scene, and seeing all these people who were making music on their own made me realize there was nothing stopping me from doing that too,” he recalls.
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