Daily Discovery: Jonah Tolchin Rocks Out on New Single “Aliens”

One never knows the combination of ingredients that will create a great song or songwriter.

Videos by American Songwriter

But for Jonah Tolchin, it was a special batch of building blocks.

When it comes to his musical work, the inputs and outputs often evolve, and change. But the one thing that remains constant is “my love and appreciation for the blues as an art form,” he says.

“My dad ran a record store in the Mississippi Delta before I was born,” Tolchin tells American Songwriter, adding, “Depression also runs in my family, so when I was a teenager I needed to find some way to ride the beast—of depression, that is.”

But studying the blues offered him a way to stay afloat.

“I learned from the blues how to take raw, sometimes depressive emotions, and transform them through playing the guitar—and then later through songwriting,” Tolchin says. “That was my life raft growing up. My music is based in physical feelings and emotions, and less in conceptual landscapes. Although I do like to marry the two together. It’s also very guitar-centric.”

For the Princeton, New Jersey-based artist, his new song, “Aliens,” which American Songwriter is sharing today, is set for a more formal release on his upcoming album, LAVA LAMP. That will drop July 15. The new record is the result of a life in music.

“I started writing songs in high school,” he says. “I attribute some of my interest in songwriting to my parents’ taste in music. My dad’s favorites were The Band, Jesse Winchester, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Mississippi John Hurt. My mom loved Bill Withers, Carole King, Joni Mitchell. My first concert ever was seeing James Taylor at Tanglewood on the 4th of July as a kid.”

And “Aliens,” he says, is about a “post-alien world.” It was also a collaborative process.

“This new album LAVA LAMP that I have coming out on July 15th,” says Tolchin, “started out as a ‘cosmic outlaw’ kind of thing. I wanted to write ‘psychedelic roots songs’ that played around with some of the themes that country and blues music have touched upon. For example, a song that I didn’t end up recording was ‘Moon Boot Blues’—an inter-dimensional take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Walkin Blues.’ When I told [songwriting partner] Marvin [Etzioni] about the concept for this record, he came up with most of these lyrics and I put the rest together.”

In the end, though, while the new single and forthcoming record have heady origins and a deep love of the blues and self-expression, there is also a big sense of joy when it comes to playing—and listening—to the work.

“The vibe for this song came from my childhood love of The Strokes, Gorillaz, and other late ’90s early ’00s stuff,” Tolchin says. “It was created for the sole purpose of having fun and rocking out. Crank it up!”

Photo by Joe Del Tufo / Yep Roc Music Group

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