We were lucky to catch up with Jonny Tarr recently and have shared our conversation below.
Jonny, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to hear the backstory behind a risk you’ve taken – whether big or small, walk us through what it was like and how it ultimately turned out.
The biggest risk I ever took was moving to California with hardly any money to try to build a new life for myself. I had been living in London trying to find a foothold with my original music and it was terribly difficult. When the big recession hit us in around 2011, I lost all my paying music gigs and was living hand to mouth with the odd shift as a stage hand at the Royal Opera House. London is a very unforgiving place if you have no money, so I decided to just come out to America and give it a shot. I swore I would never try to succeed with my original music again because it was just too heartbreaking on regular basis, so I poured my efforts into being a working gigging musician earning my way along with bar/restaurant gigs and some session work as I am very stubborn and was determined that music would be my sole income no matter what. I had met a beautiful and wonderful girl and she took her biggest risk on me by asking me to marry her so that I could get legal immigration status. Thing is, when it came to getting married, she kind of got a bit freaked out and the wedding was a bit of a disaster. We didn’t speak to each for a week afterwards!! My American adventure was falling apart. I felt completely at loss for what to do and called my mother to ask her advice. She told me to come home. That I had tried my best. Then I called my father and he said. You come this far. Tough it out a little bit longer. Thing was during both these phone calls, I had my finger hovering over the PURCHASE button on the British Airways website for a one way ticket back to the UK. In the end I chose my father’s advice and ten year’s later Aleicia and I are very happily married and I am paying a mortgage in San Diego solely though music with a beautiful six year old little girl. BUT I was one click of a mouse away from an entirely different life path. It has to be the biggest risk I ever took but but it worked out by the skin of my teeth.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I went to the Paul McCartney school for the arts in Liverpool, England to study Saxophone and contemporary music. There I became less interested in Jazz and more interested in Electronic music of all types but mainly Drum and Bass, Trip Hop and House. I helped found a band there that played live dance/EDM/drum and Bass and we took that band South to the London area. We played many festivals including the big one in the UK (Glastonbury) as well as some touring and recording for a few different labels. When that group disbanded, I worked really hard on developing my own solo multi instrumental show using the new technology of looping which is what I eventually exported to the USA and was my main reason for being able to earn a livable wage in San Diego. This city is not cheap and if you can provide a decent solo show that can keep people entertained in any given situation, then you don’t have to split the money with other musicians. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with larger ensembles, but my solo show has been my bread and butter here in California for over ten years, now. The fact that I can play a few instruments and sing, plus put it all together as a one man show is probably what has set me apart from some of my peer group. The fact that I alway had my solo show to fall back on has also given me the freedom and desire to really lean back into my original music even though I swore ‘never again!’ when I first moved out here. So much so that I even won the San Diego Music Award for BEST POP ARTIST artist, recently. I have a song on Spotify that has over five million plays (ROCKETS by The Nextmen featuring Jonny Tarr), I toured Canada opening for FOREIGNER in 2019 and recently signed with San Diego’s PACIFIC RECORDS, too. You can find all my original music on Spotify and I am regularly playing with my band of superb players, THE JONNY TARR QUINTET (Monette Marino, Ken Dow, Matthew Clowminzer and Miles Clowminzer. All legends I their own right) We play my songs which I want to to say are funk tinged Soul Pop with some heavy beats aimed at getting people dancing.
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
Always be working and always be ready to adapt and change your parameters. It is hard and relentless work to earn a living as a creative and be your own boss. You have to be very motivated and not a little bit stubborn. When my first band broke up, I decided I needed a way to get my songs out in a solo capacity and I spent some hard hours working out how to do it. Now, I can play a two to three hour set of my original tunes from solo to duo to trio all the way thru to a ten/eleven piece band. The other thing I learned and has served me well is ALWAYS have more than one player on each instrument around you that knows your songs. Being a band leader is tough but one of the perks is that you run the gigs and in a musically fertile place like San Diego there will always someone who is up for taking the date providing you have prepped them and worked on your set with them. Great session musicians know the playlists of many different bands they might involved in. That way, you never have to turn down a gig when you get the call because your bass player is unavailable, for example. It’s not about playing in the right place at the right time, it’s about playing in the right places often enough.
What do you think is the goal or mission that drives your creative journey?
My latest goal is to move up to the status of touring band playing my own songs. We have great material for the festival circuit. Full of hooks and extremely danceable with a DJ’s sensibility when it comes to blending songs into each other. This is what I am trying to break into currently but the pandemic took the rug out from under my feet (as well as pretty much everyone else creative) so I am trying to scrabble back to the edge of the springboard I felt I was at before it all went down. Seeing as record sales are no longer a thing and until Spotify changes it’s tune about royalty percentages, touring and getting out there in front new audiences is my driving motivation for paying my way through life.
- Website: www.jonnytarr.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/jonnytarrmusic
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/jonnytarrmusic
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Jonnytarr