We might have found Singapore's very own John Mayer, and it's JAWN
After the release of his debut single and music video, Fade to Black, we catch up with Jon Chan a.k.a. JAWN over a latte to talk influences, confessional writing and relationships
The first time I listened to a song by local singer-songwriter Jon Chan, I ended up in tears. It was Horizons, which he wrote and recorded in 2014 after the passing of a friend. The 25-year-old's voice haunted with a Kings of Convenience-like delicateness, along with a buttery smoothness alike that of John Mayer's. The intimacy in his sound lingered long after the song had finished. I had to stop whatever I was doing — ironically, I had been crafting questions to ask him — and just sat there, hanging on to his every word.
I finally met the mastermind behind that tearjerker hours later in a quiet cafe in Duxton. It's brightly-lit and immaculately-styled — the ones you'd take top-down shots of. Incidentally, he did just that, standing up to take a photo of his latte which just arrived. He's been pretty busy — after graduating from Nanyang Technological University two months ago, he made his single and music video debut, Fade to Black (which he insisted isn't a Metallica tribute), less than a month ago. Known by his stage name JAWN, he's currently working on the release of his five-track EP.
First things first: When was the first time you picked up an instrument? Recorders don't count, right? I think I was almost a stereotype — the Asian kid playing the piano. My sister, who was five, started getting piano lessons, and I was jealous and wanted in on it — I was eight at the time. I wanted a lot of things I couldn't have, but this one, my parents let me, for which I will always be grateful!
You wrote your first song in April 2009. What was it about? It started like most songs in the world have started — heartbreak makes you wax lyrical, you know? Which is alright. But then you start to try terrible, awe-strikingly cheesy things, like writing a song that literally contained the words "the breeze carries your smell." Shiver inducing.
"some people wear their hearts on their sleeves but I made my whole outfit out of it" - Jawn's tumblr
You're not afraid to be pretty confessional on your Tumblr. Why so? What Tumblr? No, but seriously... if things happen, they happen. There's no reason to hide, and no reason to be ashamed. And if people might think lesser of me, or talk about me, or not hire me, or whatever, for my views were at the time of their writing — then I think they aren't people I really need in my life anyway.
How did a cheating relationship end up in your first single, Fade To Black? You feel sad, so you need to get it out somehow. So you write a terrible song. And then you write some more terrible songs, and more and more, until you write a good one. Fade to Black was that one.
How did the idea of the music video come about and how did Narelle Kheng and Gentle Bones get involved? We worked with the same producer to get our debut EPs out there. I'd like to think we're all friends, and so I called them for help and they were more than willing — they were also available. Fade To Black is a phrase that has very cinematic and theatrical connotations, and that was what sparked off that thought process — a play in a film in a music video, with things going on between light and dark, one boy and another boy, offstage and onstage.
Fade to Black is about letting go. What's your advice on how to do that gracefully? Tell yourself that the bad things you're feeling are very small things in a very big world made out of billions of other very small things, that in the larger, grander scheme of things there are always bigger and better things to look onward and upward to. So sometimes, the best thing you can do when a relationship is beyond repair is to wish someone well and go about your own way.