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Here's Jonny
A look At Jonny Polonsky
By Tony Engelhart
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: Jonny Polonsky
Title: The Power Of Sound
Genre: Power Pop
Label: Loveless Records
Download:"Let Me Out"
iTunes: Let Me Out
Photos by Paul Elledge

Whiz kid Jonny Polonsky has been relatively quiet for the past eight years, releasing only one six-song EP since his 1996 debut, Hi My Name Is Jonny. Back in September Polonsky released his long awaited follow-up, The Power Of Sound, on the Seattle based Loveless records label. Much to the delight of everyone involved, the reviews have been very positive and it was just announced on March 17th Jonny will be opening for super group Audioslave.

As a young man, Jonny was obsessed with music, listening to everything from The Beatles and The Monkees to Duran Duran and Def Leppard. As a teen he became even more inquisitive, sampling everything from Jimi Hendrixs psychedelic blues to grunge gods Nirvana, and even early punk via Iggy and the Stooges. However, the Pixies would end up playing an important role in the young musicians life. “I remember the first time I heard their music. It sounded so totally bizarre and off-kilter and just sounded like you weren't supposed to like it--and at the same time totally compelling and addictive. It seemed so weird and repellant, but you wanted to hear more, plus their songs were so short it was easy to play them over and over. Black Francis in particular was fascinating. His voice could be so pretty and sound almost like a girl's voice, yet he could scream his balls off and sound like he was being murdered. I was just sucked into their little universe,” said Jonny. All of these influences would manifest into Jonny’s own unique style of power pop.

Jonny began playing guitar at the age of nine, and by the time he was twelve he was composing songs. Soon he was playing in bands. “My first band was called Pudding and we played a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan and ZZ Top. My band after that was called Painfully Huge, and we played Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, the pre-ballad material. I played guitar and sang in both bands,” said Jonny.

A multi instrumentalist, Jonny plays piano, drums and anything with strings, so its not surprising he struck out on his own. In 1994 Polonsky began sending tapes out to musicians he admired. One of these recordings made its way to Frank Black of the Pixies, whom Jonny had met briefly before. “I had contacted and became friends with Reeves Gabrels because I was a fan of his guitar playing on the Tin Machine records, and he introduced me to Frank Black. Frank Black is an incredible person. He's just a super smart, interesting, nice guy. It was literally a dream come true to have him in my corner. I've been a humongous fan of his music for years and years, and to have him produce my demo was an unforgettable experience,” said Jonny.

Black, so impressed by Jonny’s talent, signed on to produce the demo. With the polished recording in hand, Frank Black presented it to his manager, who quickly became Polonsky’s manager. Next stop was Rick Ruben, who immediately signed Jonny to American Records. “He's another unique individual who I hold in high esteem. I like him a lot and admire him a great deal. He's always got tons of great ideas and follows his instincts rather than second-guessing what he thinks other people might want out of him”, said Jonny.

With a record contract, Jonny moved from Boston back to Chicago to begin working on his debut, Hi My Name Is Jonny. Even though the album was recorded at his mother’s house in a makeshift home studio, with Ruben’s seasoned production skills and flawless mixing by Brendan O’Brien, the trio created a well received debut. The 22 year old set out on a group of tours. “For the Hi My Name is Jonny record, my band and I supported Frank Black for three months, went to Europe for a bit, and toured with Lollapalooza,” said Jonny.

Just as the party was starting, American lost distribution rights. “I left the label before their distribution deal was up. It wasn't a great time to be inside my brains, but I think it's difficult for anyone to be in their early twenties. It's just as bad as being a teenager, but now you have to pay taxes,” explained Jonny. However, Polonsky is a musician first and foremost. This setback wouldn’t change this. “I played keyboards with April March, an American singer who sang in French. The music was cool, very ‘60s French pop. They call it ye ye music. I also played guitar with Local H, a band from Chicago. They rock like crazy. My band was the Angry Inch in the Chicago live production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Hedwig's a cool chick. She rocks like crazy,” said Polonsky. “I never stopped writing or recording music; it just took awhile for any label to want to release my tunes. Recording is expensive when you do it with other people in recording studios. I used to record myself at home, but I got sick of it. It's more fun for me to have other people involved now,” said Jonny.

In 2001 Jonny released an EP, There Is Something Wrong With You on Eggbert records. “I just didn't feel like putting out a full length record, because I knew whatever was going to be released wouldn't get a very good push. It was a tiny, one-man label with not a lot of bread. That's the only reason. I didn't want to waste a bunch of songs on a record that wouldn't be heard, but I wanted to put out SOMETHING just to at least get back in the ring,” explained Jonny.

In late 2003 Jonny was touring with Carla Werner, the opening act for The Thorns. Pete Droge and Jonny became fast friends. Jonny was seeking a label when Pete told him about Seattle based Loveless Records. After submitting a demo, Loveless Records quickly signed Polonsky. “Jonny Polonsky is a super talented musician - that is obvious from the casual fan to the serious musician. He writes great songs and is a fantastic guitar player. Just listen to his records. I guess what all that means is that there is instant credibility with anything he does,” said Pete Nordstrom, co-owner of Loveless. “Jonny is rock and roll incarnate. He is the real deal and if Loveless can help him get listened to by music fans everywhere and Jonny can gain the kind of popularity his talent deserves, then we will be happy.”

Jonny’s new CD, The Power of Sound, is already receiving terrific reviews as his maturity as an artist is being recognized. “I'm more confident in what I'm doing, and therefore the record making experience is a lot more fun and easy going. I like the direction my songs are taking. I was just really excited about this batch of tunes and wanted to make sure it actually came out,” said Jonny. Unlike his debut, on which he played every instrument, Jonny put a firecracker of a band together. “On almost all the tracks it's Solomon Snyder on bass and Joe Dapier on drums. Those guys were my band when we went on tour to support Hi My Name is Jonny. We've been friends since we were kids. Josh Freese played on a couple songs. We've been friends for a few years, and he played on my EP from 2001, There is Something Wrong with You. Tim Dow played drums on a couple of songs. He played drums in Shiner, a great band from Kansas City, and also in Year of the Rabbit with Solomon,” explained Jonny.

Since the release of the new record, Jonny hasn’t had much time to rest. “Things have been great since the release of the record. People seem to be responding very positively to it, which is always nice. I've been busy getting the band in shape for the tour,” says Jonny. The Spring tour with Audioslave begins April 14th and will run until May 20th. “I'm really excited to go out with Audioslave. It's the first tour I've done in almost ten years for my own music, so it's especially cool. I worked for Audioslave as their band tech for about a year, so I've known all of them for a little while. I've also done some film soundtrack work with Brad and Tom. I did the score for “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” which is a short film starring Brad the drummer from Audioslave, Maynard from Tool/A Perfect Circle, and Ed Asner. I sang on some stuff for a movie called “Berkley” that Tom Morello did the music for. Audioslave has been berry, berry good to me.”

It may have taken Jonny just shy of a decade to ink another record deal, but in that time he has grown, not only as an artist and performer but as a person. And while and expectations are high for the 31 year old, he feels optimistic about this new chapter in his already long career.

Thu-Apr-14 Las Vegas The Joint
Fri-Apr-15 Phoenix
Sun-Apr-17 Austin Music Hall
Mon-Apr-18 Houston Verizon Wireless Theater
Thu-Apr-21 Minneapolis Quest
Fri-Apr-22 Chicago Aragon Ballroom
Sun-Apr-24 Cleveland Agora Theatre
Mon-Apr-25 Detroit State Theater
Tue-Apr-26 Toronto Kool Haus
Thu-Apr-28 Boston Avalon Ballroom
Fri-Apr-29 Philadelphia Electric Factory
Sat-Apr-30 New York Roseland
Sun-May-01 Washington DC 930 Club
Wed-May-04 Atlanta Tabernacle
Fri-May-06 Orlando Hard Rock Live (MAY CHANGE)
Thu-May-12 Seattle Moore Theater
Fri-May-13 Portland Roseland
Sun-May-15 San Francisco Warfield Theater
Mon-May-16 Sacramento War Memorial Auditorium
Tue-May-17 San Diego Soma
Fri-May-20 Los Angeles Wiltern Theater

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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