I've been lucky to know Jonathan Mendelsohn for, gosh, almost two decades or so now. Genuinely a good person, the talent and "go for it" passion Jonathan has always displayed for his singing career, real friendships or his desire to live a full and vibrant life is humbling and inspiring. We both grew up in a fertile music scene in the Hudson Valley before Jonathan moved on to a successful career as a globe trotting singer with an ear for pop hooks that don't abandon a human feel.
It was rad to catch up with Jonathan at a local Upstate, NY specialty cocktail bar about Bali and old mutual friends and then chat a few days later about music, identity, positive vibrations and more. You always knew this dude was going to do great things and his recent hit "Echo" with Hardwell is past the 10,000,000 mark on Youtube.
“Find your passion and follow it. Stay as relentlessly positive as possible. If you start doubting or negativity starts shitting on your dreams, you're allowing your thoughts to sabotage you.” - Jonathan Mendelsohn
Spacelab: Hi Jonathan! How are you today? Since we go back a ways, let's start by me saying it is awesome to see your star rising. You always had a real identity and self-worth that shone through whenever I saw you perform, even back when you were doing more rock tinged or R&B type stuff at an earlier age. It never seemed like you were trying to hard to fit in, just being yourself.
Jonathan Mendelsohn: That is very sweet of you to say Morgan, thank you! We all have to start somewhere, right? I suppose my passion for what I do stretches beyond one genre of music and I've always accepted that there's universal elements that tie all of what I consider 'good' music together. There are certainly some styles that do feel out of my comfort zone that, over the years, I've not even attempted, though the opportunities have presented themselves.
Spacelab: How did it feel, looking back, the first time you played The Apollo? I know you have talked about this before but I love the story.
Jonathan Mendelsohn: Oh man. That was still one of the most surreal moments of my life. It was pretty ballsy to go out there and sing an original song as a white dude but I didn't really have much to lose and was pretty confident in my singing abilities. I was not prepared for it being such a success. The first show I did, people were screaming and I couldn't tell if it was good or bad screams, but then I won and was like "whaaaaaa?? What is happening right now??"
Needless to say I was flying high after that. I thought it was my golden ticket into the industry but it wasn't at the time. I remember going around to a bunch of major record labels after that and showing them the video and playing some of my music and exec's being like, ok so what box do we put you in? They didn't really get me. So it was back to the drawing board.
Spacelab: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Your singing always has come from a very soulful place. As an openly gay man, do you ever find it ironic how some "religious" folks skip compassion and condemn others even when it is obvious from listening to even a slice of gay culture's impact on pop or electronic that there is oodles of real soul? Or do you just try and keep it positive and put light into the world rather than dwell on the divides?
Jonathan Mendelsohn: This is a pretty in depth question/answer so I'll try to keep things brief! I am a spiritual person. I couldn't be the artist that I am without being in touch with all elements of humanity and life as they inherently feed on each other. I don't really pay mind to religion or the stamp of approval they offer. I believe in God and the power of the universe and that gets screwed with in organized religion so I find it best to live in my truth. Though I was programmed to think otherwise, I knew that living that lie wouldn't work for me if I were going to be free and be true to myself.
My music tends to deal with universal themes and emotions, intentionally as I like to relate to the human condition rather than any one gender or sexual preference. Once you start playing that game, you become an activist of sorts and open yourself up to having to take stance on the 'divide' when there really shouldn't be a division at all in terms of art. We are all just spiritual beings having a human experience and music shouldn't exclude anyone based on gender, race or sexual preference, just taste.
Spacelab: It's been about a year since your hit collaboration "Echo" with Hardwell. How has the response felt and how has your life changed in that time? I love your vocal in that song as it simply refuses to be easily classified (to my ears) as one genre yet is very catchy and memorable. And the video had heart and some breathtaking nature vistas. What was that experience like as well?
Jonathan Mendelsohn: It didn't really change my life too much though it did lead to some more credibility in the dance music world, a community I was somewhat well known in already, and helped usher in some more live show opportunities based on the success. That was a big plus. Of course, getting to be a part of the music video was the highlight of the experience as they went big on production and concept and the end result was superb. I almost got hypothermia and my feet went purple while shooting, but it was well worth it!
Spacelab: Yes, that video is like a beautiful movie. What are you currently working on that excites you? I saw you just had a show in Amsterdam? Didn't you mention something about wanting to go back to Asia the other night when we spoke at The Stockade Tavern in Kingston, NY? Was a nice surprise to see you.
Jonathan Mendelsohn: Always love getting back to K-town and seeing you as well. Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities and got to be a part of a show with DJ Fedde Le Grand at the Ziggodome which is a 17k capacity venue. It was a big production with dancers, sets, visuals, etc and it was a total blast.I only sang a few songs and it was all over so fast but the excitement of the night will live on for quite some time. Asia is still a go as well in the end of May, I am doing shows in Taipei, Shanghai, and Bali. Mmmmm. Bali, don't get me started on that place'.
Spacelab: Are you more excited about singles collaborations right now or does the idea of developing more full length albums for your repertoire seem the best approach? Or do you just adapt to what is in front of you? You've mentioned you are a believer in visualizing end results ala the Law of Attraction.
Jonathan Mendelsohn: I love getting to work with a lot of different artists so singles are always cool with me but I do think it’s time to release some solo material, even if it's a self released EP. It's funny you mentioned the law of attraction because I just really discovered the whole 'thoughts become things' and manifesting our own destinies through what we visualize, focus on and the feelings associated with it. I feel like it is actually time to start using this new outlook to fuel the next phase of my artist development.
Spacelab: I got so sad the other night thinking about Whitney Houston. Four years since she died this month. I hope Bobby Brown can find some healing amidst all the tragedy. And how if there is no Heaven, they made it for Whitney and her daughter. Like, God would forgive her even though she had some rough, fucked up times. She also affected so many lives for the better and made beautiful, timeless songs (if you haven't heard it, since I know you like rock and pop check out Chris Cornell's acoustic "I Will Always Love You" tribute from after she died. It's online somewhere). But anyway, do you feel it is important to focus on bringing that sort of raw honesty and heart to your own material? Or does it just come out? You have an authenticity that many performers who can sing big hooks sometimes abandon along the way.
Jonathan Mendelsohn: It is so sad to lose such a huge talent, in any respect. It was a fiery cocktail of fame, drug addiction and oversized egos with Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown and I wish it didn't turn out the way it did. Having my own struggles with drugs and alcohol, I know that there comes a time when you must go north or south and if you keep making the wrong choices it never turns out positive. As an artist I like feeling a range of emotions, the dark and light, in order to pull from which brings a certain authenticity to the story but the dark side is not the place you want to spend a lot of time in. Take what you need, learn the lesson then get the hell out and get back to work. The best art is a reflection of life so pulling from that is always the honest approach. I've always used music as an outlet to express myself, process my emotions, and give my internal struggles and lessons a voice, which I always hope can be relatable to the listener.
Spacelab: Do you admire the travel and live shows or studio and writing process the best?
Jonathan Mendelsohn: I love the studio more but still love them both for different reasons. Traveling and showcasing for the world is a huge blessing that I get to do that. I am getting to see the world and experience all these amazing cultures, which I know is a rare gift that many people never get to do. It's not a very controlled environment though which I don't like. A lot can go wrong and usually does. I've learned to roll with the punches and take it as it comes but the unpredictability element I could do without. Being in the studio is like the opposite. You can take your time and are in ultimate control of all the factors. The two really do fuel each other in a way so I wouldn't want to choose one over the other.
Spacelab: Lastly, and thanks for your time...any words of encouragement or joy or good tidings/affirmations you want to share with your fans and our readers today? CHEERS!
Jonathan Mendelsohn: Find your passion and follow it. Stay as relentlessly positive as possible. If you start doubting or negativity starts shitting on your dreams, you're allowing your thoughts to sabotage you. Don't limit yourself and take action however small they may feel or how feeble the opportunity may be compared to how big your dreams are. You just don't know where one road may lead. Stay open and hopeful always and allow the unfolding process to happen on its own time. Stop saying No and start saying Yes. Unless, of course, it's to be a 'housekeeper' in another country. You may not want to be the next victim of sex trafficking.