rosina & the weavers

CURRENT ISSUE

DONATE ADVERTISE SUBSCRIBE

by Kat Parsons

Jon Lemmon: On Track To Becoming Glowy

by Kat Parsons

Jon Lemmon: On Track To Becoming Glowy

In December 2022 Kiwi dance-pop / DJ artist Jon Lemmon (now Sky Lemmon, they/them) revealed a psychedelic and joyful visual companion to their 2021-released single Right On Track. The music video marks the end of an era for the Te Whanganui-A-Tara-based artist, a sentimental line in the sand as they embark on a new chapter. Kat Parsons caught up to discuss the single, music video and adopting a positive approach to life even when the curtains are drawn open on one’s youthful naivety. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.

“I actually wrote that song in 2017, I think,” responds Lemmon promptly when asked about the genesis of Right On Track. “And didn’t finish it for ages. Eventually, about a year ago I thought, ‘Alright I should finish this and put it out’. I finished it and then the pandemic happened and it felt like the wrong time to be releasing a song called Right On Track. It just felt like a cruel joke or something, so I thought I’d put it on the back burner. It’s strange because it’s almost from a different era, and I had to revisit that and re-contextualise it for now, which was an interesting process.”

A mature revelation, Lemmon’s thoughtfulness shows through not only in their art but in their open acceptance and willingness to grow. The California-born artist arrived in Wellington at the ripe old age of 19. They subsequently found a place in and amongst the city’s music scene, releasing their debut single It’s Gonna Be Alright back in 2017. The reception of that track and Lemmon’s sophomore single Something True (2018) earned a substantial eight million streams and helped propel a promising career forward.

The artist’s mantra of “the political power of positivity” is represented through their music and art, celebrating the world’s unique, joyful beauty and standing up for the communities around them. Publicly their musical journey began with small sets at Camp A Low Hum 2012 and other small festivals at the time, working with Universal Music, and supporting causes close to their heart – performing at Auckland’s Big Gay Out, and fundraising for the victims of the 2019 Christchurch terror attack among them. Lemmon’s self-awareness and consciousness of the issues that affect our world almost meant that Right On Track became a ‘lost track’.

“I was really hesitant to release it, for so many reasons,” Lemmon contemplates. “You know, after the pandemic and all the Black Lives Matter affairs. All the backwards progression of trans’ rights in America and different stuff like that. There are so many things that are sucking right now and not going in the direction that we’d hoped. I thought, ‘Could this seem ignorant or something?’

“Also, for me personally I’ve had this change. I always used to have this kind of phrase; ‘relentless positivity’. Like naive optimism basically, even if there’s an asteroid headed straight for the earth I’m gonna remain positive until the moment it incinerates my body. I wouldn’t say I’ve moved on from that, but maybe my perspective has changed slightly. There’s a little less of the naive part.

“Ultimately, I asked my friends and they were like, ‘I think you should still release it.’ I sometimes get messages from people saying, ‘That song was super helpful and pulled me through this particular time.’ So I think the overall vibe was that I should still share it even if I have concerns, as long as while I’m releasing I express that I don’t actually think everything is completely on track politically and socially.”

With catchy rhythm and hook line Right On Track is an ideal sing-along car ride number. The distorted vocal loop that kicks in each chorus adds energy and bounce, intricate layers of harmonies and samples producing a memorable listening experience.

Peering back into the past, Lemmon racks their brain to remember the inspiration behind the production.

“I remember at the time I was listening to this producer based in Australia called M-Phazes [Mark Landon]. He produced this pop artist named Ruel over there and he did Amy Shark too. I remember listening to a couple of his productions, in particular Younger.

“The production on Right On Track started out with a very simple hip hop beat, that’s all it was for a couple of years. Then when I touched it again in 2019 (right before the pandemic), I randomly played a piano and an organ over it and it completely changed form into being bouncy and kind of joyful. Before it was a bit more laid back, and then years later the organ came in and spiced it up!

“I’m not that great a piano player, or any instrument. I’m just good enough to play and fix it afterwards,” chuckles the artist. “And I got so excited when I started playing the piano and organ over the top, my brain and my body were way more excited than the actual skill of my fingers. So I made this complete mess. It had the vibe but like every other note was totally wrong, and I had to spend a week finding what the right notes were and placing them in one by one!”

Directed by Ash Smith (Euphoric Co.) and made with NZ On Air funding, Lemmon released the music video for Right On Track in mid-December. The joyful and charmingly chaotic visual highlights the song’s positive energy with light and warmth. The animation and retro-styled editing eloquently support the track and the message the artist wanted to share. 

“It was basically all Ash, he’s super skilled. He’s just moved over to LA, but he had been living in Wellington for like forever. He works for Ben Dalgleish, who’s like the lighting designer for Drake, and Post Mallone, and Billie Eilish, and all that stuff. He’s a Kiwi who started this company in the States doing lighting for everyone. Now they do visuals too! Ash’s main job is doing cool 3D visuals for these artists, so I’ve always known he can do really cool stuff. He’s also been making videos for ages and he’s hyper-talented, and he’s my best friend. He’s done almost all my videos.

“I used to try and be really involved because I was protective over what my brand looked like, what the vibe was and stuff. And it’s always just a pain,” Lemmon admits. “Finally for this one, I realised that it’s just better to let go and let the director be creative and do their vibe. I basically said, ‘Do whatever and I’m on board.‘ He came up with the idea and then came over to my house saying, ‘Okay let’s go shoot these shots! We’re gonna drive down to the beach’ or ‘I’m gonna film you in bed while you’re waking up.’

“It took over a year to make the video! He’s super busy and it was very much a side project for both of us. But you know, good things take time, and he totally delivered.”

No longer with a major label, Lemmon has recently started pursuing a new music project named Glowy. A deviation from the dance-pop style that we are used to hearing from the artist, this new sound gives a nostalgic nod to a bygone era with a soft surf-rock style. With four songs already released; Knots, Ever Enough, Birdsong, and Drifting, the artist is looking forward to the next step in his journey.

“I think it’s probably done, to be honest,” Lemmon admits when asked about the future of the ‘Jon Lemmon’ project. 

“I wrote a bunch of songs earlier in 2022 and have just kind of been slowly finishing them and putting them on the internet. Glowy was essentially a way to just put the songs that I am making now up in a context that fits.

“Sometime during the pandemic, I sort of realised that I was feeling boxed in by my ‘Jon Lemmon’ brand as it was. I’ve always made songs of different types and somehow became a dance-pop musician at some point, even though that’s not even the main music I listen to. It wasn’t the only type of music I was making, but it was the only type I was releasing because that was the brand. At a certain point, I realised that I wasn’t really relating to the type of music I was making anymore, so I decided I was going to take a break from releasing or playing as Jon Lemmon and just let myself be free.

“During 2022 I just started challenging myself, trying to write a song a day and see what happens. Through those various challenges, the songs came.

“I’ve fallen in love with tape [machines], “ they gush. “I think tape is amazing. You can take the most boring digital, shitty piano sound, run it through tape and it’s crazy. It just breathes life into stuff. When I bought the tape machine and these cassette players they all came with a bunch of old tapes from the ’70s that people made. It just sounds so cool.”

With creative fingers in many other pies, including a growing side project in programming and app development, Lemmon is paving a path forward for Glowy, and learning that they can create without limitation when heart and soul is allowed to run true.

“I’ve got to figure it out in terms of the arc of the project because my interests in music are so wide,” smiles Lemmon. “I wanna have a period where I just make a whole bunch of dance music for sunrise, after you’ve stayed up all night with your friends.

“Having to start from scratch is hard, building momentum. I’m playing the long game for this one. Making a choice to be like, ‘Okay, at first it’s going to be hard, but it’s more true to me, and in the long run that’s going to be way more rewarding’.”