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JAWNY / COMING INTO HIS OWN ON DEBUT ‘FOR ABBY’

November 19, 2020

Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!

JAWNY is your favorite indie alternative/pop boy next door. In his own words, he describes JAWNY as “the brainchild of an idiot 24-year-old named Jacob Sullenger who’s been trying to do music for a long time. In the last 3 years, I’ve been able to put out some songs that people have liked on the internet. I’m trying to grow more and more every day.”

Growing up 35 minutes outside of the Bay Area in the Vacaville/Fairfield Area, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist began playing guitar when he was 6 years old, teaching himself how to make beats on FruityLoops 7 years later at 13. Initially producing because he felt he couldn’t put out music with his vocals on it, it wasn’t until he moved to Philadelphia when his girlfriend at the time introduced him to the DIY-music scene. Suddenly, he realized his own self-worth.

In 2019, JAWNY caught his big break with his viral hit “Honeypie,” who’s music video hails over 13.5 million views on Youtube. Igniting a full-blown bidding war, he decided to sign with Interscope Records. Fast forward to October of this year, JAWNY is excited as ever to release his debut project titled For Abby. This week, he released the official music video for “Sabotage”, one of the undeniably catchy singles from the project.

Flaunt caught up with JAWNY via Zoom, who joked about how he was telling his manager about how he showered. Read below as we discuss how the DIY-scene influenced him, accidentally going viral on TikTok, the success of “Honeypie,” the meaning behind For Abby, his new merch collection with Leon Karssen, making an impact, and more!

Photo Credit: Ariel Fish

Photo Credit: Ariel Fish

JAWNY is your favorite indie alternative/pop boy next door. In his own words, he describes JAWNY as “the brainchild of an idiot 24-year-old named Jacob Sullenger who’s been trying to do music for a long time. In the last 3 years, I’ve been able to put out some songs that people have liked on the internet. I’m trying to grow more and more every day.”

Growing up 35 minutes outside of the Bay Area in the Vacaville/Fairfield Area, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist began playing guitar when he was 6 years old, teaching himself how to make beats on FruityLoops 7 years later at 13. Initially producing because he felt he couldn’t put out music with his vocals on it, it wasn’t until he moved to Philadelphia when his girlfriend at the time introduced him to the DIY-music scene. Suddenly, he realized his own self-worth.

In 2019, JAWNY caught his big break with his viral hit “Honeypie,” who’s music video hails over 13.5 million views on Youtube. Igniting a full-blown bidding war, he decided to sign with Interscope Records. Fast forward to October of this year, JAWNY is excited as ever to release his debut project titled For Abby. This week, he released the official music video for “Sabotage”, one of the undeniably catchy singles from the project.

Flaunt caught up with JAWNY via Zoom, who joked about how he was telling his manager about how he showered. Read below as we discuss how the DIY-scene influenced him, accidentally going viral on TikTok, the success of “Honeypie,” the meaning behind For Abby, his new merch collection with Leon Karssen, making an impact, and more!

You grew up outside of Oakland, when did you move to Jersey?

In my later years, I spent a year in New Jersey and hated it. Then I moved to Philadelphia and spent a few years there, I love that city so much. Now, I’m back here in Los Angeles. Back in Cali!

How did the East Coast influence you?

Being around the New York DIY-scene influenced me. Now they’re canceled but back when Pwr Bttm was a big band, Thunderbar, a couple of bands coming out of New York I was really interested in at the time. Whatever’s popping in New York migrates over to Philly. I was getting all of the New York indie band action and at the same time, I was influenced by hip-hop growing up. Because I used to be a producer, that’s how I got my start into music. I tied the 2 together eventually.

At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?

I accidentally went viral on TikTok. I didn’t try, I don’t know what happened. My song went on TikTok and a bunch of kids talked about cheating on their girlfriends to it. Went from there. Before that, I released 13 songs in the year of 2018. That was my first real getting on the playlist and things were happening, I got to quit my job. Last year when things went stupid, that’s when things took a way more serious turn.

Photo Credit: Ariel Fish

Photo Credit: Ariel Fish

JAWNY is your favorite indie alternative/pop boy next door. In his own words, he describes JAWNY as “the brainchild of an idiot 24-year-old named Jacob Sullenger who’s been trying to do music for a long time. In the last 3 years, I’ve been able to put out some songs that people have liked on the internet. I’m trying to grow more and more every day.”

Growing up 35 minutes outside of the Bay Area in the Vacaville/Fairfield Area, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist began playing guitar when he was 6 years old, teaching himself how to make beats on FruityLoops 7 years later at 13. Initially producing because he felt he couldn’t put out music with his vocals on it, it wasn’t until he moved to Philadelphia when his girlfriend at the time introduced him to the DIY-music scene. Suddenly, he realized his own self-worth.

In 2019, JAWNY caught his big break with his viral hit “Honeypie,” who’s music video hails over 13.5 million views on Youtube. Igniting a full-blown bidding war, he decided to sign with Interscope Records. Fast forward to October of this year, JAWNY is excited as ever to release his debut project titled For Abby. This week, he released the official music video for “Sabotage”, one of the undeniably catchy singles from the project.

Flaunt caught up with JAWNY via Zoom, who joked about how he was telling his manager about how he showered. Read below as we discuss how the DIY-scene influenced him, accidentally going viral on TikTok, the success of “Honeypie,” the meaning behind For Abby, his new merch collection with Leon Karssen, making an impact, and more!

You grew up outside of Oakland, when did you move to Jersey?

In my later years, I spent a year in New Jersey and hated it. Then I moved to Philadelphia and spent a few years there, I love that city so much. Now, I’m back here in Los Angeles. Back in Cali!

How did the East Coast influence you?

Being around the New York DIY-scene influenced me. Now they’re canceled but back when Pwr Bttm was a big band, Thunderbar, a couple of bands coming out of New York I was really interested in at the time. Whatever’s popping in New York migrates over to Philly. I was getting all of the New York indie band action and at the same time, I was influenced by hip-hop growing up. Because I used to be a producer, that’s how I got my start into music. I tied the 2 together eventually.

At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?

I accidentally went viral on TikTok. I didn’t try, I don’t know what happened. My song went on TikTok and a bunch of kids talked about cheating on their girlfriends to it. Went from there. Before that, I released 13 songs in the year of 2018. That was my first real getting on the playlist and things were happening, I got to quit my job. Last year when things went stupid, that’s when things took a way more serious turn.

“Honeypie” has over 13.5 million views on Youtube alone, did you foresee it blowing up like this?

I’m grateful it did what it did. I put it out, didn’t know what’ll happen with it and it blew up. It actually had a really negative reaction with me. I was writing all these songs, I had maybe 700K or 800K. I was still figuring out who I was as an artist. I immediately jumped from that to having one of the biggest independent indie songs of last year, at least on Spotify that is. It fucked with my head because when I was going to write new music, I kept thinking I had to follow that up. It downward spiraled me into a really weird situation where I didn’t write music for 6 months, but I bounced back and recovered. I’m going.

What was it about that record that resonated?

I have no idea. It’s pretty vain to answer it myself but if I really had to and there’s a gun to my head, it’s a catchy song. I’m biased because I wrote it but it’s an infectious little earworm. I could see some frat boy hearing it like “this song fucking sucks, fuck this kid!” They hear it 5 more times, lowkey have it in their library and don’t say anything.

For Abby mixtape out now! How are you feeling?

Yes! I feel fucking great. I feel fantastic. I worked on it for nearly all of quarantine. I fucking went in my studio, came home from tour restarted everything from scratch. I told my team and my label I wanted to dive in and make a whole new project. Everyone was really supportive, it fucking came together naturally. I was going through some shit, I wrote about it, and now it’s out into the world. I was overseas on tour in February promoting some songs I didn’t feel quite happy with. I went through a public breakup while I was over there, my mental state was deteriorating. When I came back to the States, I needed to get to my house and write for the next 4 months. Now that little baby’s born and is out into the world, I hope everyone doesn’t hate it.

I doubt anyone hates it.

I know, I don’t think so either. But if they did, that’s their opinion.

So who is Abby? 

She’s not even a real person. I made her up because I wasn’t going to write anything obvious. I’ve never written anything nonfiction on this, the only thing that’s nonfiction is I wrote about my feelings I was having. I wouldn’t write about an ex-girlfriend or a friend, or the actual situation. I’d make up a different story and write about it. I kept doing that, kept doing that, then figured I have to give this person a name so I named her Abby. That seems like the kind of girl that’ll break somebody’s heart man. Abby’s, I haven’t dated one but they seem fucking gnarly.

Why is the only project you’re proud of?

It’s the only time I’ve ever really done a body of work, an actual serious body of work. A month and a half before it released, I was listening to the whole thing through for the first time, all the master tracks in order. When the master person made it flow into each song the way it was supposed to, I was listening to it like you know what, all these songs have negative one streams because they don’t exist in the world. But in this moment, I’m happy and satisfied with this. I’m proud to stamp my name behind this. I know my label’s proud to stamp their name behind this, my team, my brother and my family. No matter what the fuck happens when it goes out into the world, I could really give a shit less as long as my fans like it and I was happy with it. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve been proud of as an adult, for sure.

You say this is your heart on your sleeves, how therapeutic was it creating the project?

It’s the only time that music was therapy for me. Predating this project and these songs, I’d write music to write it. I didn’t have any real reason, I’d get into the studio like “I want to make a fun song” and I’d make a fun song. I didn’t have anything bad going on with me to be honest, my life’s pretty good. Pretty solid. I had a little bit of money in my pocket, good friends around me, life was chillin’. But you know, time is linear and it goes on. You go through some rough patches, especially through adulthood. I went through something, it was really hard. The first time that I could turn to music and it was there for me. I know that sounds really pretentious, but it was. I went in there every day, my mental state was uneasy. I was going through it but I always knew I could make a song or make music, that’s really important to me. It was therapy and came out in a project form.

How was shooting the documentary?

I lived it. We’re in the middle of quarantine, my brother said “I’m going to pull out my VHS camera on and off throughout whenever, if you’re okay with that.” I said “yeah sure.” I don’t feel anyway about the documentary, it’s my brother in his boxers half of the time filming me do shit. Really cool when I saw it all come together at the end because damn, boy you were going through it and you didn’t even know! I’m happy I have that though. It’s like a tattoo, something I can look back on to see where I was and how I felt. I’m happy I’m not in that moment of time anymore. When I look at certain tattoos on my arms, I feel that way. Oh that’s right, I felt that way on this day. I remember what I was going through that week. It’s cool to have, cool for people to watch and make fun of me for.

What’s your most meaningful tattoo?

I don’t have a good answer, I don’t have any serious ones. This one’s a 2- headed baby jump roping on a fried egg, and it has an extra arm on this side. That’s pretty serious, right? This tattoo is ridiculous, thatt’s stupid. Means nothing in my life, has no symbolism at all. When I look at it it’s like when you smell a smell and it takes you back to a place. When I see this tattoo, I think about me living in South Philadelphia in my first apartment when I moved to Philly. I was broke as fuck, I was struggling to find a job that week. I have no idea why I was spending money on a tattoo because my money was running out very fast. I knew I wanted to get into music, I also saw Frankie Cosmos the same month I got that tattoo. The documentary will do that for me when I watch it in 2 years: oh, I remember exactly where I was.

3 things you need in the studio?

My myself, and I… kidding. Definitely a guitar, a microphone, and honestly my laptop. That’s actually it. Technically if I was only given those things, I really could still do everything I’m doing right now. Every song on the project, I could’ve still made. I have the gear in my studio now because I like playing with other toys and making other things. If I really had to narrow myself down, I could get away with a laptop, a guitar, and a microphone and that’ll be fine. I could do all of the other noises on the laptop with the weird plug-ins. Maybe my dog, I’ll take out the microphone and put my dog instead. No one wants to hear me sing, I’ll just make instrumentals.

Your dog’s so cute!

Yeah, she’s cute as fuck. She’s looking at squirrels.

Photo Credit: Ariel Fish

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?

I’d be a cook, because I was a cook. Before music took off, I was cooking. I was in the food industry for the last 6.5 years of me working. I managed a couple restaurants in New Jersey and a couple of storefronts in Philly. I loved doing that. Something about that, it’s the same as playing a show. When you go play a show, in a weird way it has the same energy as a kitchen on a Friday night when your tickets are slammed. People are relying on you. If you fuck up, people are going to notice. You’re getting mad at each other but at the end of the night, you all have a beer.

This weird energy I really liked, that I don’t think everybody can do. It’s a certain type of person, whether it’s a server, a runner, or a cook. How not everyone in the world can do music, not everyone can handle that environment.  It’s cool, I can handle it and thrive in that environment. Also, I have no college education and I really can’t do shit else. I wouldn’t have any money if I wasn’t making music. I’d be exactly where I was 4 years ago: broke as hell.

How’d you find your way to Interscope?

They found me, bought me a bunch of dinners and bribed me with money. No, half of that’s true though. This great human Aaron Sander found me, he used to work there. He’d take me to some dinners. At first, he didn’t even want to talk about music. He said “I want to learn about you as a person, and tell you about me.” We built a little relationship, him, me and my team. Later on, he brought me into the office and said “okay now we can talk business, now that we know each other.”

They have the same views I have in music and artistry. When I went to them, I don’t feel scared that if my song doesn’t go viral on TikTok, they’re going to shelve me or drop me. They don’t care about any of that. They care about building artist careers and the long play, putting out records and getting fans that actually love somebody. They don’t care about being the hottest flavor of the month or having a fucking viral TikTok song. We got in bed together, [claps] made this fucking project. We’re moving into the record after that but they’re good people over there.

Talk about collaborating with Leon Karssen on your new merch.

I’ve been a huge fan of Leon Karssen for a really long time, dating back to as far as I remember. He did a lot of weird designs for this company called Rip N Dip in skateboarding, drew the little guy for that. Ever since,  I’ve been a huge fan of his work and following him on the Gram. Messaging him a bunch, telling him I was a huge fan. We did that for 2 years. In recent months, I hit them up like “we should do something together” because I’m trying to make some clothes. We made a little line, it’s fucking cool.  People should look at it and wear it if they want to, no pressure.

Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?

I want to make enough money to be a really good husband and a really good dad, have a nice house so my kids will never have to see us struggle. That’s a giant goal for me because I don’t want my kids to see me struggle, or to ever feel like money is tight. I went through that shit, it’s a weird thing for a kid. I don’t really care about being on the radio, I want to exist in 10 years and have my job. That’s what’s important to me, making an impact.

 

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