NYC-residing singer-songwriter, guitarist (and multi-instrumentalist), and producer Jonny Polonsky is a veteran musician who is still going strong and who will release his upcoming album, Kingdom of Sleep, on March 6th.
Polonsky dropped lead single “The Weeping Souls” in January and also unveiled more recently the new track “Ghost Like Soul” featuring Cedric Bixler-Zavata of The Mars Volta and At The Drive-In fame.
The artist always writes from the heart – about what it is to be human, from joy and connection to loss and regret; the light and the darkness, but always with an eye and ear for beauty and hope.
Polonsky has released 6 studio albums over the past 23 years, received heaps of praise by fellow musicians and reviewers alike, and has performed on albums by legends including Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine).
You can pre-order Kingdom of Sleep: https://www.jonnypolonsky. com/music
Jonny Polonsky kindly took some time to delve into the questions for our on-going Protest Interview series, delivering insightful, matter-of-fact replies.
Hello! Please introduce yourself/yourselves and give a description of your sound/musical vision.
Hi there. My name is Jonny Polonsky. I am a solo artist - I sing, write songs, play guitar, and a bunch of other instruments (mainly bass, keyboards, drums, and pretty much anything with strings. Not so much anything that requires a bow or my mouth, though I’m okay on harmonica).
To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have a musical vision. I try NOT to have a musical vision, or feel beholden to any particular style. I locked myself into a way of thinking for a long time based mainly on other people’s expectations about what I did and who I was as a musician and as a person. It really sucked. Life and music felt like a chore and I felt like a slave to an image I felt like I had to uphold. Fuck that. Life is short and you can be so many different people all in one lifetime. Why would you cling to being only one? That’s just how I feel. I’m very curious and playful and I like to pretend. I also like to throw myself into extreme situations and see how I respond and how it changes me.
I definitely come from a rock and roll perspective. I became obsessed with The Beatles and The Monkees when I was 5, and later Jimi Hendrix and about 10,000 other bands and artists. I love so many different kinds of music, but melody is always at the core of what I do.
If there’s any guiding vision it’s just to do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like it. To follow the music, to let the muse lead. To do what is genuinely thrilling to me. I have to have a sense of discovery or else I get bored. I like to make music that is covering new territory for me. I like to do something that, for whatever reason, I feel like I’m not supposed to be doing. I like to surprise myself and see what I’m capable of. I like to stretch myself to every possible extreme and see who it is I really am, and who it is I am capable of being.
Lately my music has been pretty moody and beautiful and a little dark. There’s a lot of beauty and mystery in dark things. In light, buoyant, cheerful things, too, but it’s different. I like music that takes you someplace, where there is a definite atmosphere and a feeling that you’ve entered a new world. Like with Electric Ladyland, or any of the Cocteau Twins’ records, or with the music David Lynch makes. You can see the world they created and feel like you’re there.
When I make music, whether it’s light and cheerful, or dark and brooding, I have to feel like I’m learning something about myself, or uncovering a part of myself that was lost or dormant. I have to feel like I’m learning something about life and music and what it means to be alive.
What is/are the main personal, national, and/or international issue(s) concerning you the most these days?
Oh Christ, where do I start? Where do any of us start?? Making sure there’s a new president who is a decent human being. Making sure we don’t make ourselves extinct with how we are interacting with the planet and its resources. Making changes to how women and people of color are treated in society and in the workplace, ensuring true equality for everyone and anyone. I mean, this is a really long list. How about getting children and their parents out of the concentration camp cages we’ve had them in for how many months? Figuring out how to stop people from shooting each other every 30 seconds, especially children in schools. I gotta stop writing… I’m gonna need a nap.
What song, video, or lyrics quote of yours best represents your current viewpoint on this/these important topic(s)?
What’s your favorite song, video, or lyrics quote by another act or artist that best exemplifies, or at least partly relates to, your current viewpoint?
“He not busy being born is busy dying”
What other forms of protest, besides through your music, are you involved with to get your message across?
I sign a lot of petitions, go to a lot of rallies, and give a lot of money to people I think are worth giving money to.
It’s easy to judge and criticize others, especially in these unsettling times of overt intolerance, ignorance, and insults, but the fact remains that we need to work together. Working on a solution to the problem is critical in ensuring that positive change occurs. Name an action to take, or a campaign/charity that would be worthwhile to contribute to, for your cause.
I dunno. I think everyone has to decide for themselves what they feel like involving themselves in, and what they support, in whatever way they decide to support it. I don’t like being told what to do, and I don’t like telling people what to do.
What gives you hope for the future?
I choose to feel hopeful. I think optimism requires a small amount of delusion and selective processing of information. I pay attention to what is happening in the world, but I take breaks from the news. I don’t watch TV. I don’t read magazines. I take breaks from Facebook, or only pay attention to the Stevie Ray Vaughan videos and Siouxsie Sioux pictures.
And what really gives me hope is talking to people (or, really, more LISTENING to people) and seeing how radically we, as individuals and collectively, are changing how we relate to one another, to ourselves, to the planet. Greta and all of her supporters. The #MeToo movement. I know a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s and there is a huge generation coming up that CARE ABOUT PEOPLE and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure life on this planet will be sustainable and equitable for everyone, everywhere. And fun. Don’t forget fun. Politics are so fucking boring. I hate them. It’s just the bullshit you have to deal with so you and everyone else can live life. Which should be fun. Be creative! Have tons of sex! Cry and laugh and dance and take naps and buy albums and swim and go to concerts and mourn the dead and celebrate their lives and mourn the dead parts of yourself and celebrate your life.
“Dig yourselves, because it’s really groovy, man.” - Mike Bloomfield
Where can we purchase/stream your music and find out more about you?