When I first met J.Wong he was playing a show at an outdoor amphitheater in the back woods of a small liberal arts college in 1999. Even as a 19 year old college kid, his lyrics were perspicacious. A singer-songwriter who got his start playing guitar at age 15, Wong’s songs often relay a strong visual narrative. You just have to listen to "The Ballad of John B" once to understand that these stories come from a darker past.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Wong’s music reflects the same insightful vibe of other homegrown Seattle musicians such as Damien Jurado and David Bazan. He was a member of the band Rand Univac (née Madison) which included members of Velella Velella and James Pants. Wong released his first EP j.wong and the popular butchers in 2010, and more recently organized three singer-songwriter showcases at Seattle’s Triple Door featuring Cathedral Pearls, WIDOWER, Shannon Stephens, and Tomo Nakayama among others. He just finished a West Coast tour, and has collaborated with visual artist Scott Kolbo on a video project to be released November 7th.
J. is personally responsible for cultivating my own love of music on vinyl, and introducing me to Conor Oberst (clarification: the actual Conor Oberst--in person. And yes, I was shamefully starstruck.) When asked about his sources of musical inspiration, Wong is quick to rattle off a seemingly endless list including Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson, George Harrison, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zant, and Dave Bazan. In his words, “Most of these are no brainers. I respond to writers that have songs you can keep going back to – songs that have a way of drawing you back whether you have heard them hundreds of times or once.”
And indeed that’s the kind of song that Wong himself writes. With his dark voice and upbeat chords, it's easy to lose yourself in his storytelling. His newest album, The Statue of Corrupted Endeavor, is enjoyed best with a glass of scotch aside a warm fire. Hours later you’ll catch yourself humming "Coming Down."
You can catch j.wong live Wednesday, November 7th at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard, along with Mark Eitzel.
[poster art by Scott Kolbo]
j.wong's new album, The Statue of Corrupted Endeavor is available now at jwongmusic.com. Album art by Charlie Fornia.