Jon Vinyl Explains Why He's the 'Singing J. Cole,' Premieres New Video 'Star-Crossed': Exclusive
Jon Vinyl's newest single, “Star-Crossed,” is a universal record that Vinyl hopes will help achieve his goal of reaching and inspiring a wider audience. “This one is special. It can translate easily to different outlets and audiences. If you hear it, you can appreciate it,” he tells Billboard.
Vinyl is premiering the visual for “Star-Crossed” through Billboard today (Sept. 17). The prom night-inspired visual is Vinyl’s first, and it features the crooner in a 1970s prom suit suit with “Black Toe” Air Jordan 1s in tow on his way to his date. Vinyl tells the story of a love that’s destined to be -- despite the universe thinking otherwise. “The video is an ode to that high-school-type-of-love. That addicting mix of emotions, for that crush we all had,” Vinyl says of the visual.
Vinyl is an R&B singer out of Toronto, and his music proves he’s wise beyond his years. Despite being only 20 years old, Vinyl has the potential to be a masterful R&B artist, given his track record of studying the musicians that have came before him. Inspired by the greats like Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding, Vinyl creates music that evokes feeling and relies heavily on emotion to bring his listeners into a world filled with charming metaphors and dreamy resonance.
Music has been a part of Vinyl’s life ever since he was a child watching BET and catching visuals by Usher and Ne-Yo. His mother would expose him to artists like Jodeci and Boyz II Men while he helped her cleaned the house. When Vinyl moved to Pickering, a town 40 minutes out of Toronto, the sounds of Miguel and Frank Ocean filled his speakers and helped him develop the sound he has today.
His career is in its early stages, but he has gotten off to a solid start. Vinyl’s debut single “Nostalgia” racked up over 39,000 plays on SoundCloud, grabbing the attention of the local Toronto area. His high school friend, Shawn Mendes, discovered the song and added to the buzz by sharing it to social media. Vinyl boosted his hype releasing “Life,” “Cherry Blossom,” and “Storm” with each song securing over 25,000 thousand streams on SoundCloud. The three songs have been popular among listeners and earned spots on several Apple Music playlists, including Breaking R&B and OVO Sound Radio Episode 57.
As he continues to grow within the music industry and through his music, Vinyl is aiming to inspire people through the positivity in his music. Billboard spoke more with Vinyl about his artistry, his transition from Toronto to Pickering, and why he calls himself the “singing J. Cole.”
Check out the video for "Star-Crossed" below, and the rest of our Q&A with Vinyl after the jump.
Why do you feel music was your calling at such a young age?
When my mom played all those old school records and R&B throwbacks along with the music I heard in Pickering, it just kind of inspired me subconsciously to want to make music. I didn't even know it. At a young age, my brother told me to start singing, and from there, we did a few tracks then transitioned into releasing them and now we’re here.
What was the first R&B song you listened to that piqued your interest in music?
The song that I really couldn't stop thinking about was Luther Vandross’ "Dance With My Father." After I first heard that song, I never forgot it. It was just amazing to hear the emotion that was put into that song and how it could really made you feel a [certain] way. I think that whole feeling is what I caught on to as well. It's powerful that you can feel something after hearing a certain vocal or lyric.
You don’t really have a distinct Toronto sound. What can you attribute that to?
I think the artists who are in the regions outside of Toronto all have a different sound, because if you're in a creative city with a bunch of people who are doing the same thing, your music will sound similar. There are people outside the city who are exposed to their own thing and movement because it’s not there -- the sounds that you get out of it are a little bit different from what your counterparts are hearing in the bigger city.
Back in February, you mentioned that you get hit with certain feelings when you hear something. What were the feelings you were experiencing while making “Star-Crossed?”
“Star-Crossed” gives me that feeling where you're just rolling down the street with the sun shining and it's just supposed to be a good vibe. It's that feeling of windows down in your car with the wind blowing. For the video, we wanted to capture scenes showing the idea that not everything works out despite your passion for loving someone, and your commitment to dropping all the games and boldly going and doing what you feel is right.
At the end of it, you don't know what happens, but I'm just sitting there singing the lyrics with the flowers still in my hand. Despite the effort you put into something, you'll never know if you'll get what you really want.
What was done differently on this song as opposed to the others?
For this song, we actually had some help with the production and writing. It was me, a writer from South Africa named Bubele Boi, Ndumiso Manana, and David Balshaw. They all sent me versions of the song and I kind of just reviewed it. I did a bunch of tweaks to it for a while and then it just turned out to be what it was. That was my first time ever doing it that way.
Why do you call yourself the "singing J. Cole?"
I like to write about positive and informative things and I think J. Cole is unbelievable at doing that. He excels at getting a message across to someone and having it stick with them for a long time. That's what I aspire to be. I want my music to help inspire people and have it stick with them. J. Cole obviously has one of the nastiest pens and I feel my pen can be on that level.
You got a really good push thanks to Shawn Mendes sharing “Nostalgia” on social media. What’s the secret behind the camaraderie among Toronto artists?
I think in Toronto, everybody just loves making music. Everybody loves making great music, actually. They really connect to the song that you make and they're not afraid to show support. You see it happen countless amounts of times, where people would tell you to check a certain artist out, no matter how big or small the artist is. It feels like a competition sometimes, but it's also a respect kind of thing.
What have you learned from the big-time Toronto artists that came before you?
I would say a lot of them, like my friend Shawn, connect with their fans in a crazy way. [Shawn’s] fans really love him and are there for him. No matter what, he can't do any wrong to them. I think showing love to your fans and everyone who supports you, even if it's just the little things like sending them a message, that's one thing I started to take away from these Toronto artists. That has to be the number one thing, your fans.