Dublin-bred singer/producer/multi-instrumentalist EDEN (born Jonathon Ng) first dazzled fans across the globe from his childhood bedroom back in 2015, where he self-released and began to cultivate a massive following on the strength of his debut EP End Credits, which has amassed more than 120 million streams to date.
The attention led to a sold out first U.S. headline tour, and stints on the festival circuit at Governors Ball, Bonnaroo and Firefly as well as the Reading and Leeds festivals in the U.K. and Fuji Rock in Japan. Ng followed up the initial blast with the release of his 2016 EP i think you think too much of me, with lead single “sex” earning a major co-sign from another wunderkind pop upstart from across the globe — Lorde.
“hi you – i love ‘sex’ a lot. It does something very simple and intense to my brain,” the Kiwi star wrote in June 2016, before adding, “I wasn’t sure how to contact you, so I went for the old facebook wall lol.” The endearing reach out-was answered by Ng — two days later — with: “Almost didn’t come across this – thank you for making me smile today.”
After the enigmatic artist’s marathon first few years in the spotlight, Ng retreated to craft his next move, which arrived last month by way of his striking new single and video “start//end,” a nostalgically cast reflection on youth and all-too-relatable feelings of desperation and hope. The 21-year-old wunderkind directed, filmed and edited the clip himself, from footage he shot on tour stops, including in London, Tokyo, Seoul, Los Angeles, New York, Belgium and around his home in Dublin.
“I had this idea of a really densely packed visual for this song almost instantly,” says Ng. “I really love cinema and visual art, so I wanted to try my hand at creating something that was expressive, but also had a similar latent energy to the music. After collating a ton of footage that I’ve accumulated over the past months, with the help of some friends, I set out to shoot the remaining set-pieces I had in mind.”
Below, EDEN takes Billboard for a spin around the world to get his exclusive behind-the-scenes map to the making of the video and its globe-trotting shoot locales, from his homebase in Ireland through Europe, Asia, and across the U.S., ending in the Big Apple.
Most of the video was shot in and around Dublin, which worked really well because I knew a lot of locations already that I could use for ideas I had. I had seen one of my friends do a shoot in this amazing area just out of the city, so I used Google street view to look around and find the exact road that I thought looked cool, and went there and shot. it was a really amazing project to work on, because whenever I had an idea I wanted to try, I would literally just grab one or two of my friends and go and shoot it. There was no outside help, everything was done out of a love for creating.
In 2016, just before I went on the biggest tour of my career so far, I decided to go and escape by myself for a few days. I drove to a small town as far northwest as I could go, and was bored pretty much the instant I got there, so the obvious thing for me to do was just drive toward the sunset. Somehow about five minutes later, I managed to come across another one of my favorite places in the world.
My favorite place in London without a doubt is the Tate Modern. I will always go when I’m there. I found one of the installations there, by Liu Jianhua, really inspiring, drawing on how we perceive art and often project ourselves and our feelings onto it. I guess it really resonated with me, because I think about that a lot: What even counts as art, and does it mean anything anyway? I think that’s why I felt I had to wear that t-shirt for the shot; the ultralight beam lyric asking if this is an incredible feat or just a daydream.
All the footage I used from Paris was taken around my last show of 2016. Going from having never played a show to playing 44 shows in one year was a crazy thing to experience, so when it was all wrapped up, I was really relieved to be able to move forward.
A lot of the shots from inside of cars came from driving between Belgium and the Netherlands this summer. I have spent so much of my life traveling over the past two years that those kinds of views really have a significance to me. It’s such an odd feeling being able to say that you have been to so many parts of the world, and honestly experiencing so little of them. A lot of the time, the view from inside a car, plane, or hotel room is as good as it gets, unfortunately.
Many of the shots for this video were actually taken while I was on tour. On one of our days off in Seoul, we decided to find a roof top garden that we had heard about — mainly as the food was supposed to be great. But at the top of a 10-story building that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a bus terminal or a shopping center, the last thing I expected was a view like that — I think it’s probably one of my favorite spots in the world now.
I went to Hong Kong for the first time in 2014. While I was there, I bought my first video camera, and that really kicked off my interest in video as a way to create, and express myself. What was most important to me when making this video was that every single part of it contributed to the same overall feeling that the song did. I really wanted to expand on the song and make something that was visually pleasing as well as (hopefully) engaging on a personal level. If all of the various parts were created and captured spontaneously, I wanted the piece as a whole to feel purposeful. So this was a nice way for it to come full circle for me, including one of the first things I ever shot — in the most ambitious video project I had ever made. Good times.
I had a really strong sense of wonder when I was in Tokyo. There are twice as many people in that city as there are in my entire home country. It’s really a stunning place visually, too, so unlike anywhere in the West. We may or may not have snuck into a building to get that shot of Shibuya Crossing. We were in the area and a friend of a friend (who was living in Japan at the time) said he knew how to get a better view, so we went exploring — I definitely don’t regret it, haha. That shot really captured the feeling of my time there, so I just had to include it.
Los Angeles is another home away from home for me, and as someone who is obsessed with sunsets, it was an instant hit for me as soon as I landed there the first time.
There was a time in Michigan this summer where I found myself with some friends. As the sun went down, it really reminded me of summer nights when I was a kid, and how it can be so enjoyable doing nothing more than killing time. It was a much-needed distraction at the time.
I moved to New York for a few months this year, which was a big change from Dublin where I grew up. I think the city forced me to learn a lot about myself pretty quickly, and it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made — you need to get out of your comfort zone as often as possible, and sometimes the best way to do that is to dive right into the deep end.