Jon Lajoie laughs when we only half-jokingly tell him, “I feel like we’ve entered into a mutual therapy thing.” The 40-minute conversation we share with the actor/comedian/musician on St. Patrick’s Day goes that deep.
For the many who know Lajoie for his outlandish and hilarious moments as Taco on The League or his comedy work such as the song “Show Me Your Genitals,” an open discussion on insecurities might be the last thing you expect. But it makes much more sense when you hear his thoughtful and musically soulful debut collection of folk songs, I Remembered but Then I Forgot, recorded under the moniker Wolfie’s Just Fine (grab it here).
As Billboard premieres the track “I Forgot” we spoke with Lajoie about the album, why he needs to have a bathroom onstage, and how Donnie Wahlberg and Jason Voorhees emerged in the writing of these songs.
Did you go with the name Wolfie’s Just Fine because after playing Taco you wanted the album to have a fair shot of being taken seriously?
Yeah, I knew early on that if I did release a serious album, which I’d been toying with the idea for so many years, the stigma around actor guy/comedian guy puts out serious album and that douchiness people can automatically connect with that. That’s kind of stopped me the past few years. So I got in my head about it so much and then finally I was just like, “Dude, I have to do this. Regardless of what is going on in my life I am always writing songs and it’s my favorite thing in the world to do.” I figured the only way I’d be able to do it is if I did it under a different name. There were a lot of people that were telling me to keep it completely separate and let people discover it. But I found that to be equally as douche-y. It’s me, it’s not like this persona. In some ways it’s more me than some of the comedy stuff.
What finally got you comfortable enough to put it out?
A lot of it is just being a little older and a little bit more emotionally stable and I think that only comes with age. There’s that and the understanding this is not going to go away and I love doing it so much. I was driving in my car and I just started playing some song that I recorded on my iPhone over the years. It’s a song on the album called “No Reason,” and I was like, “Alright, I really have to do this.” I’m the most insecure person in the world but I was listening to it going, “I like this.” That’s so rare for me to say, even with any of my acting or comedy I always put it out in the world and I’m like, “Ah, I feel so weird about this thing.” But there was a moment in there where I was listening and going, “I think this could be good.”
Every artist is the most insecure person in the world and hates their own stuff. But is there other stuff from the album that now when you go back and listen to it you are happy with it?
The whole album it depends on the day. Depending on my mood I can be like, “What am I doing? This is so bad.” Then some days if I feel confident and loved I put it on and I’m like, “This is pretty good.” The thing that was important to me, beyond the crazy artist insecurities, in the songwriting process it needs to be genuine and vulnerable in a way that’s truthful so at least there’s that. And I think the songs that are on the album I did manage to do that.
What are those albums that, to you, really have that vulnerability and openness you were looking for in your music?
While recording this album, or at least writing it, there was a lot of Plastic Ono Band happening. And that one, to me, is heart wrenchingly just, “This is what’s happening.” And it’s like the f—ing deepest pain and vulnerability. I had listened to it obviously a bunch in my twenties, but just rediscovering that in my thirties I was just blown away. And the simplicity of the production too, that was a big conversation I had with the producer and mixer. It was like, “Let’s not get complicated. These are simple songs, I want them to feel vulnerable, I want to bring people in and I feel like big production often separates the listener from the experience.”
When you listen to this album do you hear some shit on there you were going through?
Oh yeah, my favorite part of the album is it really is 2015 to me. That entire year and what I was going through and the shit I was working out, or that I ended up working out in these songs, is just all there in that year. It doesn’t help I wrote most of the song ideas, like the melodies and a lot of the chords, in the bathroom in this one house that I was renting. The reason being I really only can write freely if I can be as loud as I want and I feel like no one can hear me. So ninety percent of the album was that and then me sitting in that house trying to figure out what to write about and what my voice is when I’m not trying to be funny. A lot of it just ended up being these little experiences from my childhood that I feel marked me, even if it’s just some girl not noticing me in elementary school or watching Friday The 13th Part 5 for the first time.
So when you play the album live will you include a bathroom on stage?
(Laughs) That is a great idea, dude. I may steal that from you. I was wondering what was going to make this live show different, it’s a toilet on stage.
Because you were revisiting childhood memories I am sure a lot of stuff emerged you haven’t thought about in ages.
Yeah, a lot of it was like these first intense bursts of emotion, whatever that was, cause I guess as we get older, myself in particular, I’ve sort of numbed myself. So Friday The 13th, it’s called “A New Beginning,” it’s one of my favorite songs of the album. It’s about seeing my first naked woman ever, I was like seven or eight years old. And then about thirty seconds later she gets brutally murdered, which is the first murder that I ever had witnessed in my life. I grew up in an extremely Christian household, I didn’t really think about it until I started writing about it. And I was like, “That probably f—ed me up bad.” There’s another song that’s quite personal. It’s called “Marie Eve,” it’s about this girl in elementary school I was in love with. I knew she liked Donnie Wahlberg from New Kids On The Block cause she had a poster in her locker. So I knew that if I got the Donnie Wahlberg jeans she would fall madly in love with me. So I saved up, I got these jeans, I put them on in the morning, I drove to school and I was just f—ing waiting for her to see me and fall madly in love with me and we’d be together forever. And she never even looked at me. That was probably my first experience of unrequited love and the confusion and the intense pain that goes along with that. And again, when I started writing I had no idea that I wanted to write about that, no idea that’s a moment that affected me in my life.
Now that it’s been a few months can you step back and see why you wrote about that story?
I haven’t thought about it, [but] you asking me about it in that way, immediately I’m like, “Yeah, of course.” To me, the scariest thing in my life and the thing that I avoid at all costs is to like or love someone more than they love me. It’s the scariest thing, or the thought of it is so painful I’m like, “I’m not gonna put myself in the position where I love someone who doesn’t love me as much or doesn’t love me at all.” This is shit that I’ve worked through, I’m married today. But it’s been with me forever. And who knows, maybe that is the starting point of that. “F— you, I don’t like you, I don’t love you, I don’t love anyone, you can’t hurt me.” You know that bullshit. The past few years was me, if not getting over that fear of vulnerability, at least putting me in a place of vulnerability even if it’s painful just so that I can be somewhat more authentic. And it’s f—ing terrifying.