EXCLUSIVE: Jonah Kagen Reflects on the Meaning of His Emotional New Single “The Roads”

Music can often be transportive, taking you back to places and pivotal moments. Jonah Kagen’s latest folk-rock number does just that. 

“The Roads,” written and produced by Jonah, with additional production by Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy, Zach Bryan), evokes memories of heartbreak, transition, and growth. 

“These roads are changing me, but they all lead back to you,” he emotionally croons over acoustic finger plucking. 

The song’s visualizer, directed by David Od (Coin, Noah Kahan), transports viewers to the Cotswolds, a strikingly picturesque area of Southern England, a pit stop after wrapping up his European tour with Anson Seabra.

Jonah recently sat down with ECHO to reflect on the making of “The Roads” and where the road will lead him next. 

What inspired your new single, “The Roads”?

“The Roads” was inspired by the culmination of many things, but particularly the lasting effects of a bad relationship. It’s about the consequences of letting the wrong person in, and I wrote it to speak for the hours, days, and years of heartbreak and learning that followed.

You shared on Instagram that this is your favorite song that you have made to date. What makes this song, in particular, your favorite?

It’s my favorite song thus far for a number of reasons. Most importantly to me, it feels like I finally found the sound that I love in this song. It’s been a long road, but it feels uniquely “me.” Beyond that, the story is one that has affected me deeply, and I’m proud of the way I translated it into lyrics. Sometimes that’s the most difficult part, but I feel like I did it the right way this time.

What has the journey been like to get to this single?

Emotionally, it has (and perhaps this is obvious) been a rough journey, with many ups and downs. Musically, it’s been similar, but I’ve had so much fun working hard to find that sound that feels authentic to me and searching for the words that come from my heart. I’m proud of this music, and I’m ready to lean into this sound and continue to develop as a musician.

Like your previous single, “18,” you wrote, recorded, and produced this single almost entirely on your own. Did having your hand in all aspects influence your process?

Absolutely! I had a vision for this song from the beginning, and I’ve come to learn that it’s a lot easier to recognize that vision when you can play a role in every stage of making it happen. That said, Ryan Hadlock really helped to bring this song to life. I do enjoy working on my own, but I’m such a fan of Ryan’s, and the song wouldn’t be what it is without him. 

What drew you to Southern England for the music video?

I think the Cotswolds has a sort of unspoken magic that you can’t find anywhere else. I was originally going out there just to remove myself and write some music, but when it became possible to film the music video there, I knew I wanted to bring some of that natural magic and power to the video. I knew it would be a special experience.

Do you have a favorite memory from filming the music video?

The whole thing was so surreal. Working with David is always such a blast, but we had a particularly incredible time shooting this together. It was just the two of us out in the absolute middle of nowhere, so far from home. There’s one shot in the video where I’m running through a field, and I remember thinking at the time, “How unbelievable is this? We’re literally frolicking through a meadow in the English countryside.” The day after the shoot I took a stroll through the forest and met David in this gorgeous town called Castle Combe, where we had coffee and just spent the day. It was awesome.

If you could set fans up in the perfect environment to listen to the single, what do you imagine it looking like?

Ha! The Cotswolds! But also anywhere you need it–outside in the countryside, in the mountains, in the car on the highway, in your room at night. I want people to listen to this song in the best place for them.

What can fans look forward to next?

I’ve been working on so many more songs like this, and I can’t wait to share them. I also have my first headline tour coming up in October, and I hope I get to see some of you there!

What is one quote that you have heard or that you go by that you want to ECHO out to the world?

“The time will pass anyway.” Time never stops, no matter what, and we are here for a finite amount of it. If the time will pass anyway, you might as well make the most of it!

Featured Photo Credit: David Od