EXCLUSIVE: Jonah Kagen Talks Touring, “Turbulence” and More

Rising singer-songwriter Jonah Kagen just finished his tour with Maisie Peters, who both blend so well together in sounds that it made so much sense for Kagen to open up for Peters. With his poetic storytelling and each of his songs having a unique hook, Kagen’s music has that perfect storyteller factor. Songs such as “Summer Feeling,” which takes you away to the beaches of Malibu on a summer night, or his song “Moon,” which makes you think about that young hidden love that everyone looks for. His music captivates you with each lyric and beat. We chatted with Kagen at his LA show about his music and more!

Photo Credit: Will Heffernan

How’s the tour so far?

Oh, man, I think I’ve lost count now, but it’s gotta be close to, I think we’ve done 17. Don’t quote me on that, but I think it’s somewhere around that it’s almost 20. It’s been unbelievable. So surreal the whole thing, and it kind of became my reality now. I really don’t want it to end, which is, I feel like it’s a good sign.

I mean, it’s a testament to obviously the people that are around me and just how much I love doing this and how lovely, like the fans have been, how lovely everybody involved in this has been. It’s just so special, but I don’t like to think about it ending. 

I mean, your music is very catchy and has a, you know, like each song I feel like has a unique hook to it. Your near sun turbulence obviously has a little bit more of a personal side, I would say to it, compared to your other songs. So, what was creating the song like?

Honestly, it was a very special session because it was with my two favorite people to work with. And this was very early on in our kind of relationship to this song, writing the song, brought us really close, cause it started off.

We were just, it was three of us. Um, and we were just in a room and, um, I guess I can say that it was, it doesn’t matter. It was me and Joe, Janie, Jack, who produced pretty much all of my other stuff. Simon Wilcox, who I love. And I love them both so much. Simon is amazing, it’s like when you go into a session with Simon she’s, she’s, it’s like a therapy session and just unintentionally she’s just like, brings that out of you. Yeah. So I think when we went into that, we were just talking and it didn’t even, it wasn’t like, all right, what song are we going to do today? What are we going to do? We just kind of spent the first half hour, hour just kind of talking to the three of us and just getting, and it got really deep.

And then we ended up speaking and then somebody said the word turbine. And I just kind of watched Simon, like put her head down and she just got quiet. And then me and, uh, I, it was funny because Joe had told me I had known Joe before, but I hadn’t done much with Simon yet. So Joe had told me before, like, this is kind of like Simon’s thing.

He’s like, if she gets to the thing, you know, just let her, let her do it. So me and Joe just kept talking. And while we were talking, I was just fiddling around. Um, and came up with the guitar part and I was like, this is, this is really pretty. And then Simon, you know, pops back up for air after like 10 minutes.

And she’s just got just beautiful ideas for songs. It was in turbulence. The idea of like, just a little turbulence was one of them. It was something that I think was what we were talking about because we all kind of needed to hear it. And then we were like, oh, does that work with this chord progression?

And then we just put it together. The song was so special for all of us. I think, needing to see it come out was like a very rewarding yeah. 

That it is a beautiful song. Like you said. Do you, is there like a particular lyric in the song that kind of stands out to the most? 

It’s just like, it’s just a little turbulence. The whole hook is honestly like that way.

I know we will find our feet again so fast and all these arguments and self-defense was such a good line too, because it was just like, you spend so much time just getting defensive and, you know, worrying about what’s happening when every single thing you’ve gotten into in your life you’ve come out because they’re still here.

So it was just like, that was a big part of it. I think this is my favorite line in the song. “feelings only last about a minute and a half 90 seconds. And you’ll laugh because they’re gone.” There was something that we had, I had read that morning, because I was a big psychologist. I studied psychology in school, so I was like, I always liked to hear new stuff.

Do you write the lyrics first or do you start with the guitar first, but what’s kind of your process traditionally?

I have two different ways of working. One of them is I write a lot of poetry that has no musical connection and it’s in its beginning. Usually it’s just something that I think about. I think it’s poetic. If there’s something, some experience I have that I think is poetic, I just write.

Oftentimes, that will become a song. Some sort of like some poem that I feel very connected to that I’ve written, but it, oh, the songs themselves always start musically for me, I think I always start almost always on the guitar because that was what I started off in is what’s comfortable.

And then usually I’ll hear a line and like, Like for, for turbulence, it was that word turned. It was that triggered everybody’s sort of thing. But it was while I was playing that link and we kind of had like, uh, okay, here it is. And then broken, for example, the first song I put out, it was pulling me out.

What is one “Summer Feeling” that you always get when it’s summer?

It’s funny, actually, I had an experience recently. I would say, first of all, the easy answer to that is just any time it is bright and sunny. I am, my mood is very much connected to the weather, which is a large reason why I’m here and why today, this morning was annoying because it was overcast all day.

I know literally, but I love that. Like waking up. Yeah. Feeling it hit you. I like to get up early. So whenever I wake up and I, the sun will rise like right behind our house and we usually get to watch it and there’s nobody around. And it’s just that moment where I just see the sun. That’s probably my biggest feeling, but, um, I get that same kind of warm, tingly feeling when I’m with the right people.

And people are kind of the core of everything that I do. And I got to see some old friends that were just. Some of my favorite people in the world, all that kind of comes back. It’s just that very childish, wholesome experience. 

If you could set up a fan and a setting for them to listen to your music, what setting would that be?

I think I have two sides to me on that. One of them is like the, you know, the guy that wants to be the. Arena guy. And I want to have the, you know, I wanna, I want people to experience it on a grand, very grand stage with lots of light, feel the music you can really like, have the experience of being in the presence of so many other people and get the music and share the music with people.

I think I very much like music bringing people together. So in that context, that’s one. But on the other hand, I think it’s equally as powerful. If it’s just me and a guitar outside. You’re right there. Yeah. There’s nothing. There’s nothing phony about it. There’s nothing staged. There’s nothing, anything, it’s just experiencing music for what it is.

And I think that’s probably, I leaned towards that. I would like a nice sunny day outside. Just on the beer. Yeah. Maybe on the beach shirt. 

What is one quote you’ve heard in life that you’d want to ECHO out to fans?

Two things that I have the best advice that I have. Ever gotten and given I think, um, the first one is, uh, lean into it. I heard that very early on and it’s one of those things. When, when you find yourself overthinking something that is good. It could go both ways. I think it’s when something is so good and you’re like, why is it good?

Are you sure? It’s good. And you doubt yourself. Don’t doubt yourself. Just lean into it. And Feel it, experience it. But the other side of it is I think when something’s going wrong and when you’re in a dark place, leaning into it and getting through it, uh, that sentiment always resonates with me. And then the other one is, uh, no matter what you are going through, um, I think the anticipation of going through something bad is worse than ever going through something, because when you’re in something, it’s just what you’re doing right now.

I used to think that when I was in college, I used to think about fitness tests, for example, it was like, you stress all day about your damn fitness. And then you go in and you’re running. I played soccer in college. That’s why I’m saying that. But you go in and you’re running it. And then all of a sudden, all the stuff that you were worried about, it actually goes away because it’s just what.

And then my sister had a baby, the same thing she said, she was so worried about the first period of having a kid. I said, well, it’s not going to matter. You’re just going to be in it. And you just do it, whatever it is, you just end up doing it no matter what, like, because you don’t have any other option.

So anytime something is happening that is bad. You just do it. You always have. So I think reframing it to be like, I’m just doing this. Yeah, just has gotten me through. So those are my two, like that kind of stopped being so hesitant.

Photo Credit: Will Heffernan

Listen to his recent single “Turbulence” now!