Life’s adventures away from the desk and numbers aren’t an easy one to explore, but we’re glad our college has produced one soulful thrill-seeker. Enter Jonathan Leong, of Singapore Idol and Voyage de la vie fame, who has not stopped jamming and crooning to fans of music since his early days in the Army. Forging ahead with his voice and gung-ho attitude, Leong is now making full circuits- motorbike included- of the local music industry as a professional artist and instructor at LASALLE College of the Arts. Before helming the stage at HERE!, we caught up with the man himself to find out more about his sensibilities.
Hi Jon, we saw that your new single was just released. What else have you been up to?
Jonathan Leong: Hey, I’m currently in the middle of writing, recording and producing a new full-length album. Colours, Needles and Stories is just one of the singles that will be in it. In a way, it’s not really a typical album, since each song is produced like a single, and I’m personally connected to each one of them; none of these songs are meant as fillers. I’ve also been working on music videos for each of them.
I’ve just begun to teach at LASALLE, and at the same time, I’ve started my production company, Triad Bones Studio. We do music jingles, commercial work and music production/ recordings for other bands and artists.
What other passion projects do you have?
Leong: I help run a website called Lion City Tattoo (www.lioncitytattoo.com), where I cover what I can about the tattoo scene here. I conduct interviews and produce all the videos to give people some insight into the tattoo scene here. Singapore has some really good tattoo artists. It’s been really great so far, because people from all over the world have left nice comments. I really appreciate that kind of feedback, and it gives support to this subculture that I admire, as well.
Colours, Needles and Stories features the local tattoo industry and some of its behind-the-scenes work. How did you get to know these artists and get them involved?
Leong: I knew some of them since my army days, and we’ve stayed in contact since. Since I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen, I’ve always been a fan of the art form.
Any stories behind your inks?
Leong: No, I got them just because I liked the way the art looked. I’m not one of those who need to force a story behind every tattoo you get. It’s the same for life, I guess; you don’t need to justify everything that you do. Sometimes you just go for it because you like it.
Great advice. So, how did NUS further your music career?
Leong: NUS was pretty important in helping me craft my foray into music. Before everything, I never thought that I could pursue what I wanted- making music and videos, performing, writing my own songs- basically, be a creative. I didn’t think this could be a viable career.
I formed my first band while I was in NS, and that was really important because it was my first step into the live music scene, even though I pretty much did it just for fun. We used to jam on our nights off, and after our stint in army, we started performing more gigs at bars and events, and I continued with while in university. It was how I supported myself while I was in NUS.
When I wanted to take part in Idol, NUS was very supportive. The school gave me a semester off, and allowed me to get as far as I did in the competition. During my years in NUS, I also had several opportunities to perform. I would do several in-house gigs, I was part of the NUS Jazz band for a short time, and I met my future vocal coach there, as well. The university gave me a place to build my contacts and to hone some of my performance skills.
Most of my band mates at the time where also studying in NUS, one was from Political science, another was from Law, and of course, it was relatively easy to find spaces to jam in NUS. Fond memories.
What are some of your musical influences?
Leong: I’m into music from the earlier times: Blues, Country, ‘80s Synth pop and ‘90s Post-Grunge Rock. That’s the kind of direction I’m heading into- Bluegrass, Country and Blues with a bit of hard Rock. I want to fuse all of these styles together in my music but, for me, it’s all about the melody and the lyrics, really.
We heard that you are a motorcycling enthusiast. How did you get into it?
Leong: Yeah, I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was in NUS, I rode a dirt bike while I was studying here.
I love motorbikes because of the feeling of freedom it gives. It lets me enjoy my travels. When you’re on a bike you’re really in touch with the environment, especially when you’re making long road trips overseas. It’s just you, and your bike. You have all the time and space to think, relax and spend time on reflection. No radio blasting, no one trying to sell you stuff through your speakers and phone screens, and nobody talking to you from the passenger seats.
Motorcycles, animals, tattoos, films, and my friends and family- my time will always be spent with them.
Since you’re into films too, what are your favourite films and TV shows?
Leong: I’m into all sorts of movies, so it’s really a mix of all sorts. I like the really good ones, and even the really bad and cheesy ones. First would be The Godfather trilogy, I mean Francis Ford Coppola changed the scene. I’m a huge Guillermo del Toro fan, especially his older works like Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone. Dreams by [Akira] Kurosawa, is something that stuck after I watched it when I was 14 and 15. I’ll still take it out to watch sometimes. I’m a huge fan of horror, even the really B-grade ones, so the horror TV series Tales of the Crypt. I like The Simpsons too.
Rebel Without A Crew isn’t a movie, but this book by director Robert Rodiguez really influenced me. After reading it, I decided to adopt a kind of “Mariachi style” to produce my work; basically, keeping budgets low and creativity high.
Oh, The Crow is the movie that changed my life. I saw it when I was 10 or 11, when my cousin sneaked me into the cinema during the holidays. I became an instant fan. All I wanted to do was to grow my hair long, play the guitar and dress in black. After that day I didn’t want to wear anything else, my wardrobe became all black, and I’ve kept this style even till now. I have the in all formats. When the cassette came out, I got it. When the LD came out, I saved all my money to buy it. And then I went to order the DVD, and now the Blu-Ray (laughs).
Jonathan Leong’s new single COLOURS ,NEEDLES & STORIES is available for free download at the website, www.jonleong.com when you sign up for the mailing list.
Image credit: www.jonleong.com