Navigating the New Zealand music industry

LA life: Lontalius interview

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“I have been telling people that being in LA it’s kind of like going to university,” jokes Eddie Johnson, aka Lontalius. “I went away and learnt some things, and now I’ve got to come back and apply it in the real world.”

After a two year stay in Los Angeles, Lontalius is now back in New Zealand and when NZ Music Business caught up with him, he was wrapping up his first tour here in two years. He’s enjoyed the opportunity to revisit his back catalogue – “I haven’t even listened to those songs since the last time I played live” – and is looking forward to playing more live dates in the future.

But for now, that is about as concrete as things get. A follow-up to his acclaimed debut I’ll Forget 17 is in the can, but at this stage he is not quite what to do with it.

“There’s an album that I want to put out, but there’s a lot of questions up in the air – everywhere in the music industry – about what’s an album for,” Lontalius muses. “I grew up listening and loving albums but also I do think they can hold you back in a way; they’re not as relevant as they used to be. So I am still trying to work that out.”

The indecision may in part be due to the fact that his LA adventure didn’t quite go according to plan. The idea originally was for him to partner with other songwriters in, but he says that sort of collaborative approach didn’t really work for him.

“It was definitely one of my goals going there because I have always been fascinated by the idea of writers’ rooms,” he says. “I got to try a lot of that stuff which was really fun and exciting, but it was also pretty terrifying. I’m used to working by myself at a different pace. My kind of focus changed from wanting to write a hit song to meet people and learn about how they make music.”

However, Lontalius has no regrets about his LA foray. As well as getting to meet some incredible writers and producers, he did forge an unlikely creative partnership with Om’Mas Keith, a Grammy Award winning producer best known for his work with the likes of Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu and John Legend.

“Just after the last album came out I went to LA for the first time just for visit and we met up with and kind of hit it off,” he recalls. “So I came back and did some recording with him, which was really cool. He identified with the more ambient side of my stuff.”

So far Lontalius has issued three songs from these sessions – ‘I Wanted Him’, ‘That Includes You’ and ‘Obvious’ – and there are more to come, although he has yet to decide what ones to go forward with.

Throughout his career, Lontalius has straddled the indie and pop/dance camps – there are also some new recordings in the pipeline from his alter ego Race Banyon – and he remains reluctant to be pigeoned as an artist.

“I that come across in the music as well,” he says. “I’m not really interested in making an indie rock album nor I am really interested in being just an R&B singer. As a music fan I was never fully into one of those camps. I guess I grew up with indie and rock music, but I fell in love with R&B, pop and electronic music. I think it comes together quite naturally.”


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