Moab, Utah musician and StoneFed guitarist/vocalist Jonanthon Olschewski gives us some insight into his view on artist interaction today, the importance of connecting with the audience, and the influence of Moab on his music.
My name is James Johnson. I am a musician and local music blogger in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was just recently granted an interview with Moab musician Jonathan Olschewski. Jon has played with his band StoneFed for the past 16 years, performing for audiences in his hometown of Moab, throughout the US and around the world. He is highly involved in the progression of the Utah music scene and spends a great deal of time cultivating other local musicians. His prominence among Utah bands and his influence upon the current scene have made Mr. Olschewski noteworthy to say the least. His musings offer a glimpse into how he achieved that.
The morning after an amazing gig is my favorite time to interview the musician that made it happen. Stonefed played to a crowd of adoring fans at their favorite Sugarhouse, Utah watering hole just last night and we’re sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and listening to Charley Parker on Pandora. The warm morning sun sits at 10 o’clock and Jon looks relaxed in his straw hat on this fine spring morning.
(Me) “Jon, really great show last night. Were you feeling it?”
(Jon) “Absolutely….more than feeling it. It wasn’t exactly packed. It was only about 3/4’s capacity but the vibe felt like even more than capacity. We got 110% from the audience. The people were just really giving it back to us.”
(Me) “So do you still strive to make it your best show when the house isn’t packed and the audience is great?”
(Jon) “Well, really it’s always more about the vibe than the numbers. I think when you have someone intently listening to you and you only have a few, it’s a better feeling than playing to a crowded room and feeling like nobody’s listening to you. Even if it’s you and your buddy and he’s listening to you, or there’s always that x-factor and you’re playing to a group of people and they aren’t necessarily watching you but there’s a crowd and they’re entertained by you.”
(Me) “So are you looking at the audience and reading them and feeling them as you play?”
(Jon) “With music, there’s a lot of different approaches. It’s a pretty empirical science. People from all walks of life in all countries have some sort of music going on. I think that’s the most important part. People don’t get a record from a record store anymore and that was one entity unto itself that would house and promote a musical atmosphere. You could go down to the record store and buy something and you’d say “Hey Pete, how’s it going” you know? A really cool place that just embodied the musical thing. Or you’d go down to the guitar shop, and now you can just get on line. We’ve gotten away from that group digestion of music that used to happen, we have less vessels. I think it’s important to treat the music like it’s a crowd and person interaction. I think the best musicians have always done that…in their performances at least. I think it’s key to have somebody that’s always interacting with the audience”
(Me) “Someone making that connection?”
(Jon) “Yeah, Jasper does it, I do it, even though Ed and Dave aren’t singing in a mic, they’re doing it. The whole band’s doing it at once. That’s the way it is with us. It’s a lot better when the crowd’s dancing. There’s not a resistance on the other side. They’re taking it in and its passing through them and going on to the next person behind them and I guess that’s the real trip.”
(Me) “Do you feel like your band represents Moab?”
(Jon) “I’ve never really thought that we were representing Moab necessarily. Moab has helped us with our Salt Lake community of fans because they can reference us with Moab and they’re familiar with the name. But no, Not really. We actually strive to transcend that because Moab is a very small town and I think StoneFed’s ideas and music should be shared on a larger scale than that”
(Me) “Is that like breaking a mold?”
(Jon) “For musicians, oh yeah, of course. There’s a paradox in that because we’ve all stuck together for so long. We’ve had these musicians that are really good and there’s this brotherhood that you get because we all grew up there. We understand each other well. If we had lived in the city it would have been different. We could have just found other musicians while going through trials and tribulations, but we stuck together as boys and now we’re older men.”