I could probably designate an entire blog devoted to Nashville’s music scene. Between the two publications, I’ve written about Nashville-based indie artists more than anything. For some, it’s probably hard to believe I live in Chicago and hardly ever get a chance to travel to that particular city much less see the shows! So I think it’s safe to say I have a soft spot for the scene. Combining everything I love about Nashville is Jon Worthy & The Bends. While they may have only been on the scene for a few years, this band is already etching their place in Nashville’s crowded (but lucrative) music industry.
Ahead of the release of their latest album Something’s Gotta Give, Jon Worthy & The Bends are poised to break out from Nashville and the rest of the country as the nation’s new favorite indie act. I had the opportunity to talk with Jon Worthy and we talk about what makes the band click and a little bit about the band’s mythos.
Aaron Cooper: Who are Jon Worthy & The Bends? How would you describe what you do to someone who’s never heard you?
Jon Worthy: We are a 4 piece high energy indie rock Americana band out of Nashville. We all live for performing and it comes out on stage with our love and passion spilling out into crazy stage antics. We play every show like there are 20,000 spectators there just to see us. But once you get past all the jumping around on stage, our songs have meaning and depth that almost everyone can connect with. As the songwriter, I write almost exclusively about real life experiences and they are situations that most people go through. I just happen to put those experiences and emotions into songs! We tour relentlessly around the Southeast and Midwest including Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Indiana, New York, Georgia, and Virginia! We will also be playing a few festival gigs this year including The Funny Ears Fringe Festival in Knoxville, TN and Musikfest 2019 in Bethlehem, PA! I’m on vocals and guitar, Slice on keys and guitar, Austin Mcfall on bass, and Michael Sanborn on drums we are a tight-knit group that loves playing music together
I’m a huge fan of the Nashville scene (and good friends with many of the bands there like The Lees of Memory, Hurts To Laugh, Them Fixes, etc) Is it a competitive place seeing as every other person there is an artist of some kind?
Nashville is super competitive and because everyone is an artist of some kind there is always so much going on around town every night so it makes it difficult to build a tight-knit scene here. For the most part, we’re all trying to do the same thing and we understand that and help each other out when we can, but there’s so much different music going on that it can be tough to grow a scene amongst all the competition. On the bright side, because everyone is an artist, it’s pretty easy to find bandmates or people to do artwork or film music videos. And I think the competitiveness fuels everyone to get better which only produces better music all around!
Your previous release was produced by Lincoln Parish of Cage The Elephant, how did that come about?
I was talking to a friend about how we were about to record a new album, but we didn’t know where we wanted to record. My friend mentioned that the former Cage the Elephant guitarist had left Cage and is now a producer in town. I got Lincoln’s number and we connected immediately with our similar tastes in music. With Cage being one of our favorite bands, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to work with Lincoln. So we ended up recording our 2018 album Only A Dream and Lincoln played guitar on 5 of the songs which was awesome! When he said he had an idea for the end of our song “Please Tell Me” and he pulled out a slide, Austin and I looked at each other and were like “hell ya!”. It was super cool working with him and his studio is badass as well.
With your new album Something’s Gotta Give, you’ve sort of changed your sound. What’s behind the shifting of gears?
This is such a unique album for a couple of reasons. For anyone that’s seen our live show, you’ll know that we lose ourselves on stage and go absolutely nuts and bring all this energy. Our love of performing coupled with the fact that the songs are very angsty lends itself to that form of expression. While the new album has that same angsty vibe, the songs are more laid back due to the acoustic vibe. I had written an album’s worth of songs and I didn’t want to just toss them aside so I thought let’s change things up and see what we can put together. Originally, it was only going to be 4-5 songs, but when I looked at all the songs I had, I realized I really dug them and wanted to bring them to life with the band. The experiences I went through while writing these songs also lends itself to a more acoustic vibe. This is an album for the most part about the struggles of pursuing your dream and constantly being rejected and shut down while at the same time having your heart totally shattered and the feelings that come with that. Apparently, when you couple those two experiences together you get an album’s worth of songs!
The lead single “Chasing Dreams” reminds me of The Lumineers and Hamilton Leithauser. But there’s still a bit of your DIY rock vibes like the Replacements floating around. Who are some of your influences and how important are they to what you’re doing now?
The music that’s inspired me the most and will always stick with me is the music of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and The Beatles. That’s what I listened to during my most impressionable music listening years and it’s always stuck with me. Whether it’s the easy sing-along melodies of the Beatles or the soft to loud dynamics of Nirvana, or the realism of Pearl Jam’s lyrics, I will always love those bands and be inspired by what they created. Some of my favorite current bands are The Districts, The Current Joys, Xavier Rudd, and Cage the Elephant. I’ve seen the Districts 7 times now and I just love their whole vibe and what they keep writing.
The new songs feel a little more vulnerable than previous. Is there a particular song that means a lot to you?
I’d say the two songs that mean the most are “Chasing Dreams” and “This Ain’t the Way”. “Chasing Dreams” is word for word about my struggle as a musician for the last 5 years since I moved to Nashville. I sing about how difficult it is to get noticed and no matter what I do as an artist no one seems to really care! But I absolutely love the grind and struggle and am not asking for a pity party, I just have experienced a huge struggle with the dream of pursuing music and wrote a meaningful song about it! “This Ain’t the Way” is also word for word about my life, but it’s about heartbreak and everything that you envisioned your life would be getting ripped away from you and what that feels like. The funny thing is I wrote the song about someone who most of the album is about, but it took interaction with someone else to bring those feelings and emotions to the surface.
Despite not being very political, does today’s civil unrest have an effect on your music?
Absolutely. The last song on the album “Take the Good” is the only political song on the album and that’s just kind of my synopsis on human beings as a whole. The civil unrest and wickedness of the world have always been around since humans started walking the planet, it’s just so much easier to see all that’s happening because of the internet. So I think when you’re constantly confronted with all the bullshit that happens and all the terrible things we do to each other because of our beliefs or because we want more power you can’t not be affected. For us, I think we get our distaste of current affairs out on stage where we release all our aggression and frustrations! We recently started covering “Fortunate Son” by CCR and we just love what that song stands for.
Are you looking at any record labels at the moment?
Record labels no. We are partnering with local Nashville company Innovo Management to gain more exposure and hopefully reach more peoples ears! I embrace the DIY culture of everything we do and relish the opportunity to make all our own decisions and in effect be our very own CEO. If a record label came along and offered help or exposure in a way that we could not then I would consider it, but still waiting for that knock on the door!
What are you currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Current Joys. They’re a very low fi indie punk band. I also love Big Thief. They have such a laid back vibe and I love her voice.
Closing arguments: Why should we check out Jon Worthy & The Bends?
We have lyrics and melodies and sounds that you can connect to. We sing about real shit that everyone feels and goes through. If you see us live, we promise you will be entertained regardless of if you dig our music or not. We hope our total love and passion for writing, performing, and all things music comes across and that you feel it right in the soul!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat! Where can we hear your music, and when can we get this new album!?
Anywhere you listen to music you will find us there! Check us out on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc. We have several music videos on Youtube and a few more on the way! We also have a website and we are on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! Something’s Gotta Give will be out June 28Th. The first single “Chasing Dreams” is out now and the second single “Takin My Time” will be out May 17th!
photography and artwork by Michael Foster