Pop, Rock, Blues, Folk
Jeff Buckley, John Mayer, Coldplay, Joel Plaskett
New York, NY
Singer-songwriter Jonus Preston had been consumed with exploring technique and precision as an accomplished jazz musician until the Sandy Hook tragedy hit on December 14, 2012. Sharing in the sorrow, anger, and frustration we all felt watching the events unfold, he picked up his guitar to express his pent-up emotions. Out came something powerfully direct—“Tears In Vain”—his first single in a new era of fevered creativity.
“I am giving a musical voice to a cause I feel very strongly about. ‘Tears In Vain’ is dedicated to the victims. It is a song meant to inspire a change for gun reform in America,” the New York City-based artist says. The shootings transpired while he was vacationing. “It got me upset and then pissed off,” Preston says candidly. “There needs to be more gun reform in order to make this a safer country.”
“Tears In Vain” is both haunting and comforting with bluntly poetic lyrics and sweet seasonings of soul, folk, and pop. Preston compellingly juxtaposes tender vocals with boldly confrontational content. With weary grace he sings lines like: Make believe we get a second chance/Would you see the choice is in our hands/If you could look into their faces one more time/And you knew that you could save them you’d change your mind.
“This is the era where the media doesn’t focus on the shooter; they don’t glorify him as much as they used to,” Preston says. “So you see the faces of the victims. It’s moving but then people forget, and it feels like these people died in vain. I wanted to write something gripping and beautiful to express that.”
Preston is making a difference by contributing proceeds from the sale of “Tears In Vain” to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The single is currently available through a partnership with the innovative cause marketing platform Dympol.
Since Preston was 12, and he saw the revelatory Michael Moore documentary Bowling For Columbine, he’s been a staunch advocate for gun control. “That really spurred a dialogue within me. I didn’t know how to react, what to do with the frustration I felt inside,” he recalls.
Sandy Hook also shook Preston’s creative core. “I’ve studied so much music theory, but I always wanted to write music that speaks to more people, this was a catalyst, it gave me purpose,” he says.
Writing “Tears In Vain” reminded him of the power of pop and the feeling he had when he first heard Michael Jackson’s album Thriller at age 13. As a kid, he was a prodigiously gifted musician, devouring the music of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Django Reinhardt, Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, John Mayer, Clapton, Coldplay, and The Beatles. Soon jazz, and the euphoric and dazzling musicality of European gypsy jazz in particular, became his artistic priority. He studied jazz in college and founded the popular acoustic jazz band String Bustin’ Cats. After two years in college, he began working professionally as a musician. He toured North America, playing large festivals including the Montreal JazzFest, SXSW, and The Strawberry Folk Festival in California. He also began a rewarding collaboration with the highly esteemed New York producer/pianist Misha Piatigorsky.
Piatigorsky produced “Tears In Vain,” and the child’s voice on the song is his young daughter’s. The song was tracked by famed engineer Mark Hermann (The Eagles) and also features studio ace drummer Graham Hawthorne (Paul Simon, David Byrne).
“This was an epiphanic event for me, it helped me find myself as a writer,” he says. Currently, Preston is preparing a variety of releases showcasing different aspects of his prismatic artistry, with projects spanning lo-fi indie, acoustic, hip-hop, EDM, and pop-rock.