Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dr Jon from the band Mountain Town about their music, what inspires him, and highlights from their time together.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Thanks for doing the interview – I’m Jonathan “Dr. Jon” Kolon – the singer, songwriter and principle member of the Americana group Mountain Town which hails from Park City – Utah, USA. We bring you “Acoustic Music from the American West”.
When did you first WANT to write songs?
Ever since I picked up a guitar and began to learn to play during my teenage years. I’ve been influenced from a very young age from Cowboy Singers and have always loved the stories that the songs tell.
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
Only recently – now that I have more time to devote to it. I’m currently in my late 40’s and it’s taken so long because back in my 20’s I was focusing on University and Dental School. There was always something – residency training, building a private surgery, getting married, building the next office, etc. Songwriting takes time…and I just couldn’t make it until about 2018. In 2015 I decided to sell my large dentgal office and began a government contract job as a dentist. I got to travel, teach and finally in 2018 dedicated the necessary time to craft musical works.
The first Mountain Town recordings were published in 2019 and I began pitching song ideas to record labels in the hopes of getting picked up for an “artist development” deal – knowing nothing of the music business outside of playing local pubs and bars.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
The first song I released (self produced, 2019) was Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home”. It’s a beautiful song that I’ve loved since I was a child and it’s a public domain piece – requiring no licensing. This was a stepping stone and a confidence builder. A bit more interesting is “This Highway Ends” which was the first song that I wrote that was produced by The Animal Farm Music of London, UK. It’s a song about our current uncertain times that offers hope and steadfastness.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
“Last Time Around” is really quite special. In 2011 I began playing music in the Arizona desert (during the Summertime) with a group of Kingston Trio and John Stewart fans that is now called the Americana Music Gathering. There are many members in their 70’s and 80’s and sadly, the reports are too frequent of the loss of a friend to sickness, chronic illness or natural causes. This song is a tribute to them and dealing with the loss of people dear to us – so common to the human condition.
Rain in the desert is not a likely occurrence and is most certainly a sign of luck and a communion with the spiritual world. Plus it rained like hell when we were all there this past August night after night.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with Last Time Around?
As with any of my self-published works, the greatest challenge is matching the quality of the mix and master with the material produced by The Animal Farm. Recently I’ve added some material from NashVox studios in Nashville, TN USA to the Mountain Town catalog to keep the production quality high and to create a state-side presence.
How many songs are you working on right now?
4 and to be honest –that’s the most I can keep spinning in my head at one time. I have several spiral notebooks that I call “the garden” that are full of phrases and near-complete songs. When I block time in the day for songwriting – or if I have an idea that just needs to be captured – I “go out to the garden” and work. Sometimes I plant seeds, sometimes I cultivate plants…and sometimes I take what I have and plow it under so that I can grow something new.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
There is definitely a theme and it’s from the types of people that you’ll meet and interact with in Park City, Utah (The Mountain Town). ‘Mountain Towners’ like to have a good time; we’re loyal; we’re optimistic….and we tell it like it is. The stories change but the theme is always authentic and rustic.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
This changes for me many days, but often it’s “This Highway Ends”. What I love about it is that it was my first collaborative effort – working with Mat and Ville from The Animal Farm. They both really like my songwriting and I used their feedback to refine the finish off the song. It’s always a very complementary relationship.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
I tend to like storytellers. We lost Tom T. Hall is year and his shoes will never be filled. Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker all get heavy rotation at the home and at the office. I still tune into the Grand Ole Opre on Saturday nights to see the new stars mingle with the legends.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I write 100% of the music for Mountain Town and have also discovered the joy of co-writing. Sometimes it’s the record label (the owners are former touring musicians) that can add to the inspiration and sometimes it’s as simple as a songwriter circle or afterhours jam that brings forward a new idea worthy of turning into a theme.
Do you play any instruments?
I sure do….rhythm guitar and also dobro. As most musicians can – I can pluck out a bass line or play Cajon/drums if need be but my place in the musical world is behind a microphone with an acoustic guitar over my shoulder.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
Playing live is my favorite. Mountain Town shows are fun, low stress events. It’s a place to dance or even cry and hug your friends if the song is sad. Audience interaction and community is a central part of what we do and our fan-base is the intermountain west of the United States. That being said, with technology – our potential reach is worldwide. And to be honest – I don’t care much for the online way of interacting – including online performance streaming models – but it’s here to stay. I’ll keep at it and hopefully dial in a way to reach out through the world wide web and make people feel like they’re at our show and part of something special.
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it? It sure is! Please check it out and if you like it – do tell a friend.
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