The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Q&A: JAWNY talks living his dream, festival debut at Lollapalooza

The mastermind behind the alternative-pop hit “Honeypie,” Jacob Lee-Nicholas Sullenger, or JAWNY, made his festival debut at the Grubhub Stage at Lollapalooza Friday. He came out with an EP, “The Story of Hugo,” about three weeks ago to accompany his other EP, “For Abby,” that came out in 2020.

Buzz spoke with the singer-songwriter backstage at Lollapalooza after his set to talk a little bit about what it felt like to perform in Chicago and how it feels to be playing live again.

buzz: Is this your first time in Chicago, or have you been here before?

JS: Like, technically yes, but no. I guess this is not my first time in Chicago, but it’s my first time in Chicago, and I’ll explain that. Last time we came to Chicago, I played a show for like a hundred people in the middle of a blizzard in like November of 2019, like blizzard, blizzard, blizzard, couldn’t experience the city, like barely flew in. Some flights were canceled. People couldn’t make it. And I flew out right after it. So, this is my first time in Chicago, like experiencing it, seeing things, breathing the air seeing the buildings, not being freezing f—— cold.

buzz: And what do you think? How do you like it?

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    JS: I love it. I just played Lollapalooza, so I’m f—— stoked!

    buzz: And this is your festival debut, too.

    JS: This is my big boy, major league festival, yeah, for sure.

    buzz: It’s also Chicago’s first big thing after COVID, so how does that feel being a part of that whole thing?

    JS: It feels insane. Last night, we played a show to get the nerves out. We played a show with boy pablo, a sold-out show in Thalia Hal. That was cool. I’m happy we did that first, though, cause it would have been f—— weird to walk out for the first time in a year and a half, however long now, for all those people, you know? It’s insane. We’re seeing faces, and hearing people sing and stuff. It’s nuts. You can’t describe it. So it just makes you miss it, remembering how much you lost last year.

    buzz: I could really see it, too, that you were enjoying the performance and really feeding off the crowd’s energy.

    JS: It’s where I feel the most alive.

    buzz: You seemed a little surprised by the crowd reactions, too. What were you expecting, and how was it different?

    JS: Well, I mean I’m not a narcissist, right, so I think that maybe 40% of the people were there to see me, maybe 50. And then the other 50 were just people that might have just been like, “Let’s go see what this is.” That’s what I thought in my head. Man, when you –– goddam –– that was the craziest crowd reaction I’ve had ever. Like, I’ll say it on the record. Normally, if I say, “Everybody jump” or “Everybody put your hands up,” if you get 60% of people to do it, that’s like a win in my book. This was like 100%. When I was like, “Jump,” I was like, I almost cried. Like everyone was jumping, and I was like, “Holy s—.” I teared up at the end.

    buzz: Really?

    JS: I did. I had glasses on, so you couldn’t see.

    buzz: I also want to ask about The Killers cover you did. How did you decide that was going to be the song you were gonna do? It was really good, by the way.

    JS: Thank you! I thought that that’s a song that everyone knows. I think I was wrong because not everyone knew it, but there were people singing it. I think, I just love that song, and I figured if I’m going to a festival, I should play one song that people might know who don’t know me because then they’d just listen to me play a bunch of s— that they don’t know about, you know? So, I don’t know. I just put it in there.

    buzz: And then I want to sort of talk about before you got here, you kind of got a start working with rappers on SoundCloud, right?

    JS: Yeah, I did, like, a long time ago.

    buzz: It’s very different now, so what’s that transition kind of been like, and how is that different seeing yourself versus where you were kind of a few years ago?

    JS: I mean, you know, I’ve always wanted to do music in my life, right, like my whole goal is to be a rockstar. When you’re a little kid, you’re like, “I want to be a rockstar,” and then you kind of grow up, and you become a realist. You gotta go into the real world and do this and that, and I still love music, and I always thought I was going to be a behind-the-scenes person. I always thought I was going to be a producer. I thought I was just gonna be a rap producer when I was just back in high school, and that was crazy. Anyway, I just thought I was gonna do that, and I never thought anyone would ever want to follow me or I’d ever be a face, I never thought. I was always like, “I have to be behind the scenes. I’m not one of those people,” and then randomly, very late blooming like 20 or 21, I just was like, “I’m gonna try it,” and it f—— worked, and my whole life changed forever, and I’ve been living my dream. It’s amazing.

    buzz: So let’s talk about some of your music. So recently, you released “The Story of Hugo,” which is a prequel to “For Abby.” And with that, why did you decide, “There needs to be another piece to the story”? Or is that something you had known that you were going to do?

    JS: No, I don’t think I decided, I think it just came. I finished it, “For Abby,” that is, and then there’s contracts, and it’s like the behind the scenes is like, “All right, now we did this. Now, it’s time for the record,” cause, you know, you’re under a contract. I didn’t feel like it was time for the record. I felt like there were still things I wanted to say in the universe that I created. There were still stories I wanted to tell. In my last project, I told the story of two people’s love, but I didn’t talk about the people, so I wanted to like give the dude a name, kind of tell the story of him. Right now, I feel fulfilled to now put out a record. I feel good about it.

    buzz: That’s really interesting. I think sometimes you forget, like as a listener, I forget that there’s a lot of thought that kind of goes into those songs and I mean you guys are storytellers, as well as songwriters, so I think that’s a big part of it.

    JS: That’s what makes it fun.

    buzz: I also want to ask about anything you’re working on that you can maybe tell me about that fans might be able to look forward to.

    JS: Totally. So, I just put out an EP. I want to give people time to listen to that. The next step is putting out a record. Yeah, I don’t know when. Soon, later, this year, next year, but I’m putting out a record. It’s my major label record debut where it’s actually called like an album legally by contract, so it’s a big deal. Everything is projects and EPs.

    buzz: And then I have to ask about “Honeypie,” which has been a huge song and became super successful.

    JS: It changed my life.

    buzz: You played it twice today.

    JS: I did.

    buzz: What do you think of it is about that song that really made it take off or that people really liked about it?

    JS: I don’t have a f—— clue. I don’t know what happened. I just, I was a cook, and I put it out. I mean I had some momentum before. I had songs that were doing okay, like a million or 900,000 or 800,000 (streams), but that one just organically went. I don’t know what happened. People started making TikToks, and then that did like a slow burn and went like kind of big on TikTok. And then, since that momentum was there, and that snowball was rolling, once we dropped the music video, it just, the music video went viral and exploded. Nothing’s really been the same since. Life changed.

    buzz: What’s it like seeing that happening, seeing it take off so slowly, and then all of a sudden there’s this huge spike?

    JS: It’s weird because, you know, like you said, you never really think about it as a listener, but as an artist, you make a song, and once it’s out, it’s not yours anymore. For me, it meant something to me, and I made it, and it meant something, like my perspective of it is completely different than everyone’s. Once it was released and they took it and ran with it that it like, it’s the world’s song now, you know? So, it’s just weird, very weird, something that you made alone by yourself, and now people in other countries like know the words, like it, just last week was like in the top viral charts in like Thailand and stuff, like that’s insane, you know? It’s nuts.

    buzz: And then, who are you looking forward to seeing today?

    JS: Tyler, the Creator. That’s my main goal today. And I’ve been waiting since I was 14 to see him live, so I’m really stoked.

    Check out our review of JAWNY’s Lollapalooza performance here.

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    About the Contributor
    Carolina Garibay, buzz Editor
    Greetings! I'm Carolina, and I'm a junior studying journalism with minors in public relations, Spanish and psychology. I've been writing for buzz since my freshman year, and I'm so excited to be buzz editor and further explore all that the CU community has to offer. I love to write about cool people, music, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, so if any of these interest you, drop me an email! Be sure to check out our radio show, "What's the buzz?" on WPGU 107.1! [email protected]
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