“I wanna go west, and when my dreams die, at least I fell in love, and that’s good enough for this type of guy,” Jonny Shane sings on “West,” the opening track of the album which he’s releasing under the name Modern Love Child. The lyric explains a bit of Jonny’s story: he actually did pack up his car and drive from his native Connecticut to California in search of making his musical dreams a reality. It also offers insight into his way of thinking: a laid-back type whose music examines both the dreamier parts of life and the more melancholy episodes just the same. He’s also somewhat of a romantic at heart.
Modern Love Child’s shimmering and robust brand of indie-pop would be a fitting soundtrack for a quintessential drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. Sonically, the bright, vibrant arrangements are another clue into the person behind it all.
“Not only is he a great songwriter and artist, he's one of the most joyous and positive people I’ve ever met,” producer Charlie Russell says. “I love what Jonny's about, I love the confidence he has in himself, I love how he positively affects the people around him, and I especially love the album he’s made.”
While the inspirations behind each of his songs vary, they’re all, in part, due to an adolescent friendship formed on the foundation of shared musical interests and a love of The Pixies and Built to Spill. Jonny purchased his first electric guitar in middle school, on the insistence of childhood friend Greg Hillman. The two played in bands together throughout high school and planned to make the move cross country. After Greg tragically took his own life when the two went off to college, the only thing left for Jonny to do was fulfill his teenage promise, and drive to LA.
“All of my songs have a story, but ‘West’ is the one that started it all,” Jonny says. “If I never drove my car to LA, who knows what I would be doing.”
By 2012, Jonny had acclimated to his new hometown and was enamored with Venice Beach -- his days included strict adherence to a lifestyle of surfing when he wanted, working an unfulfilling job when necessary and making music whenever possible. He formed the band Blue Blazer, a quintet that became a local favorite up and down the Sunset Strip. After they called it quits in 2015, Jonny began exploring a more autobiographical way of writing that confronted his conflicted upbringing, comparing the glossy life of the one percent on the eastern seaboard with his dad’s teachings of humility and hard work. And thus, Modern Love Child was born.
In 2016, Jonny left behind his life in LA for London, sleeping on a cousin’s couch and recording new versions of previous projects in the wee hours when he could find affordable studio time. Eventually, he landed back in Connecticut -- his return to the East Coast allowed him to spend some time with his family, and his father, who was battling Stage IV cancer.
“As the way the world and timing happens, I got to spend a lot of time at home with my dad. And he was in the process of going through chemotherapy.”
His father, Jonny jokes, probably had the same U2 CD in the car for the past 15 years, probably because his mom liked it and so it stayed. He was a former football player, who moved on to supporting his family, commuting the hour into New York City each day for work.
“He wasn’t even a music person at all… he wasn’t really artistic at all. It’s kind of like when you have envy for someone who can do something that’s completely out of your realm. I think you appreciate it; there are certain things about my dad that I appreciated about him that weren’t in my DNA. The whole music thing and the creative writing stuff that I got, I didn’t get that from him and I think he really appreciated it, and I think that’s why he was so supportive.”
After a couple of chance encounters with indie icon Ben Kweller in 2017 -- one in Venice Beach, and yet another when Jonny was back east visiting his folks -- the two began to explore what they might make of their cosmic connection.
“I kept running into Jonny in the most random places,” Kweller says. “It was like the universe was speaking to us. As soon as Jonny sent me those original work tapes, it was clear what the universe was trying to say.”
Within a month, Jonny was making plans to visit Kweller’s Austin-area ranch. The two worked tirelessly to write and record demos of what would become Modern Love Child’s eponymous debut.
“I learned how to write songs by listening to his records,” Jonny says. “He was one of my favorite artists growing up, so the whole thing freaked me out in the best possible way.”
Several of album’s ten tracks examine various stages of love -- “Golden Brown” presents a daydream of sorts about living a simpler life; “Pictures of the Moon” discusses a beauty that’s hard to conceptualize; “Sweet Like Me” offers an opportunity to catch up with an old flame; “Just For Kids” simplifies love back to a time when it was much less complicated. Others tackle the idea of fitting in -- and the times when that feels hard to grasp. “In A City” focuses on the Big Apple and all the anxieties its fast-paced environment can breed; “Stay Young” examines how hard growing up can feel after a few too many beers. The album also features “Ali,” a song Jonny’s friend Greg wrote.
After a year in Connecticut, Jonny returned to London to record his album, far away from the beachy atmosphere it’s inspired by. He enlisted acclaimed producer/mixer, Charlie Russell (Alt-J, Passenger, OK Go) to record the final product.
“I never would have dreamed I would go to London to record an album,” Jonny says. “It’s a special place for me because the music community embraced me early on when I had nothing going on.”
The two worked with a talented group of musicians to record the album over a few months’ time.
“I have major respect for Charlie because he knows how to centre me in the studio and has this overall, rad way with sonics and making a track pop out of the speakers.”
After he was finished recording, Jonny returned back to LA -- as he turned his phone back on from airplane mode, he had a text from his mom saying that his dad had a stroke, and he needed to come home. He flew, the same day, back to Connecticut to visit his father, and was able to play him some of the songs from the album.
“The one side of his brain was semi-functioning, the side that understands feelings and emotions. We got to say our goodbyes and tell him we loved him over and over. And I brought in the music that I had been recording in London and played it for him. What was really cool, before I left for London the second time, to go start making the album, that was my last proper goodbye. He really loved the fact that I was doing something that I genuinely loved and that made me happy.”
Modern Love Child’s debut album is set for release in October 2019, via Believe Music.