The six-string successors of country music are tuning up, and it's Jonny Fritz's turn at the mic. Contrary to the country charlatans who purport the genre today, some authentic performers are releasing compelling work free of the recycled cliches that pervade contemporary country music.
“This new generation is here,” says Jonny Fritz. “It’s been a long time coming.” Despite garnering fans, success and a record deal, he stands as somewhat of an anomaly. Fritz is a self-described sweet creep, a man of extremes and a bit neurotic. He’d rather run six miles and zone out in the cereal aisle than drink at a bar. “I hate bars,” he declares. Fritz also hates penning lyrics with subject matter like whiskey, trucks, a girl, or daisy dukes. “That stuff just hits below the belt for me.”
His eccentric songs are an insider's take of an outsider’s life. Fritz's tunes tell the stories of unglamorous characters in inescapable situations. In “Goodbye Summer,” Fritz shares a snapshot of van life.
“Cigarette butts in a coffee cup/Can someone please call my phone/Can we swing by a CVS/I left my contact solution at home,” Fritz sings.
Fritz spoke with Trapper Schoepp about bringing a new narrative to an old sound, leather working and the name he used to go by, Jonny Corndawg. “I wanted to be recognized as a songwriter instead of a cartoon character,” he says.
Fritz also discussed his biggest problem: Nobody takes him seriously. Even when performing his darkest song - “Have You Ever Wanted To Die?” – he says audiences misconstrue humor in it. “I try to prepare people, this is sad, please don’t laugh at me and then people laugh.”
Though the line between humor and seriousness is blurry in Fritz's material, it’s one of his strong points as a writer. He's at times misunderstood like his hero Roger Miller (also a former outsider from the Nashville establishment), but careful listeners won’t mistake Fritz’s craftsmanship for goofy, novelty songwriting. The humor in songs like “Fever Dreams” has more to do with the atypical subject matter than the actual lyrics: "Hocking up green gobs/Living on cough drops/Sweating myself to sleep."
It’s clear that Fritz has done some hard traveling, but he’s had some big breaks since he started touring at age seventeen.
Jackson Browne was in attendance at a Fritz concert in LA and invited him to record at his studio the next week.
“Jonny, this is Jackson Browne. You can use the studio next week but I can only give you Monday to Thursday cause Bob Dylan is coming in on Friday,” Fritz recounts of the phone call that led to the recording of his latest album, Dad Country. His response to Browne: “Well four days, man, we’ll make it happen.”
Fritz, with Dawes as a backing band, cut 14 songs in 4 days at Jackson Browne’s LA studio.
His brand of songwriting in notable in the refrain of “Stadium Inn," a song in which each verse brings light to the hidden lives of guests in a Nashville hotel. “You can see right through the windows of the Stadium Inn,” Fritz sings in a shaky tenor voice.
The secrets of Fritz’s characters are in plain sight. He’s just looking harder than the rest of us.
Fritz performed the following:
1. “Goodbye Summer”
2. “Stadium Inn”
3. “Have You Ever Wanted To Die?
4. “Fever Dreams”
For Jonny Fritz tour dates, music and rumors visit: http://jonnyfritz.com/