It’s not often that redundancy sparks a rise to musical fame, but in the case of newly established acoustic folk star, Jonah Maddox it was the catalyst he needed to not only push his dream but to actually make it happen.
Two years on he has released his own album with the help of producer and former fiddler from Dexy’s Midnight Runners, received verbal recognition from none other than The Levellers and secured a slot at next year’s Glastonbury.
Add to this the request to perform at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s, a recent performance on BBC Introducing and you’re somewhere close to gaging this talent’s growth over the last 6-8 months.
But what does the next 6 months have in store? caught up with Jonah at one of his favourite bars in Hoxton to talk musical influences, meeting his idols and the new album 'Together We Are Taller'.

Music-News: Talk me through your thoughts and the creative process behind the debut album - Together We Are Taller.

Jonah: I’ve been playing in bands for the last 10 years and was made redundant two years ago. Faced with the pending doom of no work, I asked a renovator in our office if he needed a labourer. It was actually while working in Brighton as a builder that I came into contact with a guy who was also a musician and worked with the then fiddler from Dexy’s Midnight Runners. He was recording his own solo album and I guess it prompted me to move forward with my own material. I’d been writing since I was 8, not that any of that material appears on the album, so I had plenty of lyrics to work with. I used my redundancy time to start recording some of the songs I recorded.

MN: How long did it take to bring the debut album together?

Jonah: I aimed for a year but it took approx 18 months in total. I’d never released anything on my own previously. Digital stuff happens so quickly and I learnt so much during the process as despite studying music, there is a hell of a lot more to producing and marketing an album than you initially think.

MN: Your musical set-up is pretty unique, tell us more about how it works?

Jonah: It’s a bit like one big jam. Having been in bands, it was always hugely annoying and problematic when somebody, say the drummer or bass guitarist couldn’t make a gig. As a result, I made a decision to work with a number of musicians and have developed a network if you like, to ensure there is always someone available. I’ve also had people approach me directly to play with us, so it’s worked really well. It means that if someone, say a violinist or cello player can’t make a gig at the last hour for whatever reason, we have a back-up. It works really well and it also makes for a more interesting performance as you get to work with so many different and talented people. I hope to build on this even more.

MN: Is there an underlining theme to this album, and if so what is it?

Jonah: Yes it’s supposed to be an optimistic album, about setting your mind on what you want to do and ultimately achieving it. I’m 27 now and I’ve reached an age where suddenly things start to matter. All of a sudden a girlfriend is for life and being made redundant actually matters. I think this album addresses a stage I know I and many people in their mid to late 20’s are going through, a kind of revelation if you like, that time is in fact ticking. It’s about making things happen and taking the journey you want to take to achieve your goals and ultimately be where you want to be.

MN: Which track on the album are you most proud of and why?

Jonah: ‘Pandas Fighting‘, is the track I am most proud of technically, it’s also a very honest song that is not drowned in metaphor. ‘Sad Soul Can Kill Quicker Than A Germ’ is one I‘m equally as pleased with but for different reasons. It’s about a family member who was ill and I played it to other members of the family who actually cried when they listened to it, so I think I really hit the nail on the head with that one.

MN: Who are your biggest influences of past and present?

Jonah: The Levellers are one of my biggest influences, I absolutely love them. They’re approach is totally DIY, which is what I am aiming for and own their own label. I really respect them for that and also for the music they make. The previous band I was in actually recorded in their old studios and I was fortunate enough to meet Simon Friend in the toilets at a gig I played, he said he enjoyed my set. It was all a bit surreal at the time and it wasn’t until I left the toilet that I realised who he was as his hair had grown a fair bit since I last saw them perform. He gave me tickets to one of his gigs, it was amazing.

I also love The Clash and Billy Bragg, I do still enjoy and listen to a lot of old and fairly new punk. I also like John Martyn and grew up listening to Bob Dylan. In terms of contemporary music, I love Mumford and Sons and also Ben Howard, an unsigned artist who I listen to quite a bit. I’m a sucker for new material and recently bought the Coco Lovers.

MN: There are whispers of you playing at next year’s Glastonbury. Are they true? Tell us more…

Jonah: Yes. Lloyd William who is my former boss and a member of the band, Autumn Red who actually supported me recently, set it up. I got a call from him just weeks ago saying he’d organised it and we are confirmed to play on the Small World Stage next year. It’s brilliant. I’ve never even been to Glastonbury, so I’m really excited.

MN: If you could collaborate with anyone in the current musical world, who would it be and why?

Jonah: The Levellers, because I love and really respect them. It would also be interesting to play with the Cinematic Orchestra who as many will know are ambient with touches of electro as oppose to dance. My original aim with the album was to work with a producer as I thought this would give a new feel to my work. I’d like to work with countless female artists, but those that spring to mind first are Ellie Goulding, I think she is amazing acoustically, Also, Martha Tilston, Lau (winners of Radio 2’s Folk Best Group Award) and finally Andy McKee who is a guitar virtuoso.

MN: You seem to have had a busy 6-8 months thus far, what’s next for Jonah Maddox?

Jonah: Lots more gigs in and around London and we are also starting work on a music video for one of the tracks on the album, which is going to be so much fun. The team behind it are incredibly talented and have already worked with Jamie T, Plan B and Calvin Harris. They are an incredibly creative bunch and I cannot wait to start working with them.

WIN! Jonah Maddox is offering 50 lucky readers the chance to win a copy of his debut album 'Together We Are Taller'. To get in on this fantastic giveaway simply email WIN to detailing your name and address.

Photo: Harriet Armstrong