JP Corwyn

How could you be so blind? You haven’t heard of JP Corwyn? You haven’t seen him live? You haven’t heard his music? How embarrassing for you. Really, though. It’s ok. You’re in the right place. For JP, the rationale for the blind jokes is, well, reasonable. He is legally blind. Born with a degenerative condition, he has been legally blind since birth, with the shades pulling ever tighter throughout his as-yet-brief-but-potent life. This makes his genre tag of Blind Indie Rock make more sense. Otherwise, he’d just be sort of pretentious and snarky, but not in the fun depraved sit-com way. Corwyn’s vocal-driven indie rock style is infectious, reminiscent of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Glen Phillips co-writing songs with Angie Aparo that get snatched by Adam Levine of Maroon 5, with occasional stomps into Creed and Pearl Jam-esque electric anthem territory.

Once and always a New Yorker, Corwyn was born on Long Island, and now makes his home and home base in Seminole, Florida after spending several post-high school years in Washington, D.C. He sang before he spoke and declared his musical vocation when he was 5 years old. His family was thrilled. (/sarcasm) Their reticence would have been justified if JP’s musical talent and gift for genuine emotional connection had not been so pronounced. His desire to draw a crowd and love of the electricity found in the performance experience is a through-line in his success, as is his love of story. Story is king in Corwyn’s music. Story telling is more important than a clever lyric, and true listening is more important than feet tapping. Most often, the story is of triumph, survival, some form of powering through, and, during conversation, the inevitable: blind jokes. The really offensive, really funny ones.

On vocals and acoustic guitar, Corwyn has helmed an EP and two full-length albums thus far in his career. Original songs + story focus + Multi-platinum Producer Michael Seifert = YAY! That’s the formula that has called forth the full-length albums In Plain Sight in 2006 and The White Cane Conspiracy, which is releasing in January 2011. Both records find JP feeling akin to hero/heinous drunk Jeff Buckley, in that, “I never wanted to be a solo artist, but I could never find the band I wanted to be a part of. So I became a solo artist and ended up finding the band I’d always wanted to join.” In Plain Sight is an expansion of his 4-song EP debut, and gave him his first real opportunity to go full-tilt band and balls on previously tender coffee house tunes. His courage and vision seriously enriched his relationship with his fans, giving them the fullness of sound that they had been waiting for and returning to him the wave of their recognition after which he had lusted.

High on the tide but hungry for more, Corwyn has moved his studio vision forward into The White Cane Conspiracy. Due out January 4, 2011, The White Cane Conspiracy is a thematic play on his lack of obviously blind traits. He doesn’t use a white cane. He doesn’t walk into walls, as a rule. He doesn’t even rattle a coffee cup for change while riding on subways. Really, he’s quite delinquent as a blind cliché, and thus the smirk and the slice of this album’s themes were born. Working again with Michael Seifert, the pals grounded JP’s sound more firmly in the acoustic side of indie rock and affirmed the greater maturity of the songwriting. With a richness of subtlety and elegance in the production, Corwyn’s soaring; clarion voice has been given ample room to shine through. The first piece of the Conspiracy unfolds in the November 2010 release of the lead single “Find a Reason.” Prepare to have your eyes opened. (/pun).

JP Corwyn isn’t quite “Stevie Wonder blind”, or “Ronnie Milsap blind”. But then, those icons would have made music regardless of what their eyes were capable of. Maybe they did it a little better than those who can see; maybe their intuition is stronger and their sense of the click-click-clicking of the world around them is more keen. JP Corwyn makes excellent music, of which you should really be aware, without his eyes, and with his hands, and with his mouth, and with his mind, and his hips, and his spine, and his legs and fingers and toes and nerves.

Yep, he’s blind. But he’s hardly unaware. So why should you be?

How do you describe your music to people?
Blind Indie Rock.

When they laugh and think they get it/the joke, or flat out ask me what I'm on about, I tell them.

Put Shine Down and Angie Aparo in the back of a tour bus, writing music.  Give Stevie Wonder the keys, and let him drive, while singing harmony.  Hold a note.  God loves Stevie, so nobody will die.  That's my sound.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I think my first word was probably "la".  I've been either in the industry, or trying to GET into the industry for as long as I can remember.

At 12 I was answering ads for bands auditioning new lead singers - they thought I was a girl over the phone - they were disappointed.  So was I, since they wouldn't even give me an audition, once they found that out.

I don't know, man.  This was just "in me" from a ridiculously early age.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Honestly? To hold a note suspended in the air in front of a crowd.  A bit specific, I suppose, but there it is.

I love to sing.  Everything else I do is a means to that end - the instruments I play, the lyrics I write, the promotion I do, the practice, etc.  I love to sing.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
How right you are to call it a business.  So many people don't get that.

I can't stress how much I HATE playing this card, especially so early in the interview, but it's being blind - well, legally anyway.

I miss opportunites, not simply from the "I don't drive" perspective, but in other key ways.

A friend once told me I should move to NYC because you never know who you'll meet. I responded something along these lines.

"Think of it this way, Joe:  I could get into an in-depth, very organic conversation about music, politics, video games (yeah, I play them, if I can actually see them), or women, with some cat for an hour at the bar, over beer.  Time would pass, and Edie would get up and leave, shaking my hand and saying something like "see ya around, man".  You, Joe, would run over to me crazy excited, wanting to know what we'd talked about.  When I gave you the blank look and shrugged it off as "Kinda everything" you might think it a good time to roll your eyes and ask what he was like: Mr Vedder, that is.  Unless he introduced himself by full name to me, I'd have no IDEA it was him.  I never get to SEE that Tim McGraw is sitting two tables away, or Senator Arlin Specter just walked by.  Moving to a new place won't get me around that."

Don't for one second think I'm whining about it - but you asked.  That's likely the hardest part of doing business for me.  I don't have a seeing eye human on retainer ...yet.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I dabbled with the idea of being an Engineer, a Lawyer, and so forth, but honestly, I'm doing it now - I think I sang before I spoke.  I declared my vocation to mums and daums at the ripe old age of 5 - THAT went over big.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I'm lucky- I was born in NY, out on Long Island.  Once a New Yorker, Always a New Yorker.  You don't automatically grow up  'hard' in NY, but you  do grow up faairly tough.  You learn to get your ass back up and go again, if you REALLY want something.  You also learn to be a wise ass.  Well, not so much a thing you learn, I suppose - rather a genetic disposition, but you get the idea.

Time in Florida sweetened me a bit, I think - plus I got to work on a ranch for years, which didn't suck.  I miss riding - can't do it anymore.

DC kinda balanced me out, I think.  I did shows from there, up to NYC and down to O-town in Florida, the seat of power for the mouse's Kingdom.

Look, anything can have an, and in fact DOES have an impact on you when you experience it - from a minor one from saying hello to someone in the hall at work, to ones that shake everything you are - like meeting someone for the first time, but knowing you've met them before.  Major ones?  I think that should cover it, for starters.

What other artists out there do you love?
Angie Aparo, Tim McGraw, Athlete, Damien Rice, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Dream Theater, Phil Vassar, LP, Toad and what I've heard of Glen's solo stuff, I miss Chalk Farm, actually, Pearl Jam, Shine Down, Eminem, BB King, Marcus Miller, Deathklok(can't help it, the show's funny and the music's amazing), Lala Hathaway, Metaphor, Ice T, Brandon Heath, tons of Classical composers...

Look, I could do this all day.  I'm a musician - I love music.  There's good in each and every style and Genre - sure, sometimes you have to look harder than others for that spark, but it's always there, in my experience.

What does your future hold?

Short-term?  New disc drops on 1/4, which I'm stoked about.  Got to work with Michael Seifert again, which NEVER sucks.

After that?  If there's support for it, from the fans, that is, I'll tour.  I may end up doing it with just a driver and a guitar, but that's how I write anyway, so things should translate well enough.  I'm currently working with Ariel Publicity and Cyber PR, so I've started to see a great deal of movement in the blog and podcast community, which is very gratifying.  I'm with Don Draper for this one, "I have a life, and it only moves in one direction - forward."