Solo-acoustic artist Jonas Lewis-Anthony, who goes by the name “Wendigo Jo”, is no stranger to the ups and downs of being a musician trying to “make it” in the business.
That doesn’t stop him, however, from persevering and often thriving in the Kingston music scene.
“Whether it’s to five people or 500 people, you have to play every show like you’re playing to a stadium,” he said.
Born and raised in England, Jonas made the decision to move to Kingston permanently in 2013 after falling in love with the city in 2012, when Lewis-Anthony and his band The Four Roads performed at the annual Buskers Fest.
When asked about the reasoning behind his decision to move to Kingston permanently, Lewis-Anthony spoke of Kingston’s appreciation and celebration of the arts.
“I’d gone from busking back home and kind of being treated as a nuisance to coming here and music being celebrated a lot more,” he said. “The fact that there was even a festival for buskers, where we were treated like rock stars, was unbelievable. Busking is something that is accepted and celebrated here.”
Being on tour around Ontario and Quebec for the past three summers with his band The Four Roads, who mostly reside in England and the U.S. during the school year, has taught him a lot, he said.
“It’s one of the most fun experiences you can have. You need to learn that if you’re a small band and you’re touring, there aren’t going to be many people that come to your shows,” he said. “I feel like touring when you’re an up-and-coming band is more of a way to gain fans rather than a way to play to fans.”
With his powerful, gravelly voice, Lewis-Anthony’s performances at Musikki on Tuesdays and The Brooklyn every Friday command the attention of everyone in the room. This, coupled with influences such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Josh Ritter, makes Lewis-Anthony’s sound a refreshing change from other acoustic performances in Kingston.
The singer says being in a band and being a solo performer are two very different experiences.
“Being a solo performer is very different from being in a band, and can often be a little bit lonely,” he said. “But playing on my own gives me leeway to do whatever I want. It’s nice to know that you only have yourself to depend on.”
In May 2013, Lewis-Anthony released his EP The Island. This year, he’s looking to record a new album – one that he feels will be more inclusive of the songs he’s written and perfected over the past few years.
“I want something solid and have something to show for the work that I’ve done over the years,” he said. “It’s going to be more of a studio sound. I’ll be spending a lot of effort on instrumentation and arrangements – just to bulk it up.”
In order for Lewis-Anthony to fund his upcoming album, he’s started a kickstarter campaign.
Finally reaching some of the goals he’s had since the age of 12, Lewis-Anthony said there’s no better feeling than playing music.
“No drug and no amount of money can give me the feeling I get when I play music to people,” he said.
To donate to Lewis-Anthony’s campaign, visit Wendigo Jo.
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