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Interview: EDEN on his debut album, 'vertigo'.

Interview: EDEN on his debut album, 'vertigo'.

In person, the man behind the glistening, hazy dream-pop of EDEN is softly-spoken Irishman Jonathon Ng. Building on over a decade-and-a-half of songwriting experience, the 22-year-old’s debut album ‘vertigo’ dropped on January 19th. It’s a carefully crafted collection of songs that track Ng’s life and growth through the period of its creation, blending his distinctive vocal with lo-fi samples and crashing waves of synths.

We chatted to EDEN in London a week before release day, exploring the key themes and technical aspects of his emotional debut record over tiny hot chocolates.

I love making songs. Everything else is extra. If I could only have one part of it, let me just keep creating music. Live shows are great, but I didn’t start live shows until a couple of years ago, and I’ve been writing music for 16 years. It’s something I could never live without.

COUP DE MAIN: Last time we interviewed you over the phone two years ago you weren’t even sure when people would be hearing a debut album from you - and now we’re just a week out from its release! It must’ve been such a big year for you last year, finishing the album?
EDEN: It’s been a journey, for sure. I hadn’t written the whole album before the Summer, and then in between various festival performances I was trying to finish the album; tweaking different sounds, mixing and mastering and shit! Then it was done. Since then, it’s just been prep work – making music videos, organising a bunch of things, making a new live show! It’s been really cool. I haven’t really had a chance to slow down, but in a good way.

CDM: ‘wrong’ is a really powerful way to start ‘vertigo’ - was utilising just your vocals alone important to do for this first track?
EDEN: It wasn’t really something I had planned. I just had an idea randomly for that opening – it was an idea I’d come up with on piano, and then I was like, “Oh, it’s got to be just voice.” I sang the main line and then sang all the harmonies and was like, “This should be the first track on the album.” I don’t know why, but once it was done it just had to be.

CDM: I really love in your statement about this album you said, “This album is not a coming-of-age story, but it caused one.” Why was the coming-of-age narrative so important to you, and how did the creation of your album tie in to that?
EDEN: I think it’s because of my obsession with film. A lot of my favourite movies are coming-of-age films, so I almost expected that I would try to make a coming-of-age story in the album. The album process – from thinking about making it to actually starting to make it – took years. The oldest song on the album is three years old. It’s been such a long process. The album is not a coming-of-age story; it’s about the things I went through in my life. I’ve grown up a lot, which feels nice.

CDM: Is there a song on ‘vertigo’ that you think best defines EDEN at this point in time?
EDEN: Right this second? Probably 'forever over’.

MY FAVOURITE SONG ON ‘VERTIGO’…

CDM: ‘wings’ and the end of ‘lover’ (like the ‘Lost In Translation' excerpt in ‘rock + roll’’) has an audio sample - how does the process of choosing these recordings occur for your songs?
EDEN: I used to sample various conversations, and recently, like in the background of ‘start end’ there’s wind noise. I love those sounds! If I thought it was cool, I’d get my phone and record it. My bedroom studio in my parents’ house is in the attic, so we have one of those skylights. When you kind of open it, and it’s windy, the blinds rattle. I was recording that. Similarly in ‘float’ there’s a sample of my Mum talking to me. We were driving to my Granny’s house for dinner. I was stressed out about something – I don’t remember what – and we were stuck in traffic, and an ambulance was coming the other way. I thought it would be cool if I recorded [the ambulance], and it would sound wicked as the sound goes up and goes past. I’m recording the ambulance going past, and Mum just finishes the conversation. She’s like, “There you go Jonathon, that’s another problem solved.” I started making ‘float’ and it just fit. I’ve always used audio notes and samples like that to expand on the feeling of the song.

CDM: I love that that’s so tied to your home and your family.
EDEN: Yeah! That’s the thing about this album – [the voice notes] are all so personal. The ones in ‘forever over’ I was recording again in the attic room. Some of the synths and stuff I had were kind of humming. It was a nice little noise I thought could be a texture in the background. I started having a conversation and was too awkward to be like, “Sorry, let me pause this!” 'Cuz then they’re going to be like, “Why were you recording in the first place?!” I just recorded the whole thing and used one or two of the sentences – I asked them for permission!

CDM: Songs like ‘lost//found’ which are purely acoustic really contrast to the more electronically produced songs on the album. How did you balance that juxtaposition - did some songs lend themselves to that more stripped back feeling more than others?
EDEN: ‘lost//found’ is literally a phone recording! The amount of songs on this album that started off as 30-second voice notes is crazy. That’s from February 2015. I was sitting in my attic room, feeling really down about whatever, and it was a weird freestyle that I just came up with. A few days later I tried it again – there’s still some mistakes [in the original] when I’m playing it, ‘cause I’m trying to figure out how the song goes – but I re-recorded it, and I did record it properly, but nothing ever had the same energy as those original ones, so I just kept it. You can hear a plane in the background. It’s a personal song, and it just felt right.

CDM: Did finishing the album help you come to terms with certain things that the album deals with?
EDEN: For me, writing is a way of figuring things out. Whatever I’ve been thinking about that’s been in the back of my head – the good and the bad – it’s always a good way to come to terms with things in life. It can almost be a way to untangle things, when you’re writing.

CDM: You made the album entirely by yourself. Do you consider yourself a perfectionist when it comes to working on your music?
EDEN: Yeah - I didn’t want other people to touch it! We tried it once, my management or label were like, “Yeah, just try it, we’ll have someone else mix it.” I was just like, “Nope, don’t like it!”

HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE RELEASE OF ‘VERTIGO’…

CDM: How do you decide when to stop working on a song, and that it’s reached completion?
EDEN: ‘start end’ was the key to figuring out a really solid direction for the album sonically. I finished that song in March, and I didn’t touch it until randomly in May I was like, “It’s ready.” I hadn’t changed a sound or a second of it, it just then felt ready. It’s to do with letting go, and being accepting of the way it is. I know some people can get stuck in a loop, and never feel like it’s finished. I don’t really get that, thankfully.

CDM: We saw you live last year at Governor’s Ball in New York, and it was really cool that it was just you performing live. Have you thought about adding a band to your live performance at all, or is it important for it just to be you?
EDEN: That’s actually what we’re changing going forwards! This new tour I’m really excited for, because we’re completely changing the show. It’s an exciting blank canvas to be able to present something really cool to people. At the start it was important [to perform alone], because if I had to get musicians to play things the way I wanted them to it would be added stress and things to go wrong, on top of me being able to do things the way I wanted to. I designed the live show to be able to just be me hitting buttons or playing guitar – a one-man show.

CDM: We’re a New Zealand-based magazine - can we expect to see you in New Zealand in the future as part of a tour?
EDEN: Hopefully! There’s a few things behind the scenes that I can’t say, but I’m really excited. I’ve never been and I’m dying to go!

HOW I FEEL ABOUT NEW ZEALAND…

CDM: Your life as a touring artist has been really great to see - you notably haven’t done any support slots for other artists, which is quite a common thing for up-and-coming artists. Has it been important to foster your very own fanbase, rather than kind of hitchhiking off other fanbases?
EDEN: The biggest thing for me is that I wanted to present a cool show and do things our way. From day one, even when we were playing in rooms that fit like 200 people, we were bringing lighting rigs and stuff. A lot of people who were running the venues were like, “We’ve never seen light like this in this room!” Not even in a funny way – asking us if we’re insane, blinding people. I just really wanted to put on a cool show that people could go to and have a form of escapism, or be transported for a second, or an hour, or however long I play. [I wanted] to have it feel a little more substantial than just me playing songs.

CDM: Speaking of touring, how do you decide the acts you take on tour? Elohim is so rad, it’s awesome you had her.
EDEN: That was a funny thing, because someone who works at my manager’s office turned me onto her music. She does really cool tech stuff – she had a website where you had to tap to the beat of the song for the song to play, and she does stuff like livestreams but it’s all old school VHS cameras. That initially drew me in. I was really digging the music and I was like, “Hey, do you want to come on tour?” Thankfully it just lined up! It was really fun and she was great – her music is really, really cool.

CDM: You’ve got a massive name in the form of your manager Scooter Braun – how did that come about?
EDEN: I work with Michael [Ross George, of Scooter Braun Projects] mostly. I guess they’re, like, business partners. I’ve met Scooter and Scooter’s always asking if he can help and we’re like, "No, we’re alright!” The first time I talked to Mike about any music he was like, “Look, I really love the music and I’d really like to manage you or just be involved in any way I can.” I said, “I don’t think I want to have a management team or a label for at least six months, if not a year.” Fast-forward a few months, and I was neck-deep in so much industry stuff. That conversation I had with him, I was just sitting around in my house, and then suddenly I was having so many meetings, and I was like, “Okay…!”

CDM: Have you started working on the visuals for the ‘vertigo’ world tour?
EDEN: Yes! I had this idea that I really wanted to do, but it’s just too expensive to pull off. We took away one element and we’re swapping it round, trying to figure it out. It should be really, really cool. It’s completely different, and I think it’s going to be quite a unique show. I can’t wait.

THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ‘TAKE CARE’ OF IN LIFE IS…

CDM: In your video you released on New Year's which kind of deals with the past year of your life, you talk about the importance of self-care, especially in terms of the live shows. “I forgot to make sure that I enjoyed it.” Is playing shows something that you do enjoy doing? Do you just have to approach it in a certain way to make sure that you are looking after yourself?
EDEN: I definitely enjoy playing shows. Every second that I’m onstage is really fun, but the way I was approaching the shows, the way I thought about them, was just not good for me. Slowly, over a year-and-a-half of touring, I’ve figured that out. If I want to walk around onstage and just look at the floor and sing, I can do that. I used to feel that I had to be entertaining every second, and be doing something interesting. It took a while to remember that I need to enjoy myself as well. Now I love it, and I’m so pumped for the new show. It’s really exciting.

CDM: What parts of EDEN are most rewarding for you?
EDEN: It’s got to be making the songs. That’s the reason I do this, because I love making songs. Everything else is extra. If I could only have one part of it, let me just keep creating music. Live shows are great, but I didn’t start live shows until a couple of years ago, and I’ve been writing music for 16 years. It’s something I could never live without.

CDM: You were one of our 2017 must-know artists, and we’re working on our 2018 lists at the moment - so who are your must-know artists for 2018?
EDEN: I’ve been kind of obsessed with SZA since the first singles from ‘CTRL’ started coming out. Troye Sivan’s new single is dope – I’m really curious to see where his new project goes. There’s definitely some people I’d love to talk about and I just can’t remember right now.

DEAR NEW ZEALAND:

EDEN’s debut album ‘vertigo’ is out now - click here to purchase.

Watch the ‘float’ music video below…

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