Song by song, Jonny Meyers is catching up with the traditions left quietly behind in his native Forest Hills – the small hub of Queens, which provided the breeding grounds for legendary songwriters like Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, and the founding members of The Ramones. Meyers’s catalogue to date is a careful blend of romance and consciousness that reflects the lyrical, topical, and raw emotional traces of his predecessors.
While coming up as a guitar player in New York, it was not until a nine-year stint in Austin, Texas that Jonny Meyers started to be recognized for his compositions. After joining The Stingers in 1998, Jonny quickly became the principal songwriter and bandleader and in just a few years they catapulted from Austin onto the international scene, becoming one of the top traditional ska groups known throughout the world. The Stingers have released three full length CDs and four EPs to date, and have completed four European tours, backing pioneering Jamaican singers such as Laurel Aitken and Doreen Shaffer, and various regional tours throughout the United States.
In 2002 Jonny formed RokkaTone, a mixed bag of Austin musicians wielding acoustic instruments that one might find in a Caribbean street band. RokkaTone’s curious mix of Jamaican and North American roots music were the perfect match for a shift in his songwriting, each inventively highlighting the other. In This Life hit the streets in 2006 and received positive responses. “His 13 originals boast an ease with the form straight out of Studio One” exclaims Raoul Hernandez, music editor of the Austin Chronicle.
Jonny’s stint in Austin ended in and he returned home. Not long after he teamed up with Kevin Batchelor (trumpet, voice of The Skatalites), and crafted new ska tunes inside a Bronx apartment along the Grand Concourse. Once they were backed by a band of veteran players, they called the project Kevin Batchelor’s Grand Concourse. They released their self-titled LP in 2011 and continue to work in and around New York City. Alongside this project, Jonny also formed a solo project simply called Jonny Meyers & the Trio. In this group, Jonny turns to the blues, soul and country sounds that are at the root of all the reggae and ska songs he’s written for other projects. Jonny & the Trio hit the studio in 2013 to record Jonny’s first proper solo record “Somewhere You’ve Been.” The album will be released on October 24, 2014.
By day, you can find Jonny teaching music to elementary school students in Jamaica, Queens, where he has helped form a program that aligns studies in music with the general academic curriculum. By night, you can find Jonny hustling gigs as a solo performer, bandleader or sideman in various projects. All the time, you will find Jonny exploring New York in any capacity, searching for traces of inspiration for songs that reflect the legacy of his neighborhood heroes.