“Jonny’s music is a kind of retro-nuevo, 70s/80s singer-songwriter, over some killer grooves, in a modern lens.” - Josh Rabinowitz, Brooklyn Music Experience
Jonny Meyers is a prodigal son of Queens, NY. Having grown up in Forest Hills - the midsection of Queens that spawned iconic American songwriters like Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, and The Ramones - he was always writing songs, either in his bedroom or for the bands he joined once he picked up his first guitar. It wasn’t long before he discovered the work of the songwriting legacies surrounding him. While a life in music took Jonny away from Queens, the borough never left his soul; now he’s back, and writing songs closer to the source.
Jonny’s life in music has already fulfilled many of the dreams he conjured up as a child. Early on, he realized that playing music could bring him closer to the legends he idolized, eventually playing shows with Bo Diddley and Wilson Pickett at age 19, and later backing Jamaican legends Laurel Aitken and Doreen Shaffer with his former band The Stingers ATX. Writing songs also took him out on the road, touring much of Europe, the US, and South America with his own material. His large catalog of original music received licensing attention when his song “Get Away” was placed in a major motion picture, The Long Weekend (Lionsgate, Gold Circle Films). Writing and recording all the while, to date he has eight full-length albums under his belt.
Looking over Jonny’s catalog is a lot like looking at the menu of your favorite comfort food joint - a recognizable array of go-to dishes, made into something new. His latest release, The Moment You Arrive (2021), jumps off as a culmination of the genres that have always informed his songwriting; blues, soul, rock, country, and Jamaican ska and reggae. With this record, Jonny brought in Michael TA Thompson to produce, pulling the songwriting and organic feel of The JMQ, his long standing band, to the forefront. The lyrical content explores a running theme of how music and life inform each other. For example, the album’s single, “Jubal,” celebrates the life of a friend, music maker and forever source of joy, while songs like “Inspiration” discuss the unpredictable coming of the muse. Other times, the groove takes center stage, especially in uplifting, horn driven songs like “Pretty Green Lights.” Moment is a carefully curated small menu; no guest musicians, just a true sense of gratitude from a band that loves playing together, especially following an unprecedented time apart due to COVID-19.
"On The Moment You Arrive Jonny Meyers pulls from soul, R&B, rock, reggae and even folk to create a record that sounds like what a young Elvis Costello may have made today - Elizabeth McQueen, Producer/Host KUTX Austin
A look into Jonny’s career reads like an advertisement for pursuing music. Beginning with thumbing through every record he could get a hold on, Jonny’s fascination with a music career exploded after he got his first guitar at age 13, soon after playing his first paid gig at 16. Jonny then worked on the New York City jam-band circuit, playing clubs like The Wetlands and Tramps with his band Blue Bones. Shortly after, Jonny made a fateful move to Austin, Texas, where it was easier to live as a musician. A chance encounter with a ska singer-songwriter and the band The Stingers ATX was born. With The Stingers ATX, Jonny’s touring dreams came to fruition. Singing with Grover Records (Germany), The Stingers ATX toured all throughout Europe, promoting four studio albums, backing great Jamaican vocal legends from the 1960s, and playing large festivals dedicated to the preservation of Ska music. On the home front, Jonny and The Stingers ATX toured the US, most notably performing at Lincoln Center’s Millennium Stage. In addition, Jonny traveled solo to South America, performing Stingers music with backing bands in Argentina and Brazil. While the band performs a lot less frequently, The Stingers ATX continue to reunite for ska festivals, and will reunite in Köln, Germany for the Freedom Sounds festival in April 2022.
After a nine-year stint living in Austin, Jonny returned home to Queens where he immediately got to work forming bands and making new music. Again, another chance partnership emerged, as Jonny was introduced to Kevin Batchelor, which would alter the course of his music moving forward. Kevin, a highly touted trumpet player and vocalist, whose credits include Jason Mraz, The Skatalites, Steel Pulse and more, became the voice behind Jonny’s latest ska and reggae compositions. Together, they formed a band called Kevin Batchelor’s Grand Concourse, and released a self-titled album in 2011. At the same time, Jonny’s solo career began to take form as Jonny hooked up with Seth Goldberg (drums), Dan Jeselsohn (bass) and Billy Villano (Pedal Steel) to form Jonny Meyers & The Trio. Jonny released his solo debut, “Somewhere You’ve Been,” in 2014 with help from Kevin as a guest musician. The songs on “Somewhere You’ve Been” are a clear indication of how the scene in Austin influenced Jonny’s writing and guitar playing. Songs like “Five Minutes on a Train,” became a wildly popular sing along in Jonny’s local scene, while songs like “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” exemplify the gritty natural guitar sound that drew Jonny to Austin in the first place. As if that wasn’t enough, in 2017, Kevin asked Jonny to take the guitar chair in his illustrious NYC Ska Orchestra, an 18-piece ska/jazz big band.
Most recently, Kevin and Jonny worked closely to form The JMQ, Jonny’s new band featuring the same rhythm section as his 2014 release, replacing the pedal steel with Kevin on trumpet and Tony Orbach on saxophone. The JMQ’s horn section helped solidify the Rock-n-Soul sound that provides a sweet spot for Jonny’s writing. The band is on full display on their latest release, The Moment You Arrive.
With such songwriting legends so close to home, Jonny knows he has big shoes to fill. Each new day above ground is an opportunity to work on new songs with fabulous musicians; to create something relevant that folks can really connect with. The road is long, the field is wide open and Jonny’s been around the block more than once or twice, but there's something in that Forest Hills water that makes for some great songs.