Jonathan Shadel of Brave the River is an up-and-coming artist in the Frostburg area, who is sure to make it big! His thoughtful lyrics and almost psychedelic but captivating music makes his new EP, Freedom to Find, a great one. He is also releasing his album Strange Currents on August 21st, a 23-track-double-album which will include the six catchy songs from his EP.
While most artists tend to gravitate towards a specific genre, Jonathan describes Brave the River as “pocket symphonies to God,” an inspired title by artist Brian Wilson who used this to describe his Pet Sounds and Smile-era music. Brian Wilson is Jonathan’s “musical idol,” as he puts it, so Jonathan figured, “in a sense, I am trying to make my own pocket symphonies to God.” As far as a specific genre goes, while Jonathan doesn’t love the idea of having a genre title, he generally labels himself as melodic indie rock.
Jonathan writes and records all of the material himself, but also collaborates with other musicians, whom Jonathan describes as “incredibly talented.” He has had Jerry Oviedo on sitar and banjo, Quentin Debelloir on lead electric guitar, Tim Chaplin on drum loops, Jon Felton on hand drums, and Sophie Dupont and Amy Fabbri as singers.
Jonathan’s musical talents emerged when he was seven years old, when he began playing the violin.
“I used to sit around and scribble musical notes onto lined paper and play some made-up tunes. I’ve been writing music and lyrics since about as young as I can remember—just putting tunes together in my head. I think I was 12, though, when I seriously started writing lyrics.”
Writing lyrics is an evolving process for any artist, but for Jonathan, it isn’t a scientific process, he says, but rather very fluid and comes when it comes.
“I typically start with some melody I’ve been playing with, then I set the instrument down and try to write lyrics that capture the emotion of that melody. The music and lyrics typically evolve together.”
Brave the River, according to Jonathan, attempts to emulate some of what Brian Wilson does with his “pocket symphonies.” But the Beach Boys “are kind of square one for my musical influences; they are where it begins for me,” says Jonathan. “Also, the songwriting styles of Cat Stevens and Simon Garfunkel are major influences.”
The structure of Brave the River’s music is “somewhat rooted in folk music; I love that simplicity of form and melody,” but trying to compare it to other artists is almost impossible. After all, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”—a quote by Steve Martin that pretty much sums up Jonathan’s view towards his own music and music in general.
Brave the River is unique in itself, and trying to put a genre on it or comparing it to other artists is only a waste of time. Jonathan strives to do his own thing, and stray away from any stereotypes of music. His inspirations are rooted in much deeper meaning.
“To me,” Jonathan says, “music is a very visual art form. So I often listen to things—in nature and in humanity—and will try to make something that sounds like what I see. It is a kind of painting, but the brush is the instrumentation and the colors are the colors of emotion.”
“Brave the River is the first music project that I’ve been involved with that really captures everything I love about making songs,” says Jonathan. “Music is my primary passion—I live and breathe in melodies.”
Jonathan’s passion to continue with music is absolutely inspiring. And, while Frostburg has been his home for a very long time, he plans to move to the United Kingdom to get his Masters degree in International Relations with a Human Rights emphasis, and continue his music project there. With as much ambition as Jonathan has, he is sure to succeed in everything he does for both himself as well as Brave the River.
Click here to download Freedom To Find.