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Johnny Craig: Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’Roll

Jonny Craig opens up to BLUNT after a year off the hard stuff to reveal a new career focus on R’n’B and the persistence of his “sexual” charge. By Lachlan Marks.One of the most controversial figures in alternative music, Jonny Craig has battled his own personal demons throughout his career as well as an industry backlash due to some of his dubious actions (he’ll be forever haunted by the infamous “MacBook scandal”). Sober, somewhat humbled and ready to own up to his sins, Craig sat down with at his Austin, Texas hotel during this year’s SXSW to explain why this time it’s okay for you to give him your hard earned dollars.

It’s been a year or two since we’ve spoken to you for Magazine. Can you run us through what’s been happening and what’s led to this?

You know I’ve been in and out of bands, and in and out of rehab for like the last two years, but I have a year and I think 15 days clean right now. I went to rehab on March 1 of last year and did a 30-day program, then I did a two month sober living where you live in your house and transition yourself back into the world. After that I got out, split from bands, and now I’m just working on new music trying to make more of an identity for me, make something that’s more my own. That’s what I’m working on now.

How has sobriety changed your approach to writing music?

Honestly at first I was having a lot of trouble and I think it was because I’ve never done anything sober and it was really hard to grasp it. I started to get real stressed, things weren’t coming out, but then one day I was like, ‘I’m over it, I’m just going to do it and hope it turns out.’ So far it’s been amazing. Every song I’ve put out so far, they’re all old demos and singles leading up to this new EP that I’m trying to put out. Once I just let go it was a relief man, it was so much easier.

And that can be stressful as well I imagine.

It puts more pressure on you, you know, now you’re sober your shit better be good. But I’m still going to do what I did; I’m going to sing to the best of my ability and I’m going to write well.

Tell us a little bit about the crowd funding campaign and how the idea for it came about.

I’m no longer on Rise, so we didn’t have a lot of funding. I mean, we still get some but we didn’t have anything that would help us put out a record. Some bands were doing it [crowd funding], and we looked at it, we asked them [Indiegogo], ‘Hey can we do a campaign? We’ll let you sponsor the tour.’ This whole tour is sponsored by Indiegogo; they were all about it and they wanted to help. So we put up the campaign so we could record with someone that’s a little bit out of the box. I love Kris Crummett to death, I’ve recorded multiple CDs with him, but I don’t want to go back to that, you know? I want to go forwards and work with someone really out there. We want to pick someone who someone in my music scene wouldn’t normally record with. That’s why its $20,000 for an EP because we really want to make a game changer.

Seeing as though it’s a fan-funded experience this time around, do you feel any pressure to deliver what the fans want? Or are you still able to retain your own creativity?

I’ve never just made music for a specific scene. I’ve always been an R’n’B singer and a lot of people are talking shit saying, ‘Oh no, he wants to be an R’n’B singer,’ but I’ve always been an R’n’B singer. I’ve always had soul and I feel like that’s what I brought to my bands. I didn’t write music for a certain genre, I just brought my own style to that genre. So I’m still going to be making exactly what I want to make, but now I’ve got even more lure, I’ve got even more rope to do exactly what I want and how I want it because you know what? It’s all me right now and that’s important.

Now that you’re moving into a new phase in your life, what are you discussing in your songs?

I’ve always been a real sexual person, man. My songs have always been about some sexual escapade or somebody fucking with me. A lot of people are like, ‘You seem so cool, we want to hear some more deep-felt stuff,’ but I’ll sing about what I know and what I know how to do. Before it was all about sex and drugs because that’s what my life was, but now a lot of my stuff is going to be more positive I think. It’s still going to have that sexual feel though.

Before you started the crowd funding campaign were you at all hesitant to look into that way of doing it, given the relationship and problems that you’ve had with the fans, especially because it involves finances and people donating money?

I was very wary about it man. I was a little uncomfortable because, you know, I wasn’t begging for money, but what happened before with the MacBook stuff and taking their money, everyone got paid back but it’s the principle. A lot of people were like, ‘We want to help you but we don’t trust you with the money,’ and that’s fine, I respect that because I made that mistake and I’ve got to live with it. But at the same time, I think the campaign is good because it’s giving the kids a chance to get what they want. They want to hear new music, they want some new stuff and having them work with me on it this time, it’s going to show a whole different side of me to fans who think that I’m just some stuck up fucking kid who had his label get him out of this pinch to keep him out of jail. I think that this is really going to show them a different side of me and that’s why I was hesitant, but I went with it because they talked me into it and said it was good, it was a good plan and it’s a good thing to move forward.

You’ve got that daily battle to maintain sobriety,
but does having your goals make that easier to get through?

That’s definitely a big part of it, obviously if I’m doing drugs I’m not going to go anywhere, nothing’s going to happen. I got as far as I could being fucked up you know, and I wouldn’t take any of it back, I don’t regret a thing, honestly I learnt from every mistake I made. But I’ve reached my point of getting fucked up, so being sober now and staying sober is what is going to help me get to the top, it’s what I’m fighting for right now.

Do you feel that there’s an unfair focus on drug use when realistically, so many people in the music industry are on drugs?

I don’t think it’s mainly about drugs, dude, I think it is the fact that I’m in the fucking public’s view, man; I’m in the eye all the time, so whatever I go through is like ten times say her or him because everyone has their own opinion, everyone wants to be a fucking critic in this world. They’re always out there to attack right when it happens, so it doesn’t bug me anymore, I’m just feeding off it. It’s fuel to the fire.

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