“Who hurt you?”

This is my half-joking, half-serious question to Jon Vinyl before our interview officially begins. It’s a question that anyone who’s listened to his lovestruck debut album, Lost In You, is probably wondering, thanks to his wistful musings about romance and heartbreak. It features several songs that tug on your heartstrings, easily inhabiting a space of sadness, and you can’t help but be curious as to how the Pickering native managed to make something so somber, sound so good.

That’s not to say it’s a completely melancholy album. There are a number of dreamy, more upbeat tracks that Vinyl envisions being played while cruising along on a drive or chilling with friends. The collision of happy and sad songs on Lost In You results in an honest collection of tracks that are filled with poignant lyrics about falling in love, falling out of it, and falling into the space of abysmally deep in-betweenness, where you’re uncertain of what your relationship status actually is. It’s a debut that has the polished feel of someone significantly older than the 24-year-old, who released his first song “Nostalgia” back in 2017. In the four years since, he’s released a slew of singles that have evolved alongside him as he’s refined his sound. And despite all that growth, at the end of the day he’s happy to be writing songs in his basement. Though, he admits he’s also itching to get out and perform live again.

Complex caught up with Jon to discuss his songwriting, the Justin Timberlake film that’s inspired him, and the advice he has for anyone going through a breakup.

How does it feel after all this time, to finally have this out?
I mean, it’s definitely amazing. It feels really good. I feel like we’ve been waiting for this kind of moment for a long time, especially as just as an artist in general, you’re waiting for this moment to release your first project, and it’s a lot of man hours put in, trying to really figure out what you want it to sound like and who you want to work with [laughs]. I mean there’s just so much, so it feels really good. Finally we’re here and it feels good.

Yeah, it’s interesting because I was also thinking about this, the timing of it, because  it’s still a pandemic. How did you know, now is finally the time for me to let this out into the world, for me to stop fiddling with it?
Well, I mean it definitely was all based on just having the music. A lot of times you’re going through different songs like ‘Hmm, I don’t know if that’s it,’ and I feel like we came to a point where we heard every song that we had and [went], “Yeah, I think that’s it. I think this is the time.” Then it kind of just worked out perfectly—everybody’s  kind of at home relaxing, listening to music, driving somewhere to go chill with friends. Now just feels like the perfect time.

“Like the clouds, the rain always comes. But eventually the sun comes back out. I feel like it’s just how it goes in life. So you know, there’s going to be bad days of course, that’s just the learning curve. That’s when you’re doing the most learning and figuring yourself out.”

Okay, so this is obviously an album about love, and you have a song like “Always” which is kind of about getting someone to take a chance on you, and then you’ve got a song like “All Bad” which is a little bit more dark. How were you able to cycle through the happier emotions and then turn around and make a really sad song?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel like for me, it’s the beats. Every beat that I get kind of makes me want to, you know, feel sad on this song and be happy on this next one, and maybe be in-between. It usually makes me always feel something, and I never shy away from that. I always make sure that I stick to it because that’s the most genuine lyric and song we’ll get out of it. I always lean towards the beats and listen, and it’s like, what do you guys got for me today—is it sad? Is it happy? [Laughs.]

Jon Vinyl
Image via Arman Saturday

Just go with it.
Yeah, just go with the flow.

Again, because there’s lots of ups and downs and romance, heartbreak and all of that on the album, what advice do you have for anyone who’s getting their heart broken right now, and what song do you recommend that they listen to?
I think for advice, I would say like the clouds, the rain always comes. But eventually the sun comes back out. I feel like it’s just how it goes in life. So you know, there’s going to be bad days of course, that’s just the learning curve. That’s when you’re doing the most learning and figuring yourself out. But at some point, everything’s going to be okay and you’re going to realize that you needed to go through that for you to progress and just be better for the next time. So yeah, I think just don’t dwell on it too much. And you know, just take it for what it is and really learn about yourself in those moments, and the other person. As for what song maybe “All Bad,” because it can be all bad.

Sometimes you just gotta do it. I like that. And on the flip side, is there a song that you think would be really good for someone that’s happy and falling in love.
Yeah, “Always.” That song is 100 percent that vibe. It’s 100 percent that song. I don’t even have anything else to say about it [laughs]. It’s so simple.

Okay, and then so I have a theory that R&B is the best genre for love songs, whether it be breakup songs, like Usher singing in the rain, or a really happy song. Do you agree?
Yeah, 100% it is. It evokes so much emotion, and makes you feel happy, sad, whatever it is… moody that day. You just want to relax and when you look out your window, there’s an R&B song playing, that’s perfect [laughs].

You pretend you’re the main character.
The main character, exactly.

So, obviously, it takes a lot of vulnerability to make such an honest, straightforward album. What did it take for you to get to a place where you’re able to be so direct with your songwriting?
I think it’s the experience of just living life, and seeing your friends, and myself, go through different ups and downs and relationships, whether it’s intimate or just with your friends and family. There’s just so many different avenues that you can see different emotions [in] and I pulled from anything to be honest, but a lot of it is from my personal experiences. I like to look at other people’s situations as well, and even movies and other people I know. You know that one friend that will come by, and just talk to you about their relationship and you totally relate to them and what they’re saying? So sometimes I pull from those moments, but it’s mostly me just going through different relationships.

“‘Deflect’ is just kind of being in-between knowing and not knowing. I feel like that happens a lot where you’re just on the fence.”

You also did say movies, so which movies?
Let me see, I’ve seen so many love movies I feel like. What’s that one with Ryan Gosling? Or Ryan Reynolds, sorry. And then there’s another one with Justin Timberlake and…

Mila Kunis?
Yeah, what is that one called? I can never remember it. That one’s really funny. It’s so good.

Is it Friends With Benefits?
I can’t believe you knew it immediately. That movie is fire actually.

It’s so funny because I’m always like, [Justin] can’t act, but with that one maybe I need to take that back.
He made it feel super genuine. I can actually relate. That was a good movie, so that’s a big one for me. I’m bad with the names and roles.

Hey, maybe we’ll get a song called “Friends with benefits.”
Hey, I’m gonna write that down.

Going back to honest songwriting, “Deflect” is also a pretty emotional one. Tell me a bit more about that.
I think “Deflect” is just kind of being in between knowing and not knowing. I feel like that happens a lot where you’re just on the fence. You’re not sure. I think I was just saying how I felt about that, and in the most melodic way I could possibly do it and the most sad way I could do it. But yeah, I was just like, “I guess I’m deflecting the truth of the matter/I’m still unsure if I’m in or out of love.” And it’s just [about being] not sure 100 percent. I know I like this person, I know we vibe, but maybe she’s not right for me. It’s just going back and forth with that.

Yeah, I was actually going to ask you about that specific lyric, because I wondered, how did you land on that? I mean, I feel like everyone’s kind of been there.
Yeah, I mean, once again, I feel like it’s something that just so many people have been through. I’ve definitely talked with friends and they’re in relationships and they’ve been in relationships for a long time, and they’re so deep in it that they’re unsure whether they should still be in it. But the familiarity of being with that person makes you [think], “Oh yeah, we should be together.” And then you just go back and forth. But yeah, I find a lot of conversations are about getting too comfortable.

I was thinking about that the other day actually. One of my friends just got engaged and she’s like, “I know this is my person, but what if?”
Yeah, what if, what if, what if. That can be tough.

“My basement, it’s a safe space for thinking and writing songs. Just think of me being in my basement, thinking about my experiences, other people’s experiences, and just writing songs too.”

And then I don’t actually know—did you work on the album specifically in Pickering or in studios in Toronto as well?
I did it pretty much all in Pickering.

No way.
Yeah, I mean, I wrote all of them in Pickering and then I brought them to Toronto to work with, and we just kind of worked on it there. Then we mixed it, added little touches that we needed to add to make it better and just make it sound good. And then we also just kind of went to the other producers that were on the album as well, and said, “Is there any more we could add to this?” But yeah, I wrote everything in Pickering and I brought it to Toronto and thew some touches, you know, sprinkles.

Jon Vinyl
Image via Arman Saturday

Obviously you’re from there, you grew up there, and then now you have this piece of art that essentially is coming with you from there. How do you think that sort of contributed to… I wouldn’t say the sound necessarily, but maybe the overall vibe?
Of the project? I think in Pickering, you’re super isolated, and you’re just kind of to yourself. I feel like when you’re out here in Toronto, you’re used to just being out different places all the time with different people. And I feel how Pickering is influenced into the album would definitely be by just being isolated into your own thoughts. And my basement, it’s a safe space for thinking [laughs] and writing songs. Just think of me being in my basement, thinking about my experiences, other people’s experiences, and just writing songs too. So that’s 100% what I would say is the vibe.

That’s great. When are you going to play a show in Toronto? The people need to know!
When are we gonna play a show in Toronto!

I’ve gotta get my rehearsals in. A million rehearsals. So be ready to have some fun one day! It’ll be sick.

When was the last time you did a live show?
It’s been so long I don’t even remember. Probably Montreal actually. Lumiere festival was the last thing we did in… February 2020. That was the last time. Wow.

What are you gonna do to step it up for when you come back?
Vocals on point, band going crazy, arrangements… a visual in the background that you can look at maybe? Maybe.

Leave the maybe in the air, that’s a nice little teaser.
Yeah. A little teaser. Maybe some guests too, that’d be cool. That’d be pretty sick actually. Maybe Drake?

You’ve gotta manifest it.

Listen to Lost In You, out now.

Follow @jonvinyl on Twitter.