California instrumental rock artist Jonathan Bareford, who goes by the moniker JONO, has harnessed the unique power that music has to grab attention, evoke emotion and unite and inspire individuals. A lover of nature, especially the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, JONO combines his music with powerful visuals as a way to call attention to the beauty of the natural world and the need to preserve it. Having recently released his latest single and accompanying music video for “North”, the video highlights the pristine beauty of the Pacific Northwest region, showcasing this beauty through breathtaking videography created by Director of Photography/videographer Brian Hartley and photographer/videographer Dario Garcia. It simultaneously showcases the discovery and delight of nature and the abuse it suffers at the hands of humans. A lifelong adventurer, he grew up with a deep appreciation for the natural world, which has often provided inspiration for his music. He started this solo instrumental post/prog-rock project with the intention of creating a music video to accompany each song. His previous single “Zion” and the accompanying video showcase an exploration of the breathtaking canyons of the midwest, including Antelope Canyon in Arizona and Valley of Fire in Nevada. It was selected as Winner of People’s Choice Award from Bellingham Film Festival 2018, Winner of Best Music Video Award from Mission Viejo Film Festival 2018, and was an Official Selection at Long Beach Indie International Film Festival 2018. His latest video for “North” has been nominated for this year’s Bellingham Music Film Festival. All proceeds from the track sales of “North” made via Bandcamp, will be donated to Conservation Northwest, a WA based non-profit, in support of their educational and preservation efforts. The organization’s mission is described as working to “protect, connect and restore wildlands and wildlife from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies.” You can follow JONO and stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase his music via the following links. Check out his video for “North” and “Zion” below.
You recently released your video for “North” which features the natural landscapes and scenery of the Pacific Northwest. How did you decide which locations to feature in the video? How did you meet and come to work with Brian Hartley and Dario Garcia, with whom you’ve worked before?
It started with a location that was a waterfall in Oregon that my friend recommended to me. It was too beautiful to even look real and I knew that I had to find more locations that lived up to this wow factor across the Pacific Northwest. I did research on travel blogs across social media, the internet, and even dove into Google Maps to see what these places really looked like in person. Because these locations were all so far away, scouting them wasn’t really an option so extensive research on each location and how to hike up to it had to be crystal clear.
I’ve worked with Dario on my past music video projects so choosing him was an obvious choice. It took me quite a while to find the right DP/videographer but after running through most of my network of friends of friends in the industry, Brian came up as the perfect fit. Everyone on the team was equally ambitious and I am so grateful for the team I had.
“North” was nominated for this year’s Bellingham Music Film Festival this year. Your videos for “Zion” last year and “Revelations” in 2017 won various film festival awards, as well. You’re music videos have a very cinematic quality to them. What has your process been for creating your music videos and how did your love of film develop?
My love for film began after seeing my first music video, “Revelations” play on the big screen at the Mission Viejo Film Festival. Seeing my hard work be appreciated at a level that big made me appreciate the music video platform in a whole new light. I’ve always had visual meaning attached to my music and all of the sudden, there wasn’t much of a limit to what I could portray visually to bring my music to life in the way I have always wanted to. Ever since then, I have been trying to outdo myself with each music video.
My process for making a music video usually starts with a bit of music that defines the tone for the song and visuals. From there, I then write a story so that I can then go back to songwriting, ensuring that the music matches the beats of the story. The locations then become the next focus along with the rest of the producing, which I have taken on myself so that the details stay true to the song and story I wrote. With the help of a DP, a shot list is made (without any scouting) and then once a full team and plan is in place, we set out on a roadtrip adventure. There’s definitely a lot of room for creativity and improv when we are shooting since nature is always unpredictable and we are seeing these locations for the first time. I think there’s a magic in the unpredictability that has seemed to make for an even better project when you are working around obstacles and looking for the best in every situation instead of being boxed into an exact shot idea. This method allows everyone on the team including the talent in the video to really express themselves in an honest way in how they are reacting to the location in that exact moment. It truly makes you feel alive. This also extends into the editing process until there is a project that started as my vision but then became that vision and so much more which the help of others.
What inspired you to combine your music with powerful visuals? You’ve said that experiencing the visual aspect to music is an indescribable feeling. How do visuals enhance music for you?
I’ve always wanted visuals for my music honestly. I usually make moodboards for every song I write because I usually associate sounds and tones with colors/places. I always knew that I would have album art that expressed the exact powerful visual I would see in my head but music videos didn’t really seem tangible at the start partially because my ideas seemed too crazy and expensive. I guess all I needed was to meet the right person to just stumble into the film industry where my passion could then be let loose.
Visuals are very important to me because I’ve always been deeply into instrumental music or at least music that highlights instrumentation. The interpretation of instrumental music I believe is so important but giving the listener a visual that defines and places the music in specific visual location I feel attaches the listener even more. Every time I hear music that reminds me of a place, I am immediately transported there. It’s quite the escape and I like to cater that escape for my fans. For “North”, it’s taking them to the Pacific Northwest without them even having to know what it’s like to even be there.
Did you grow up in a musical household? When did you first discover your love for music and bass guitar? What other instruments do you play?
I did grow up in a musical household. My dad is a guitarist who is really in to Rush (as I am now), and that passion got passed down to me. Around the time I was in my early teens, I fell in love with bands like Metallica, The Police, and especially Rush. This kind of challenging music really pushed me to take on technical playing for guitar and bass real early on and I loved the challenge. I still try to challenge myself and see what new styles or techniques I can pick up that are out of my comfort zone.
I also play keys and can do a bit of singing but I have nothing that I want to sing about in public at the moment. Who knows in the future haha
Who would you count as your musical influences? Who are you listening to currently?
Rush is always a lifetime influence for me. Their discography is so massive and covers so many different styles that it’s easy for me to get influenced by different songs of theirs from different decades. Currently, I would say that I really enjoy bands/artists like Plini, Tides of Man, Khruangbin, The 1975, Turnover, Kacey Musgraves, Maggie Rogers, Tame Impala and many more of all genres.
You have been a lifelong adventurer. What have some of your most memorable adventures been? What do you feel makes the Pacific Northwest so special in terms of natural beauty, national parks, forests and landmarks? Are there any places you are hoping to explore in the future that you haven’t yet explored?
My music video shoots have definitely been some of the best adventures I have ever been a part of. One specific day that was special to me was a day where my team and I shot in the redwoods of Northern California in the morning/afternoon and on the coastal cliffs of Southern Oregon in the late afternoon. That day was packed with the most sight seeing I could handle along with playing my instrument in the most mind-blowing locations a musician could ask for. Part of me was stressed as a director but the other part of me was on cloud 9 just remembering how fun it is to play music.
I feel that the Pacific Northwest is in many ways a stable of preservation in America. All the luscious greenery that is hundreds of years old is something that grabs the attention of so many around the world. It made sense to remind everyone that such a sacred place that shows the potential of Earth’s beauty should be protected before its too late.
I’m planning on visiting Iceland possibly for the next release. I’m excited to visit spots that truly make you feel like you are on another planet.
When did you decide that you wanted to combine your love of nature with your music as a way of spreading awareness about conservation?
Right around the time I was writing the story for “North”. The story was always going to be a vintage story of Mother Nature showing a stranger to nature the beauty of the outdoors. But I didn’t have an ending. While thinking, I started to feel selfish that I was showcasing all these locations to the world when in the end, all I was going to do was use nature as a stomping ground for my shoot. I felt the need to give back and in return it gave this project and myself purpose. Ever since then, I’ve been much more conscience of giving back to conservation efforts and preserving nature where I can.
You have said that, regarding nature, “you can embrace, enjoy and seek nature but can’t force it to your will or else you will lose it”. Could you discuss that sentiment a bit?
That sentiment is kind of the foundation of North. Nature is for all to experience and we all see its beauty in so many ways. But if you try to use or force nature to make it something that it is not meant to be, it could disappear. That is what we are seeing happen all over the world due to human impact on the environment. Deforestation, fossil fuels, pollution are all things that are pushing the limits of nature to a point where we are loosing the ability to embrace, enjoy, and seek certain parts of nature. It’s disheartening and that’s the call to action I wanted to raise with “North”especially at the end.
You are donating all track proceeds from “North” to the non-profit Conservation Northwest. What can you tell me about the organization and how you became involved with them? Do you feel there some especially good conservation efforts happening currently that you are excited about? What are some other organizations that you feel are doing good work that people should know about?
Conservation Northwest is such a great non-profit organization. I went through many options of great non-profits to give to but I truly wanted a grass-roots organization that mainly focused on the Pacific Northwest. Conservation Northwest is just that and they are very specific about how they are helping the region. Currently, I love their focus on connecting habitats like via bridges over highways. Would love to see more of that here in Southern California.
I also think that The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy, and Sierra Club are all doing great things to protect that environment as well.
Do you have hope that our forests, parks, landmarks and environment in general can be saved before it’s too late? Do you feel that people are becoming more aware of what’s at stake?
I do have hope. That’s what’s keeping me going. I feel that in some ways, it’s too late, but in others, it’s not. And making any difference to reverse the damage is better than none. I feel that the younger generation is more aware of the world that they are growing up in and how it is becoming their responsibility to save it. Therefore, I am seeing more youth find ways small and big to give back to nature and be less wasteful. I find that this behavior can be contagious which is why I preach about preservation in North hoping that the idea will spread even more.
What’s next for you?
I am taking the next JONO adventure even more north up to Iceland. I have a song written that has an 80’s feel to it and I want to explore more how I can make keys more of a crucial element to a JONO song. I also want to visit landscapes that are so vast and desolate that they feel out of this world. It’ll be the most ambitious thing I attempt but playing my guitar on a glacier just sounds like too much fun!