Q&A: Jonah Tolchin on His New Album, ‘Clover Lane’

Jonah Tolchin
Jonah Tolchin

On July 1st, twenty-one year old folk and blues singer Jonah Tolchin will make his Yep Roc Records debut with Clover Lane – his fantastic sophomore album featuring an all-star backing band made up of John McCauley (Deer Tick), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson), and Chris Scruggs.

Tolchin stunned the New England folk scene as a teenager, performed at the Newport Folk Festival before leaving his teens and released his highly acclaimed full-length debut, Criminal Man, back in 2012. And he’s not letting up. With brilliant songwriting, strong instrumentation and a unique meshing of sounds from modern Americana to 60s folk to Mississippi blues, multiple tracks on Clover Lane set Tolchin apart from other young festival and folk stars. (See “Diamond Mind” video below – my favorite and JT’s favorite from the new record.)

While the album’s release is still weeks away, Tolchin hits Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn this Wednesday, May 14th. We thought it’d be a good time to check in.

GCB: Your debut album was epic, but this album is next level. Tell me about it:

Tolchin: Clover Lane was produced by Marvin Etzioni (of Lone Justice), recorded in Nashville TN by Anderson East, mixed by Sheldon Gomberg in LA, and mastered by Bernie Grundman. The album was recorded almost entirely live in one room. On the plane over to Nashville, I was listening to “Let it Bleed” by the Stones. I decided to go with that mentality from a sonic-perspective. Many records are created with all the instruments in different rooms, sometimes being played a different times. To me music is meant to be played at the same time in the same room.

You worked with some pretty amazing musicians on this album. How’d that come together?

1 teaspoon of love

2 tablespoons of chance

2 1/2 cups of sugar

3 cups of fate

I was very lucky to work with the musicians who contributed. I wrote “Hey Baby Blues” with Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) in mind to play the part. In my head, it was his horn. I never expected to have him playing on the record. I told Marvin “It would be great to get someone like Steve Berlin”. He said, “well, why don’t we just get Steve Berlin?” There are a number of similar stories.

What song on the album has the best backstory?

“Diamond Mind” (below) is my favorite song on the record. One of the reasons for this is because it was inspired by my favorite person in the world, my lovely fiance, Blue Sky. The song started out as a stream of consciousness as I was staring out of the window in Rhode Island. Blue was playing with her one year old nephew. As I watched her with this child, I knew that I was meant to have children with her someday. I ran out to the road, picked some tall-grass, and wove a ring (in the song I say “string”). A few mins later I drove her out to a tunnel of trees and proposed. Later that day I finished the song. We are getting married this August!

Any funny stories that fall into the category of, “yes, I’m young, but I got this – back up, Champ,” or something along those lines?

I am a believer in soul-age. Birth certificate-age is something for governments and society. I believe that a 6 year old can be wiser than a 60 year old. It really depends on the person.

What are your touring plans for the summer?

I’ll be out on the road with Christopher Paul Stelling in June, Dave & Phil Alvin in July, and over in England in late July. Check out the tour at http://www.jonahtolchin.com.