Friday, May 24, 2024

Interview: The Hill

"Emotive, melodic, and sincere" is how Jon Kowit describes his project The Hill. Though a solo venture at heart, it's a heavily collaborative feat, with Kowit enlisting old friends (Mike Brenner), and rising artists (Meaghan Kyle) in the creation of his latest record 'Get In Line'.

Music is an industry that is no stranger to Kowit, as he spent his youth working at a popular record store in Pennsylvania, before founding and running his own indie record label (Brooklyn's Ascend Records). Despite never being on the front-line of the song writing processes, Kowit had been secretly penning his own for decades, before finally releasing his debut record early last month.

Sitting down with Music Is To Blame, Kowit delves into his career, influences and musical journey that culminates in 'Get In Line'. 

Who are The Hill? 

The Hill was a small mound that seemed quite large when we were kids. That's when I knew Mike Slo-Mo Brenner, at age 10 and years went by before I ran into him again. So, the name connects back to early childhood. And The Hill is a project based on my songs, produced by Mike and then he recruited some of the best players in the area to round it out (he happens to be one of them).

Did owning a record label influence your making music of your own – or did the latter come first?

I was always writing songs that mainly were played for my dogs. Because I play guitar and piano by ear and kind of, non traditionally, I wasn't sure what they were really. But, after each break-up, or moving cities, songs would emerge. I guess the label allowed me to live vicariously through some incredibly talented artists and learn a bit.

Your most recent release is your album ‘Get In Line’ – what can you tell us about this project?

This album was completely unexpected. I just wanted to realize my songs after decades of letting them sit and by the stroke of luck/fate I ran into Mike, who agreed to work on one in between his other projects. Then, we kept going and ended up doing the 12 songs cause it was really sounding good to us. He was able to immediately provide the missing pieces and the rest of the contributors understood the vibe after that.

‘Setting Sun’ features Meaghan Kyle – what can you tell us about that collaboration?

Meaghan is a highly regarded talent in the Philadelphia area and Mike produced her band's album years ago. Mike and I both agreed that 'Setting Sun' needed something different on the vocal, so Meaghan joined the project and nailed it. Plus she does backing vocals on a bunch of other tunes on the album, which sound amazing.

Are there any artists or bands who have particularly influenced your music?

I've always been a music nut, since I was a kid. I shared a room with an older brother and we had a huge vinyl collection. Later I worked in a record store... I think most influential on me are probably Jules Shear, Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson. Also, I guess the Grateful Dead. But lesser-known and still major influences would be The Silos, Jason Karaban and Freedy Johnston.

On Spotify, it’s noted that most of your listeners are from Australia and Ireland, how does it feel knowing your music has such a wide reach?

It's a strange phenomenon. We're really happy about it, but can't quite figure out how 4 of our top 5 cities are in Australia. Obviously, I'm just happy it's connecting with people and the support on social (FB especially), etc has also been really encouraging.

What does the rest of 2024 look like for you? Do you have any other new releases in the works?

We're working on a follow-up EP and will likely release a single from that early, mainly cause we're excited about it. And, who knows, we just might have to play some gigs in Australia.

Sum up your sound in three words.

Melodic, emotive and sincere.

Lana Williams


Image: 'Get In Line' Official Album Cover

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