Lontalius on his ‘difficult second album'

Eddie Johnston. (Supplied).
Dominic Hoey talks to Eddie Johnston (Lontalius) about what he’s gleaned about collaboration and his time in the US.

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Wellington musician Eddie Johnston, better known as Lontalius, has packed a lot of living into his 22 years. After the release of his first album—the Taite-nominated I’ll Forget 17 in 2016— he relocated to LA to pursue a career in pop songwriting. That didn’t work out as planned, but while there, he created most of his new album, All I Have.

I caught up with Eddie, who moved back to Wellington earlier this year, to talk about his time in the US and how it helped shape the new album. 

“I found it super weird,” Eddie says of his experience trying to write pop songs for other people in LA. “I got to work with some great people but ultimately I just felt like it wasn't right for me. I felt like my strengths as a writer and producer just didn't work in those weird writing rooms.”

“I felt like my strengths as a writer and producer just didn't work in those weird writing rooms.”

Starting out in solitude 

When Eddie first started writing and producing his own music, he was very much a one man band. From his Wellington bedroom he would create dreamy, melancholic covers of R&B songs by Beyonce and Drake and upload them to Soundcloud, where they found a loyal international audience. “I would upload songs as soon as I was finished. Then I decided I wanted to take a bit more time and put out albums,” he says. 

By contrast, All I Have was created in collaboration with some industry heavyweights. They include Modest Mouse guitarist Jim Fairchild, and Grammy award-winning producer Om'Mas Keith, who has worked with Frank Ocean, Jay Z and Erykah Badu, among others. 

”He really set the tone of the album, the ambience and vibe to the songs,” says Eddie of Om’Mas. “My initial idea for the album was to further push some of the more R&B and Electronic influences from my first album. The great big pop machine of LA definitely influenced it too.”


Eddie Johnston. (Supplied).

Returning home to recharge 

When I ask what drew him back to Wellington to finish the album, Eddie is frank. “Honestly, I just ran out of money. And I felt like I needed to take a step back. I am sort of itching to get out again now. I think coming home to finish the album and get some perspective was really beneficial for me. I feel energised!”. 

Released last month, All I Have has been garnering positive responses online. “People seem to be taking and loving the album as a whole, which is great,” says Eddie.

“People seem to be taking and loving the album as a whole, which is great.”

Despite handling most of the publicity for the album himself and taking time out to tour, he already has a number of new projects on the go.

“I've been making some stuff with this Japanese producer, Singular Balance. Someone introduced him to me online and we've been having a lot of fun sending ideas back and forth. Now that the weight of the 'difficult second album' has been lifted, I'm feeling great about writing new music.” 

Lontalius will be playing a one-off album release show at Whammy Bar in Auckland on Thursday November 28th. More info here. 

Listen to All I Have on Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

Written by

Dominic Hoey

19 Nov 2019

Dominic Hoey is an author, playwright and poet based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His debut novel, Iceland was a New Zealand bestseller and was long-listed for the 2018 Ockham Book Award.

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