Photo by Rob Burrowes

Photo by Rob Burrowes

Eddie Johnston first caught the ear of so many thanks to his transformative covers as Lontalius, taking the work of artists far removed from his sound, and turning them into something entirely his own. For the past few years he’s been using his stripped-back sound to project his own thoughts to even better results, showing a strong understanding of what it means to make a song that’ll continue to linger long after it’s over.

His gorgeous debut album, I’ll Forget 17, is out March 25 via Partisan Records. Far removed from his wonderfully simplistic covers found on his SoundCloudI’ll Forget 17 is a bold debut that shows just how confident Johnston has gotten when it comes to both his music, and himself. One of the album’s many highlights, “I Was More Than,” chooses to focus less on specific emotions and more on how those emotions really feel.

Showing Johnston’s loving appreciation for melodies and texture, “I Was More Than” makes it evident that he’s capable of doing a lot more with his sound than it would initially seem. There’s shades of numerous genres across the album, but at no point does it sound like he’s trying to be anyone but himself. “I Was More Than” is 100% Johnston, especially when it comes down to the vague lyricism that paints a bittersweet story only partially remembered.

Listen to the premiere of “I Was More Than” below, and read a brief Q&A with Lontalius below that.

How did you find transitioning from releasing covers to releasing originals? Were you perhaps scared of what the reception might be like?
It wasn’t so bad, I was lucky that some of my biggest followers on soundcloud continued to support me during the “oh he doesn’t really do covers anymore” phase. People understood that I wanted to branch out. I’m thankful for that.

Was the move from synth-based stuff to more organic sounding instrumentation a natural progression for you?
Yeah, I’ve been playing and writing with a guitar for most of my life. It was a choice I made early on during the album making process, to focus on the indie/alternative music that initially got me into music. I mean, I listen to more R&B than I do rock music at this point but I’m not an R&B singer. I’m a nerd who’s really into Wilco and Sufjan Stevens.

Your music as Lontalius—especially I’ll Forget 17—is very delicate and personal. Do you feel that you’re sharing more than just music when you release a new song?
I guess so, but that’s never really bothered me. Some of the songs are lyrically a bit vaguer than others, but I’ve found that the more honest lyrics are the highlights, and the ones that people relate to the most. I find that really liberating, to be able to sing about personal stuff and have people who might be a completely different person to me still relate to it and feel something.

Do you find it easier to be understood through music?
Sure, I think music is a pretty big part of who I am. I think singing and playing instruments is a pretty natural expression of who you are too. Whatever comes out of your mouth is gonna be genuine, unless you force it to be something else.

“I Was More Than” is definitely one of the prettiest tracks on the album, but could you perhaps talk about the genesis behind the track?
It’s another older song that I’ve been playing for a while. I did a more ambient/lo-fi version a few years ago. I recorded another version with my band during the initial recording of the album, but it was pretty dull and didn’t work very well with everything else. at the end of 2014 I went to my friend Ike’s hometown with him and we worked on what would become the album version. It was mostly pieced together on ableton with pieces of everything I’d ever done for that song. a guy called Grayson Gilmour did the ambient guitar pedal stuff that you hear in the second half of the song. he was one of the first musicians i ever met and was a real influence when i started making my own music. i’m glad he ended up doing something on the album