It seems more accurate to say that fame found Jonathon Ng, rather than the other way around.
The 24-year-old Irish artist, who goes by EDEN and whose latest album comes out today, is “one of Europe’s fastest rising stars,” according to The Times. His music has caught the attention of Lorde, who said to him: “Please keep making lovely things. I’ll listen”
He now can boast of over one billion streams, a critically acclaimed debut album, a successful world tour with another one just around the corner.
But Ng comes at his success with a quietness one doesn’t often associate with pop stars. Until quite recently, he produced all of his music himself in his bedroom. He would also post promotional photos with his face blurred.
“I wanted to not be known, like, personally at all,” he said.
But as his music exploded in popularity online, it became harder and harder to keep his identity obscured. He eventually signed with a manager—the same one behind Ariana Grande, Kanye West and Justin Bieber, which led to a record deal with Astralwerks. He went on a 50-date US tour in 2016. He’d reached a point where he could no longer keep it quiet.
Today, his latest album, comes out. Walking the line between earnest emotion and ingenuity, “no future” is another masterful work by the young artist who—although we now know who he is—we expect has only just begun to show us what he’s capable of.
College News reached out to EDEN to talk influences, inspiration and what will come next.
You’ve been producing your own music since you were a teen, putting out albums as The Eden Project and later EDEN. Going back before that, what are your earliest memories of making music?
I started writing music at around seven or eight. I was obsessed with Eminem at the time and would take his songs and essentially just replace all the lyrics with my own. That developed into writing terrible pop songs on piano, which I did for fun in a notebook my mom had got me. That kind of subsided for a few years, until I picked up the guitar at 12 and then I was completely hooked.
How has your background as a classical violinist informed your music today?
I think it really helped me grow a deep understanding for composition. The ways and structures through which music can breathe, develop and move you. So in changing something about a chord, you can change the way a whole section is felt. Its powerful stuff.
When you switched from The Eden Project to EDEN, what changed beside your name?
It was really a change in priorities. Before I had been quite focused on electronic production—the vocals fitting an overall goal rather than informing it. And then it evolved to a point where it felt like everything had joined together. The song-writing I was doing that was separate to the things I was making on my computer started to coalesce. I was transitioning away from the music and ideas that I had originally explored and was really excited about where I was going. it just felt right to have that separation.
Tell us about your new album, “no future”. What’s evolved between your last album, “vertigo” (2018), and this one?
I think both albums have been massively important to me personally. Moving through and out of a really strange and confusing part of my life. Musically I feel like I’m a lot closer to something that feels completely my own. The disorientation that bred “vertigo” is definitely not as apparent on “no future”. “no future” feels like a platform to me. I’m glad to be releasing it, but more excited still for what’s next, to be completely honest. And that’s a feeling that was missing from my life for a long time.
The new singles are great. I especially liked “isohel.” Tell us a bit about it and how it relates to the album as a whole.
“isohel” is actually quite reflective of that transition I was just talking about. That the pieces you had to leave behind in order to move on or grow can still be a source of good feeling, but are best left where they are. Yeah, things could have happened differently, but you are where you are and I definitely wouldn’t risk losing it.
You do most of your recording and producing in your home studio—and of course, you started making music in your bedroom. How do you think keeping this process in your own setting has influenced your music?
On one hand I think that collaboration is a great thing, and if I had not been a solo artist that my journey so far would have been a lot smoother in certain aspects. But I love creating things, and I find the best way for me to get these ideas out of myself is to just do them myself. Which on one hand has led me down certain holes and into dead ends via tunnel vision etc., but on the other I think has allowed me to really just be myself. There are no compromises or outside ideas, so it can be quite unfiltered.
I know it’s become a bit of a trend for artists to put out their album and song names without any capitalization. You’ve been doing it for a while—could you tell us about your thought process for releasing the names of your work all lowercase?
At first, I didn’t really know why I preferred it that way. But it became clear that it was a balance thing. Capitalisation feels like it unbalances words to me. And only recently I was in a museum at a Bauhaus exhibit and realised that it was a movement long before I was born—which at least made me feel less irrational.
Is there anything you were reading a lot or listening to over the course of writing this album?
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, tonnes of museum visits, your mom’s Facebook friends’ angry comments.
Tell us about your influences, both musical and non. What are the bands and artists that you draw inspiration from? Are there non-musical creators and art that inspire your work as well?
I think my biggest source of inspiration outside of music is film and contemporary art. I have been so lucky to work with astounding directors Zhang + Knight on all my video projects over the last few years, and I even scored their debut short film. It’s such an eye-opening experience working with artists like them.
You’ve spent a lot of time on the road in the past few years and are gearing up for another tour soon. What are you looking forward to with your “no future” 2020 tour?
We have completely rebuilt the show from the ground up. This definitely is the best I’ve ever felt before hitting the road. The show is something I’m so proud to call mine and I can’t wait to share it with people.
What can we expect next from EDEN?
I am already working, and whatever it is will come as soon as humanly possible.
[Answers were edited for clarity/grammar.]