Souled Out

Former Dance Gavin Dance singer Jonny Craig returns to his R&B roots

Drama seems to follow singer Jonny Craig wherever he goes. The guy quit the popular pop-punk act Dance Gavin Dance in 2007 and then quickly joined Emarosa, another popular pop-punk band. That band had its fill of Craig in a hurry and gave him the boot in 2011, but by that time he had rejoined Dance Gavin Dance, only to again leave the band again amidst a good deal of controversy (a rep from his record label at the time tweeted that he was a "drug addict low class thief"). A talented singer with a distinctive, soulful voice, Craig is now pursuing a solo career, but the problems seem to keep coming.

"The shows have been amazing," says Craig who seems to be trying to reinvent himself and has worked in covers of tunes by Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse into his sets. "The first night of the tour was sold out and we've been selling a lot of the new sweatshirts with the new logo that I designed on them. It's been amazing."

But an Albuquerque tour stop was "a bit of a rough spot."

"There was this super annoying chick at the show," says Craig. "I don't know who she was. At the end of the night, we just shunned her and shit and she stole our van keys that had the electronic starter. We couldn't even start the fucking van and we had to call a locksmith and shit. That was shitty. I posted something that said, 'Whoever this bitch was that stole our keys, thanks a lot. You just cost us a lot of money.' Some other dude said it was his girlfriend and I drugged her. That chick was not hot enough for me to drug, you know what I'm saying."

Though he can laugh about the situation, Craig has never had it easy. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother had to work two jobs to support the family.

"I never saw my mom a lot and that bummed me out as a kid," he says. "That was the roughest part of my childhood. I'd come home from school and she'd come home at 8 p.m. and we'd eat dinner together and she'd go to sleep so she could get up at 6 a.m. I saw my mom for about two hours of every day. That was rough."

As a result, Craig spent more time with grandmother, and she introduced him to a variety of music at an early age.

"She was super religious and would sit me down and we'd watch these Christian concerts," he says. "Ten or twenty people would be singing parts of songs and soloing. It was insane. I realized I wanted to sing like that. A song would play for 15 minutes and ten different people would sing a part. They had baritones and all kinds of singers. I decided what kind of singer I wanted to be from that. I think she knew what she was doing. I think she knew I could sing."

Craig initially tried to sing R&B and soul music and found inspiration in what now seems to be an unlikely source.

"Michael Bolton really was an influence," he admits. "My mom used to clean the house and shit and she'd play Michael Bolton. I moved into more of singing my own style, like R&B and Boys II Men. And boy bands, too."

But after he moved to Sacramento, he had what he calls an "identity change" and he eventually joined Dance Gavin Dance in 2007.

"I moved down to Sacramento when I was 18 or 19," he recalls. "It was a good living experience. I moved to a brand new state and I didn't know anyone but we just wanted to play music. I started to clash [with the guys in Dance Gavin Dance] and see things differently. I had a drug problem and they let me go and then I came back. We tried to do it again and we realized it was more than just the shitty way I was acting. We want different things and there are so many different people in the band, it's hard to get what you want without someone bowing down and I'm not the kind of person who is going to just sit down and take things. We had a good run. It was a lot of fun."

To date, Craig has only released one solo album, 2009's superb A Dream is a Question You Don't Know How to Answer, but he says he has worked a few new songs into the current tour's set list and is planning to put out a pair of EPs before year's end. His falsetto voice makes his solo music come off as something like Radiohead for the pop-punk set. Craig says he didn't pursue a solo career four years ago because he was simply too busy with other musical projects.

"I was just touring full-time and right after that I was in Dance Gavin Dance and Emarosa at the same time," he says. "There was no time for me to have a full solo career. I wouldn't go back and change it because now I'm full-blown solo and shit and I'm starting to make the music that I feel is more me and has more of an identity to it. Now, I just want to focus on what I wanted to do for a long time. I want to be an R&B singer."