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Singled Out: Karen Jonas' Mr. Wonka

06-01-2018
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Karen Jonas

Karen Jonas released her new album "Butter" today (June 1st) and to celebrate we asked her to tell us the story behind the song "Mr. Wonka" from the new record. Here is the story:

The music business attracts all kinds of characters. We met a man who was so intense and comical that I immediately nicknamed him Mr. Wonka. He told us he had the Golden Ticket to wherever we wanted to go: opener runs with big acts, budgets, tour buses, ins at great studios. He leaned in close, he spoke softly, he said he admired my Artistry. His speeches were full of words straight out of an SAT study book or a daily word calendar, words like "heretofore," "ethereal" and "gestalt." He referenced Hemingway and Sade in the same sentence. This was either The Real Thing or a Really Big Joke.

Fast forward a month or so, and the whole deal falls apart. I was pregnant with my third baby (I now have four), and let him know, and his backpedal was swift and final.

I wanted to capture my disappointment and the absurdity of the scene in this song, aptly named "Mr. Wonka." I wanted it to sound like a circus that ran off the rails, like Oz behind his curtain, like a maniac at the wheel. We called in Zack Smith, Fredericksburg trumpet extraordinaire, and he wrote this amazing horn part that really threw the whole operation over the top. Tim Bray dropped in some of his signature guitar, Jay Starling added some barroom keys, Dustin Brandt was Mr. Wonka on an organ. If you listen closely, you may catch some of the outro lines that Tim, producer/engineer Jeff Covert, and I recorded late one night. We sat around a mic and laughed and talked, until the great sum up of, "It's a goddamn circus out there," which melts into the final track on the album, a sad song called "The Circus."

I hope you enjoy the drunken carousel of a song that we created. And I hope Mr. Wonka doesn't read this piece.

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!

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