Jon Wiley and the patience to create ‘The Longing’ | The music
BY STEPHEN HU FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Jon Tyler Wiley had the misfortune to launch a music career just as the COVID pandemic put an end to live music.
His debut album “The Longing” was sent for mixing and mastering in January 2020, just before the virus hit. Many delays have prevented the release of this album until now.
“I recorded it in 2018 and 2019 completely by myself,” Wiley said. “I was doing isolated recording before it was cool. I didn’t have a budget for a studio and I didn’t have a band. When I started submitting songs, I started asking musicians to get involved. I would call Joanna [Smith] and pipe [Barbre] and say, let’s play some of these songs at Adventure Brewing.
Wiley had the freedom to add and remove sounds and players as part of the live. He added Thomas Johnson to see how the keys would sound on his songs. Some songs have an alternative country vibe, so he called in Eddie Dickerson to play fiddle and guitar.
That same core group, which Wiley dubbed “His Virginia Choir,” has been able to play gigs as COVID restrictions permitted, and has remained intact for the past two years. In a strange time jump, Jon Wiley & His Virginia Choir released four singles on streaming platforms before the release of Wiley’s solo project. With no live shows to play, they recorded the new songs adding parts individually.
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“During the pandemic, we spent so much time checking in that we all got a little bit better,” Wiley said. “We’ve all invested in and gotten better equipment…I’d love to get us into a studio and bring in a producer and an outside engineer if nothing more than to have that weight lifted off my shoulders. We never had the chance to all be in one room and record. Everything we’ve done has been one instrument at a time.
Wiley’s solo project “The Longing” is set for release on February 25. Wiley and his band will play a record release show on this date at Jammin Java in Vienna. Over the past year, the band has shifted to playing more new material, but is returning to songs Wiley wrote nearly four years ago.
“There are songs that I knew would be on the record that we never learned,” Wiley said. “There are songs on the record that are completely new to the five of us.”
“The Longing” shows the main influences of Wiley’s songwriting: Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Beatles. Other elements such as Wiley’s stint in modern rock band Melodime and his side projects playing country and bluegrass music are also present. The album is also an impressive display of Wiley’s multi-instrumental talent and home production skills. The song “Want A Little More” explores many musical textures with great orchestral sounds.
“This might be my favorite recording of it all,” Wiley said. “I was learning as I went. There are certain songs where I started to find my groove as an engineer and producer. He was one of them. I had a lot of fun exploring the different sound zones of a mix. I love how you can listen to older records on a stereo and then listen to them on headphones and it’s a completely different listening experience.
The album ends with “Laredo Texas Oil Well Blues”, a nine-minute epic. The Virginia Choir has been able to extend this even further in its live performances.
“That one is especially fun with Eddie because he and I can both stretch out a bit,” Wiley said. “I’ve always liked long, cinematic, lyrical songs with different movements. I wrote this while driving through Texas. I started it on one side of Texas and finished it on the other side of Texas. It ended up having more verses than were in the finished product, but I had to cut it down or I thought the listener might hate me.
Despite its long-delayed release, Wiley is thrilled to finally release “The Longing.” Even though it will be released on all major streaming services, making it available for his fans on vinyl and CD has him looking forward to the release show.
“I feel like we’ve been riding with our emergency brake for two years,” Wiley said. “The release of this disc, which I have been promising for a few years, really exists. The fact that I can go into my office and hold it in my hands now is such a great feeling.