With just five songs, Jonny P considers his upcoming EP Good To You (out April 21) -- whose track "Stand By" is premiering exclusively below -- "a taste of what I am. More a preview than a debut."
Regardless of intent, the set, which follows 2014's Right To You EP, shows the Bronx-born, Nashville-based singer to be a soul stylist straddling the line between classic and contemporary. "I just set out to differentiate myself from a lot of the other soul artists, R&B artists out there, just not doing everything that's such quintessential, cliche soul," P (nee Powell) explains to Billboard. "I didn't want to have the horns blaring, the crunchy drums and distortion and all that. Something a little more clean and streamlined is really what the goal of the project is."
The authentic tip certainly comes from P's melodies as well as having R&B OG James Gadson on drums. But he also looked to co-producer Goffrey Moore and especially mixer Tom Elmhirst, who's worked with Adele, Frank Ocean and Amy Winehouse, to make sure Good To You was no mere throwback. "Having somebody like Tom jump on and give it that modern, clean, like Adele type of mix that he threw on it, and Goffrey Moore with his tone, I don't think it could have worked out any better for the project," says P, who worked his way into music as a drummer, and later singer, in his parents' church. "It's exactly what I had in mind."
P keeps things sparse on the "Stand By" track, particularly with the lyrical arrangement. "It just talks about friction between two lovers, from a man's point of view," he explains. "It's like the guy is turning around, blaming the lady for walking out, not really owning up to what he did; She storms out, but he just wants her to stand by him and stick around with him, whether he deserves it or not. I think it's a song a lot of people can identify with." The scenario continues to morph for P as well.
"Yeah, I get different pictures in my head," he says. "My most recent vision is a 1950s dive bar, run by a guy and the waitress storms out in the middle of her shift, leaving him hanging. It's kind of the tension of a love interest, but he's actually saying, 'You got to stay here and crank out this rush hour with me.'"
P is continuing to work on material with hopes for a full-length album to follow, but Good To You isn't his only creative endeavor this year. He also makes his acting debut with a small role as a "badass" club owner in director Kathryn Bigelow's forthcoming, as-yet-untitled drama set in the 1967 Detroit civil unrest. "That's one of the highlights of my life, being involved in that film," P says. "It's an amazing film that's also steeped in music, obviously, being in 1967 and all the greats that were cutting their teeth and actually coming of age in Detroit at that time. It just chronicles the story of injustice that happened and sparked the riots there that were one of the three most devastating riots in American history. It really tells a story I think people will be able to relate to now, with everything that's happened her in the last few years."