Singer/Songwriter Jonny Carroll tackles the tough situations life has given him on his debut album, Leaving On The Light. The Grand Rapids, MI native wrote much of the album wandering the streets in the United Kingdom one winter while trying to make sense of an abandoned wedding engagement. Carroll’s indie-pop sound and rustic, folksy lyrics come together to tell his story as he comes to grips with picking up the pieces of love lost.
From the very start, Leaving On The Light showcases Carroll’s penchant for wistful lyrics over an uplifting beat. With “Painted Jars”, Carroll works through his relationship woes, and his carefree attitude gives the impression he’s doing just fine. The depth of the verses betray Carroll’s happy facade; he may be doing better, but looking back on this relationship makes him realize the warning signs he wished he would have seen long ago. “You told me you were only looking for a fire to hold, to keep away the midwest cold,” Carroll croons, adding “Now that winter’s over you don’t need me close.” Everything’s clearer in retrospect, but a hopeless dreamer like Carroll is willing to ignore the negatives in pursuit of true love. Even when things don’t work out, he has his music to help him continue to love, learn, and grow.
Carroll laments on how quickly things change with “February”, noting his former love’s influence on his music. “Green Eyes, didn’t take you long to find your way into this song.” It’s an interesting way of turning lemons into lemonade. A contrast to “Painted Jars”, “February” takes a stripped back and more serious tone, and while Carroll’s voice remains calm and collected, his lyrics portray a sense of utter heartache, terrified and almost unwilling to accept his fate. As Carroll remembers February – the best month of his life – it brings about painful memories for him. It’s a sad affair that’s surely relatable to the romantic in us all on a quest to find eternal, undying love.
Leaving On The Light‘s titular track is Carroll’s latest single. It finds Carroll returning to an upbeat and radio-friendly production as his lyrics turn to their most downtrodden and hopeless. Carroll wrestles once more with this love, wishing things would go back to the way they were. “Leaving On The Light” would be right at home, both with its lyrics and production, on a Kris Allen album, which is an insanely good thing for Carroll — but at the same time, “Leaving On The Light” left me wanting more from Carroll vocally – as he lays his heart on the line with insanely vivid lyrics, there’s not enough emotion in his voice. It’s quite a beautiful song regardless, but had Carroll taken a risk and pushed himself out of his comfort zone, I imagine more emotionally raw vocals could have taken “Leaving On The Light” to the level of sheer perfection.
There’s a sense of cautious hope for the weary on “Sound of Falling”, as Carroll uses his storytelling lyrics to tell the tale of falling in love once more. Carroll takes a yin and yang approach to his music; when his lyrics portray a broken heart, he finds comfort in an uplifting production. As he finds himself falling back in love, the “Sound of Falling” strips back to an acoustic guitar, letting his consoling lyrics take the lead. The happier lyrics continue on “When I’m Alive”, conjuring metaphors of love being like gasoline on a fire. A more traditional approach – upbeat production paired with lovestruck lyrics suits Carroll’s work. A catchy chorus and infectious bridge make the song memorable.
Like “When I’m Alive” before it, “Words Unspoken” continues the more traditional approach to the song’s production, flipping the script and finding Carroll singing a more downtempo song about the fear of a dying relationship. Both Jonny and his love know the relationship is ending, but to actually sever the relationship is a task neither one wants to do. Instead, they find themselves mellowing in their sorrows, unhappy to the core but clinging on to the hope that the world may start turning in the opposite direction and things will come around.
“Joshua” immediately brings about further Kris Allen comparisons – from the very first lyric, Carroll’s voice could easily be mistaken for Allen’s. It also furthers my point about the potential for “Leaving On The Light” – Carroll gives his all on “Joshua”, and his emotion is evident as he shows his range, pairing lower, almost spoken verses with the melodic and powerful chorus. “Joshua” is a wonderful end to Leaving On The Light, and it does a great job to let you know Carroll has the potential to make it big with his ‘pop hook, folk heart’.
As a whole, Leaving On The Light is a debut album that shares Carroll’s journey to his listeners with its strong songwriting. Carroll is a master of telling his story through song, and Leaving On The Light shines brightest on the tracks where he abandons his inhibitions and lets his emotions take over.
You can purchase Leaving On The Light on iTunes. Visit Jonny’s official website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Carroll will be at the Electric Maid in Washington, DC on July 24th. Visit his Facebook page for tour information.