Interviews Music

One Track Mind: John Moods

The Berlin-based artist talks in depth about the enigmatic beauty of Townes Van Zandt’s Highway Kind

The premise of One Track Mind is pretty simple: I ask artists to pick one track that means a lot to them – either something they’ve discovered recently, something that’s been with them for years, or one that reminds them of a specific time in their life or career – and tell me what makes it so special to them. I get to talk to the artists I love, and they get to talk about the artists they love. Love all round!

John Moods is the musical solo exploration of Jonathan Jarzyna from the Berlin based pop band Fenster. Released back in August of this year, I came to his 2021 album So Sweet So Nice a little late, but it’s one of my favourite releases of the year. Tackling questions about mortality in an often light-hearted and delicate fashion, it at times evokes the hazy melodies of 80s acts like Steeley Dan, at others diving off into Paul Simon-adjacent territory, but all the while maintaining its own strong, distinctive identity. It’s a beautiful, beguiling body of work, and I one I highly recommend if you’re not already familiar with his music.

For his One Track Mind selection, John describes a song that seems to him to channel something from beyond this earthly plane.

John Moods on Townes Van Zandt – Highway Kind

“I thought long and hard about what song to choose to even talk about. Whenever someone asks me to pick just one thing, I usually freeze up, like most people probably do. Recently I’ve just decided that 1993 classic “Groundhog Day” is my favorite movie, so I got that answer ready anytime somebody may ask.

“As somebody who makes music and thinks about music all the time, I have shockingly few magical stories that are connected to specific songs. I got nothing in the vein of: “I walked into the bar and there she was and “All for A Reason” by the Alessi Brothers was playing or such… But during my first ever acid trip I listened to a song called “Highway Kind” by Townes Van Zandt and I think I wanna talk about that for a minute.

“Some people talk about sonic hallucinations when listening to music on trips. To me it was less sonic but as if somebody had just removed all the filters and protective barriers between the music and my heart. It was like having supervision. At first we jokingly searched for “groovy sounds” on Google and listened to the very first songs that randomly came up and they revealed their commercial intentions to us, then we listened to another songwriter’s music that sounded a little foggy and unclear as if the person had no clarity at all. We were all in a heightened state where authentic and inauthentic, pure or confused, incomplete or fully formed were so easy to distinguish. And then our friend finally put on Highway Kind.

“It sounded like it really wasn’t made by a human being but channeled from the depths of the eternal source. To us it was so real and enigmatic, gloomy, dark and beautiful, it was hard to take in. It sounded like the deep part of a trip feels when the mystery shows its thousand infinite mouths to you.

“The song starts off establishing some of the classic themes of so many songs in music history: transience, the passage of time and being confined to a physical existence in this world. What’s incredible about this song is where it turns to in the end. Here are the lyrics that I want to especially highlight.

Well, I don’t know too much for true
But my heart knows how to pound
My legs know how to love someone
My voice knows how to sound
Shame that it’s not enough
Shame that it is a shame
Follow the circle down
Where would you be?
You’re the only one I want now
I never heard your name
Let’s hope we meet some day
If we don’t it’s all the same
I’ll meet the ones between us
And be thinkin’ ’bout you
And all the places I have seen
And why you where not there

“I think what truly killed all of us in that open, vulnerable, unfiltered state was the line “Follow the circle down” and also the concept of that entity, the mysterious “you”, that the protagonist has never met and might never meet. Especially the line “I’ll meet the ones between us” resonated deeply.

“I recommend listening to the song no matter what. Maybe it’s good to be a little open and ready to really listen or feel something. I’ve since shown the song to a few people and sometimes I can see that it passes people by as it doesn’t have a pop hook and it’s sort of somber and slow. It’s not made for every occasion, the set and setting have to be right to open the gate of perception. To me it’s of such infinite depth that a certain level of it may have possibly been unknown even to its own author after creation, who knows. We can’t ask Townes anymore and I couldn’t find any comment or interview about the song by him. But I think it happens that when songwriters channel from such deep places, they might later not even know or understand it themselves.”

John Moods – So Sweet So Nice is out now