J.S. Ondara Digs Deeper Into His Musical Catalog With ‘Tales of America: B Sides’
The better part of a year after the February release of his debut album, Tales of America, J.S. Ondara is revisiting some of that project's stories on a new special release, Tales of America: B Sides. Additionally, the five-song collection will feature his own spin on two classic tunes.
As a continuation of his first release, B Sides further maps out Ondara's musical journey. A native of Nairobi, Kenya, who grew up obsessed with American acts such as Bob Dylan and Guns N' Roses, Ondara won a Green Card lottery and moved to the United States at the age of 20. With his first act in his home country, he displayed his (sentimental, bordering on impractical) love of country music: He made the move to a bitterly cold Minneapolis in February of 2013, in large part because it is Dylan's home state.
Fittingly, Tales of America navigates Ondara's examination of the American Dream, from the perspective of someone who, though he may be an outsider, finds his musical home in this country. Ondara says that the project's theme came to him before he began selecting songs for the track list.
"For me, the title of the record always comes before," he told The Boot during AmericanaFest 2019. "[I] have some sort of concept, and that guides me in narrowing down the songs. Because I had a bunch of songs, and I had to choose what fit into the theme that was the record. I mean, when I'm songwriting, it's just free-writing, stream of consciousness -- but all these songs sometimes fit into a certain theme."
Through the song selection process, Ondara adds, he had to whittle down the collection to a mere 10 tracks -- a fraction of what he wrote for the project. In part, that's why he decided to release his new B Sides EP.
"I wrote a lot of songs for the record, I mean, over a hundred songs. So it was hard to strip that down to just ten," he relates. "And so I wanted to come back and hopefully share a few more songs from that album. And share some interpretations that I'm fond of, so there are going to be two new covers on it."
B Sides includes Ondara's take on David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans," as well as Neil Young's "Heart of Gold." The project is set to drop on Nov. 29, a Record Store Day Black Friday exclusive release. The five-track release will tide fans over until Ondara's next album, which the singer-songwriter says is coming soon: "I just started working on my next record," Ondara adds.
J.S. Ondara, Tales of America: B Sides Track List:
1. "Milk & Honey"
2. "Torch Song (Echo Park)" (remix)
3. "Saying Goodbye (Boulevard Demo)"
4. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (David Bowie cover)
5. "Heart of Gold" (Neil Young cover)
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