There is only one way to find out...get him in a studio and record him live...trust me, this is wild.
So you probably weren't expecting that. You're not alone. Just like the thousands and now millions of people who doubted Bob Dylan, we're now speechless. And that's exactly where J.S. Ondara pulls his inspiration.
J.S. Ondara can trace his entire career back to a bad bet. As a teenager in Nairobi, Kenya, Ondara once swore to a friend that “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was written by his favorite band, Guns N’ Roses, and not by someone named Bob Dylan.
“What are you talking about?” he remembers thinking when he first heard Dylan’s name. “After losing that bet, I discovered this mind-boggling person.”
A decade later, Ondara, 26, is on the verge of releasing Tales of America, a clear-eyed acoustic newcomer’s tale of American promise and calamity that establishes him as an invigorating new voice in American folk music.
Rolling Stones also tells us, aside from the fateful bet, the other event that has set Ondara on his current course is when he won a Green Card lottery that allowed him to move to the United States about six years ago. Since then, he has learned to play guitar from scratch, earned a major-label deal and opened up for artists like Lindsey Buckingham and First Aid Kit.
“This new world, everyone is different from you, It’s something I’m constantly grappling with. I’m trying to find where I’m supposed to be. Maybe I will someday. But maybe I’m not supposed to be anywhere.”
Growing up obsessed with passé American rock music already made Ondara stand out in Nairobi. “I was definitely the weird guy listening to a bunch of rock songs,” the singer says. After losing his bet, he began skipping class, spending the daily bus money he’d receive from his mother at the local internet cafe instead. He memorized much of Dylan’s catalog, and began to research the history of American folk music. “I dove deep and fell hard. The music was so strange that I felt this attachment to it." We would not say J.S. Ondara is alone with that statement, Bob Dylan is easy to get attached to because of that unique voice, even if you don't like it. So as you can see, he may look like the sweetest man alive, but he still skipped class!
Author: Kyle Sobieski
Kyle Sobieski is a digital content producer and founder of First State Studios. With a background in music and songwriting under the pseudonym Pierce Frolic, Kyle personally knows the amount of work and determination that goes into becoming an artist of any medium. Towards the end of high school, Kyle realized the lack of support in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware for the arts and underground talents. So he began digging deeper into the lives of local artists, and thus, First State Studios was born. Sobieski has a diverse musical palette and loves nothing more in life than seeing people who are passionate and courageous with what they do. "It's these people who make the world a more colorful, intimate place for everybody."