The first time I heard Jonathan Hoard sing, I had no idea what the hell was happening to me.

My friend Vicki called me up and asked me to go to a music show with her but refused to tell me anything about it. So like a good friend, I ceased asking questions as I hopped on the F train and followed her into a dark bar basement after getting my wrist stamped by a stoic-faced woman. Once in said basement, I heard the most melodic live music to ever grace my ears and then the voice that made me question all voices.

To this day I still have the snapchat video of Jonathan Hoard, formally known as J Hoard, saved in my phone, and I have gone back to that music show called The Lesson just about every Thursday night. J Hoard is a part of a brilliantly talented band called Gentei Kaijo and every Thursday night they perform at Arlene's Grocery in the Lower East Side. Their music is completely improvised but has proven to have everlasting effects of uplifting and empowering so many people as well as just being fun.

I've had emotional experiences listening to songs about hollering at the moon out of feelings of frustrations, as well as jamming out to a song solely based around celebrating uteruses. In addition to J Hoard being the lead vocalist of this eclectic group, he has also made some amazing strides on his own. I took some time during a show to photograph him and his wardrobe of many colours as well as getting to know him offstage.


How did you find your way to music?

My earliest memory as a child is singing in church. Both of my parents are ministers and during pre adolescent years my involvement in the church as a singer increased dramatically. The first time I sang professionally was with my father who is a former member of Ohio Players and a Tyscott Records recording artist, on one of his many gospel music clinics. Through high school, I predominantly sang classical and jazz music competing in Austria with a Tenor solo and at numerous school competitions. That experience prepared me for college at Berklee College of Music where I performed with numerous artists such as Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire and was a featured artist with Victor Wooten.


Who are some artist you've worked with?

Since college I have worked with Sonnymoon, The Stepkids, Kimbra, Pharoah Monche, Macklemore, Brasstracks, Lorde, and Chance The Rapper, with whom I won a Grammy with for my songwriting contributions on 'No Problem'. These are my most cherished opportunities as they were all gained solely on the strength of my artistry and character.


How did you become a part of Gentei Kaijo?

Prior to settling in NYC I'd travel from Boston for a week or two every three months. During these visits, I'd check out and sometimes sit in at various jam sessions. Upon my investigations, I found Gentei Kaijo at Arlene's Grocery. I first would just go to vibe, then I began sitting in with literal luggage as I finished my last weeks of teaching in Boston and picking up things from storage then I began to be called up on stage by our drummer Lenny The Ox.


In late February 2014, the constant two female singers Melani Charles and Kennedy Admission were both doing solo gigs and I was asked to be the house singer for the night. After that, I sang for a few months with either or both Mel and Kennedy. They both began getting super busy with their solo projects and I then became the main house singer. GK has become a family to me. Much of my opportunities domestically and internationally has stemmed from being seen and heard at The Lesson. Furthermore, my level as songwriter and topline writer has enhanced exponentially. Over 100 weeks of creating hooks for over 2 hours. Yeah, it's helped!


Who are some artists that influence you and what do they represent to you?

Stevie Wonder. The Godfather.
Duke Ellington. The King.
Robert Plant. My crazy uncle.
Bach. The Oracle.
Ella Fitzgerald. The Queen.
Carmen McRae. My absolute favorite.
Aretha Franklin. Power.
Kim Burrell. The Future.
Tina Turner. Rockstar.
Brandy. My vocal coach.
Shania Twain. Wisdom.
Beyoncé. Duh.
Juan Luis Guerra. My Latin uncle.
Amália Rodrigues. The voice.
Whitney Houston. Adorable.
Chaka Khan. Fierce.
Dixie Chicks. Stories for days.
Guinga. Suave.
The Clark Sisters. My roots.
Donald Lawrence, Fred Hammond & Tye Tribbett: Music nerds.


A lot of the songs you sing have strong messages of love and confidence while also exploring vulnerability and even aggression. What would you say that your artistic message is as a whole?

My artistic message is: "there is room for you." I want people to feel accepted and love but understand that life is not easy and often confusing. It's my hope my music allows people to find the strength within to improve their lives and those around them.


What has your experience as a musician taught you about yourself or life in general?

    Through music I've learned:
    -Only uncertainty is certain so enjoy the moment.
    -Preference/taste is not law.
    -Time can be manipulated.
    -Another approach (chord, rhythm change, modulation) can complete the puzzle.


    What are some of your upcoming projects or ventures?

    I leave for London Saturday the 22nd! Next Wednesday, July 25th I will be performing for the international music charity Common and Kind for its latest release, Human Kind which I had the pleasure of recording on. Joining me to rep the US is Justin Stanton of Snarky Puppy & guitar extraordinaire Brad Allen Williams. In addition to singing the internationally star studded "Human Kind", I will perform my original music! Exactly two weeks afterwards I'll be joining Tiss Rodriguez in Paris for his month long residency at Le Baiser Salé! Super looking forward to this residency. Three nights performing Stevie and Prince's music.

    You can check out more from J Hoard on Instagram and Soundcloud (@jhoardmusic).