Now performing as a power-packed duo with Jon Locker to differentiate the live band sound and telling us more about her new message-heavy album, the early music career and central Iowa life, the award-winning Midwest, USA-based pop/rock musician/composer BONNE (Bonne Finken) opens up our minds with an interview to behold with execute.
Llewelyn: Firstly, do you recall the precise moment when you just knew music was what you wanted to do for a living and what did it feel like in your veins?
Bonne: For me, it was around eight years old. I’ve always been drawn to and loved all aspects of music, but had only been exposed to either pop music on the radio or to gospel music in church. When I was around 8 yrs old, my father played me a song called “Angel From Montgomery” by John Prine, and it was like someone decoded a secret language for me. It was the first time I felt sad when listening to a song. It wasn’t upbeat or fun to listen to, like the music on the radio. I was hooked by that feeling. To be able to tell your stories and truths and feel connected to someone I’ve never met through music. I literally began (attempting) to write songs right after that.
Jon: The first time I played in front of people and they responded…that was enough for me.
Llewelyn: Secondly, please tell us about your new music name and who is now involved in BONNE. Also, how has the process been from the solo artist world to band world – pros and cons?
Bonne: I’d still technically consider myself a solo artist. This is more a ‘Duo Project’ vs. band – and was started as an effort to link an album to what our sound is, live. It’s myself and Jon Locker, as far as who is involved in BONNE, from the writing standpoint. We brought in two producers to help with drums and production, Seth Luloff and Micah Natera (and Kevin Bowe for ‘Woman’). So a very lean production team, really, in the world of rock music. Jon and I have worked together for years, this is more a project where he could step out from behind the scenes/the backing band into the forefront and be more involved from the infancy stage of the songwriting. I still do and plan to continue to make music as Bonne Finken – BONNE was a way to differentiate the SOUND more than anything – I knew this was a departure, sonically, since the songs were produced around Jon’s lead bass as the lead instrument. I’m still determining the pros and cons – but all are probably pretty consistent with any musical venture in this current industry climate. We are just excited with how the album turned out and happy we get opportunities to share it.
Llewelyn: Please may you guide us into the vision, the sound and the process behind the project.
Bonne: For me, the vision and sound goal somewhat built as a juxtaposition to my last two albums. My solo albums I never let myself be limited by what instruments were available to me, live. If I heard choirs or strings or layered drums, that’s what went on the record – even if I knew it would be difficult (or impossible) to pull together for an LIVE indie show.
This album, it was “what can be recreated as a live rock band” and I/we tried to stay living inside of that when it came to writing and production. Specifically, Jon has a new instrument (a custom built BilT bass guitar) and the songs were largely built around ‘what can Jon cover, live, sonically’ and just add drums and maybe just ONE snyth line or two. Even adding harmonies to my lead vocal was a ‘should we or shouldn’t we’ since it’s semi-breaking the rules of ‘what can we recreate live’ since I do my own back-ups….and can’t do that live.
Jon: I kept saying “exploring the limitations” as we were making the songs.
Bonne & Jon: Also, a ROCK album – was the vision and sound.
Llewelyn: Also, are there any specific tracks we should be extra thrilled about?
Bonne: “Problems” is my favorite. It’s in the Top 5 of songs I’ve ever written – from this and all albums – and I feel the unique sounds from Jon’s lead bass feels special on it and I completely adore Micah (Natera)’s production – I think it’s honestly dark and beautiful and I’m very proud of how it ended up.
Jon: “Contender”…duh. It just feels right all around.
Llewelyn: You’re an award-winning and much-respected musician. Does that come with extra pressure and what does it feel like to have your music on major tv shows such as MTV’s The Real World & E!’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians?
Bonne: It feels good retrospectively. It can sometimes be a hindrance. The accolades can sometimes give the illusion that you don’t still need help, or opportunities, or money, ha. But I’m proud of my work, not only the music or songs I’ve written – but the work put into getting it heard – which is sometimes harder than the creation itself. Of course, I am learning this is just the life of an indie artist – and I’m making peace with that! But it’s why it’s so important to be making music for myself, that I love to create/perform, since that is really all that is solid ground in my world. My never wavering from that is, perhaps, the only reason I’m able to keep going. I know any award or accolade given was based on my own work and decisions. Not someone telling me what I should write about or do.
Llewelyn: What’s it like being an artist from the Midwest and where exactly did you grow up and learn your craft?
Bonne: I grew up in central Iowa. The difficult part of growing up as a writer of electronic pop/rock music is there aren’t alot of people to collaborate with. But on the plus side, largely thanks to the large folk/americana scene here — there’s still the embrace of my music because I’m not just a creator/artist/singer – I’m a songwriter, too. I’ve been lucky to play just about every venue you can think of in the state – despite having a sound that most wouldn’t assume places me from the Midwest. So I was able to put in my “10,000 hours”. That’s how I’ve learned my craft. By doing it. It also means when you find a cohort, like I’ve found in Jon Locker, you’re grateful that someone likes and wants to play songs that you like to play.
Jon: I was born in Mason City, IA and grew up in Nevada, IA where there were several other players slightly older than me that let me hang early. I started at age 12. First bar gig at 13. I learned from gigging.
Llewelyn: Also, who has inspired you to reach your dreams no matter the challenges of the music industry?
Bonne: Self-motivated people inspire me. People who have a passion and move towards the passion, even if it’s difficult, or the road less traveled. I’m also inspired by knowing my kids are watching and learning from me, to be one of those people. That if you love something – you should keep doing it. For me, I don’t have a choice, really. I hear things in my head. I have to get them out in order to sleep or function. Once they’re out in demo form & start to take shape – I choose which ones to focus on & finish….then….I put them out for people to listen to. And then the cycle begins again. I love it and I have to do it. Hopefully someday that will equate itself to more money – but really – just so that I can spend more time/money on it…..to hire that choir/string section I put in my recordings but can’t afford to bring onto a stage.
Jon: Lots of people. It feels like the music “industry” is barely a thing anymore. It’s broken right now. The challenge for an artist or band is that you used to be able to make a living playing and selling music…good friggin luck with that right now!
Llewelyn: You’ve just been told you have the keys to and an unlimited budget to put on/run a music festival. Who would you add to the lineup, where would it be and what would the message of the event be?
Bonne: I’d add my favorite group from each genre I could think of – from Eminem to Jon Batiste to Alanis Morrisette to Billie Eilish to Brandi Carlile – and just celebrate individuality by artists who created their own sound without worrying about what ‘the current trend’ was. A genre-less festival celebrating pioneers of sound.
Jon: First question…is rain insurance part of the deal? If yes then I still don’t know!!
Llewelyn: Lastly, what does the future hold for you long-term and what advice would you give to young musicians trying to find their way to the top?
Bonne: All I know for sure is I’m going to continue to create new music. The only advice I feel I’m qualified to give: be sure you do what you love to do. Fame, Fortune, Failure, whatever….that music is there forever with your name on it. Try not to take advice from someone who will tell you what to do with your art/voice/stories to make THEM money. It’s all a crapshoot – so – do you, boo.
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Interview by Llewelyn Screen