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Jonathan Thomas Maiocco

Unveiling the Layers of Healing: An Intimate Interview with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side

Embark on an introspective journey with Jonathan Thomas Maiocco as we explore the depths of his latest album, “Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side.” This interview doesn’t just skim the surface; it plunges into the raw, unvarnished realities of personal trauma, resilience, and the profound healing power of music. Join us as Jonathan reveals the complexities of his path, shedding light on how his art has become a sanctuary for those grappling with similar battles.

Jonathan Thomas Maiocco, welcome to A&R Factory! Firstly, we want to congratulate you on the creatively candid and heart-wrenching triumph of the first part of your next LP, Religious Trauma Syndrome and The Other Side. What inspired you to take the leap and share your story through your music? 

Thank you! Thank you for this opportunity, I’m honored to be here. This project has been such a labor of love. My music is always inspired by my real-life experience, so creating this album is an extension of living it. It’s been kind of terrifying to explore this part of my story in music, especially so bluntly. My first album, The Point of Contingency, was about the beginnings of this journey, but very cryptic. My new music is much more pointed, which was uncomfortable at first but necessary for what I wanted to convey.

I took this leap because I had to take this leap. I don’t know if I had a choice in the matter because I never envisioned myself not doing it. Creativity has always been like that for me. This feels like a silly analogy, but it’s something I think about a lot: when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice, it’s a natural by-product. And for me, when I go through heightened experiences (positive or negative), I create art about it, it’s just a natural by-product of me simply existing. I can’t not do it.

The next half of your album will be released one single at a time later this month before the LP is released in full at the end of August, is there a particular reason for this release strategy?  

Yes, there are a couple of reasons! First, I’m an independent artist with a handful of listeners, I’m still learning how to be comfortable on social media and building a fanbase. Music and social algorithms feed off consistent posting, so from the start, I knew that releasing this album one track at a time would be the best for exposure and opportunity. Another reason why I’m releasing this album in singles is because deadlines keep me focused. I could spend years editing, so giving myself clear release dates has helped me finish this project. I was also afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to finish the entire album, so I figured releasing as I go was the best move.

Can you describe the emotional process of writing, recording, and producing an album which exposes the clearly still tender wounds of personal trauma? 

It isn’t easy. It’s a strange game of not feeling healed enough to share, and at the same time, knowing that healing comes through sharing. I spent so many years trying to not feel, so for me, the first step was feeling. It’s a non-linear process: some days you’re on cloud nine, and other days, you’re completely defeated and torn apart. I had to let go of looking productive or making anything of this journey. I think in our current culture, we’re encouraged to monetize trauma and it’s not healthy, that’s just another capitalist lie. The most important thing is navigating through the healing journey for oneself alone, regardless of whether it’s advertised or perceived as productive.

In the process of my healing journey, I would hear song melodies and lyrics in my head. I wrote them down but didn’t pressure them to be anything. I created a “music garden”, I planted the seeds but didn’t force them to grow. I would periodically return to the ideas and “water” them by adding new lyrics and production ideas. Eventually, these songs came into existence, not because they had to, but because they had the time and space to. They grew into the songs they are now, and when I could see what they became, I realized there was an album in front of me, one that I was terrified to share but knew I had to for my own healing.

Religious Trauma Syndrome will undoubtedly become a source of solace and consolation for queer people who have endured similar experiences to you, what piece of advice would you give to anyone struggling to make peace with the trauma of rejection from religious indoctrination?

I hope my music is a source of solace for my fellow queer family, I know creating this music has brought me peace!

In terms of advice, I would say – first – I am so sorry if you’ve experienced trauma and rejection, especially for being queer. Acceptance, belonging, love, and safety are basic human needs. From an evolutionary perspective, we are similar to pack animals, we need each other. Humans can’t live without other humans. So to be rejected, especially for who you are, is a primal and threatening experience. Recognizing the pain and feeling it, that is difficult work. Don’t do it alone, surround yourself with people you don’t have to prove your worth to. Healing is not an isolated journey. Be easy on yourself, you’ve been through a lot and deserve rest, understanding, and love. Healing is possible, it just takes time. Drop the timeline, drop how fast or slow you think this should go. This isn’t linear.

We know what you’d like to communicate to your friends, family and religious community who ostracized you by listening to the standout single, Heaven; have you been able to move past the anger, or is it still something you need to temper? 

A therapist once told me, “Anger is the emotion of injustice; behind all anger is pain.” I think it’s important to recognize that anger and pain go hand in hand. Anger is more popular than pain though because being angry is easier than feeling pain.

That being said, I don’t know if anger about true injustice is something to temper. It’s a completely valid feeling. However, I’ve made a decision that I don’t want to live my life as an angry person; peace is an inside job. Sometimes, I am sad and angry, but I choose to acknowledge it, feel it, and move forward. I can’t change the people who rejected me, but I can change myself. They may never be who I wish they were, but I can be who I want to be.

You’ve mentioned meeting many people in Los Angeles who have experienced religious trauma. How have these interactions influenced your music and your approach to this album?

I’ve been surprised at the number of queer ex-religious people I have met here. It’s almost comedic. I thought my story was original but now it feels cliche. Meeting people with similar stories has been so affirming, knowing I’m not alone. It’s also sobering though, it’s sad to see how widespread this problem is.

That being said, meeting others similar to me encouraged me to actually release this album. While I was writing it, I would think to myself, “No one will understand these songs.” But that changed for me one afternoon when I was hanging out with a friend. They are also queer and come from a traumatic religious background, being rejected by family, friends, and community. We were talking about music and so I played them my song Better Off on piano, singing it quietly for my first time to someone else. When I finished the song, I turned around and saw tears streaming down their face. I was shocked. I had never seen someone resonate with my music so quickly and viscerally. We were connected in that moment. And that was when I realized not everyone will understand this music and that’s OK, it’s not for them. It’s for the people who will resonate with it.

We can’t help but admire how much you’ve thrived in your career after all you’ve been through, what has been your proudest achievement so far? 

Thank you! I feel very lucky. It’s been a difficult journey but so worth it. There are a couple of achievements that I’m very proud of, like my degrees in music composition, writing additional music for mainstream TV shows, and producing different artists.

I think my two proudest achievements are, first, this album. This album is the culmination of me. It’s my experience, my training, my pain, my joy, all wrapped into one thing. I’m very proud of this album and I’m thankful to be releasing it! And second, I’m proud of my relationship with myself. I’ve learned a lot about myself on this journey and making this album. I went from being afraid of myself, not feeling like I could trust myself, to becoming my biggest champion, cheerleader, and confidant. It’s the cliche, “It’s not the destination but the journey.” I don’t care where I’m going now, I’m just thankful for who I’ve become on this journey.

Stream Religious Trauma Syndrome on Spotify and follow Jonathan Thomas Maiocco on Instagram and TikTok.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Experience the intimate opulence of Jonathan Thomas Maiocco’s cinematic pop ‘Heaven’

Jonathan Thomas Maiocco’s latest single, Heaven, is a cinematic pop production far too arcane to dissect; each element converges and creates a divine intervention of vulnerability, exhibited with aching sincerity, thematic intensity, and profound artistry.

The distinction within his harmonic inflections, his ability to come across as the virtuoso next door and the progressive ingenuity of Heaven ensures the single reaches the epitome of striking an emotional chord.

Using the afterlife as a parable for the degree of separation following the dissolution of a relationship that leaves you feeling beneath your former significant other is a striking ode to the artist’s ability to tune into meta phenomena to bring profound meaning to the most tormenting aspects of our mortal coil.

Heaven is the ultimate paradox for the way Jonathan Thomas Maiocco fuses chamber pop opulence and drama with the intimacy of introspection with neither aspect diminished by the gravity of the other. The Atlanta-born singer, songwriter and producer’s strong foundation in music composition evidently culminated in this expansive tour de force.

He’s come a long way from his Christian music beginnings to producing for the Grammy-Award-winning artist for KING & COUNTRY to releasing his debut in 2019. After moving to LA in 2020, Jonathan Thomas Maiocco has written for hit Netflix and ABC shows, including Russian Doll and Carol and the End of the World. Yet, if you tune into his new album, Religious Trauma Syndrome, you’ll find that’s his biggest achievement so far. It’s stunning enough to simultaneously tear your soul apart and lead you to nirvana.

Heaven was officially released on the 29th of April; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast