For a person who says he’s never fit in anywhere, alt/folk singer-songwriter Bomethius sure knows how to make you feel unalone.
1. All right, so what's your real name?
Jonathan. Jonathan Hodges.
2. And Bomethius?
My mom came up with it, actually. Growing up I was classically educated, and somewhere along the way she just started calling me Bomethius. It's not a real thing, like, there isn't anybody named “Bomethius” in Greek mythology; it's a mixture of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods, and Boethius, who was a Middle Ages philosopher who wrote “The Consolation of Philosophy.” You put them together and you get my nickname. And really, it is just my childhood nickname. Some people kinda get turned off by it, like I tried to think up the most pretentious name possible, but it’s really nothing like that.
3. Full disclosure, we happen to already know this is the tip of the iceberg on a rather unusual life story. OK if we talk about it?
4. OK, so homeschooled ten hours a day in literature, history, philosophy, logic, Greek and Latin, started playing violin at three, piano at five, got an electric guitar from an uncle at 13, and right around then, started playing backup for a Gospel choir in an Atlanta church…
The first Sunday we showed up, they found out I played the violin and asked me to join the band, and I was like, “OK?” And then I saw there was no sheet music, which for me, you know, a stiff homeschooled white kid, woah. I was thinking, “I gotta have the notes!” They were like, "There aren't any notes." So it was kind of awesome, because I learned how to improvise there. And the people in West End, Atlanta, they’re not going to lie to you. They're not going to sugarcoat it, but they’re also going to keep pulling out hope for you until you do get it. It’s really the only way to learn how to improvise. At college I remember there were courses that were supposed to teach you how to improvise and they were always so pathetic. Improvisation is a scary, vulnerable thing, you can’t learn it in a sterilized, stiff, syll-abused environment. You have to go out and perform it and it’s gotta be terrible and you have to have people shake their heads in disappointment, but then tell you to come back again next week. Around the fifth or sixth Sunday, I got it. I’ll never forget the pastor stomping his feet on the floor, like, “At last!”
5. What did you get?
How to let go. How to let go and just follow my ear and... not even so much my ear, but the feeling. Once I have that I don’t really think about the rest.
6. Somehow, a few years later, you find yourself as a violin performance major at SMU, but just being honest, you don’t really strike us as a typical SMU student.
Well, I don’t really fit in with anybody. I don’t fit in anywhere. Most people don’t get me; they don’t get my family. And I think I come off as a bit superfluous or maybe narcissistic or something like that... I can be a bit intense, and I have high standards for my own work and other people's work, especially if I like someone. And I also don't really waste very much time.
All my best friends have always been 30-plus years older than me. In college I was typically closer to the professors than I was to the students. I mean, I wasn’t ever really allowed to be a kid, so I guess that’s where it comes from. One of my best friends is in his 60s. Also I generally hate parties. Like, I don’t know how to make small talk. I do have friends my age, but they’re few and far between. Most of them play on my albums, so I guess we almost always have music in common. Music and humor. If you can’t laugh with me, I’m probably not interested.
7. This is not a surprise, having heard your lyrics, which tend to be about the big stuff. So, let’s actually go there. You call your music --
Baroque Folk Pop. I grew up listening to a lot of Beach Boys; that’s where the Baroque Pop part comes from. But my instrumentation isn’t as dense, and I think my songs are a lot more scaled back and minimalistic and more intimate, which is really what I want. So that’s the “folk” part.
8. When did you actually decide you wanted to be a musician? Was it at SMU?
Earlier. About seven years ago, my dad got cancer -- he’s since recovered and everything is great -- but somewhere in the midst of that experience, I started writing music to cope. I basically didn’t do anything for a few years besides read, practice, and compose. About halfway through college, I knew I wanted to be a recording artist, and I just started doing that. School became almost a complete waste of my time, and I also ended up having quite a few battles with the administration. I rarely have nice things to say about my collegiate experiences, but to be clear: I don’t hate learning, I hate academia. I hate politics and nonsense. I hate that students aren’t allowed to write or create in the styles of the masterpieces we are expected to study and revere. I hate that performances are graded and registered, as opposed to welcomed and received. I hate that you can’t reinterpret the score unless there’s a video of a celebrated violinist already doing it. Anyway, I decided in my final two years to just channel my frustration into creating my own work, and I managed to write, record, and publish four full length albums by the time I graduated, though only three of those are Bomethius albums.
9. And you’re working on another album now?
Yeah! I plan to release two albums in 2020. The first one to be released is titled inadiquit and it’s the first collaborative Bomethius album. I’ve written the whole thing with my uncle, Dave Hodges. The second will be my 4th solo record and it’s called Seasons of Limbo. I’m at a point in life where I’m on the cusp of some very big changes. Typically in life, I look back and see that I didn’t really know about the biggest changes prior to their irreversible existence, but in this case I actively know about some of them, and it’s like… It’s like when you ride a zipline, you have to step out onto this platform that’s way high up, 70 feet or something, and you have to look down, and wish you weren’t there right now, but then you have to jump, and hope that your harness catches you. Well, right now, I’m being asked to step out onto the platform and I’m having to inch closer and closer to jumping. And suffice it to say, I really hope the harness holds.
It’s funny but this interview is making me think I should write a song called, “Where are my people?” and put it on one of my albums.
10. Do it! Last question -- how do you want your music to make people feel?
I never got into music for money or fame. I got into it, at the very least, so that people would be moved. Ultimately, if my music can elevate the listener’s quality of suffering, then I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something. I guess you could say I’m in it for the tears.
Check out Bomethius on Quadio!