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Jonathan Wagnr made his Broadway debut with School of Rock as the original Dewey understudy, performing the role over 100 times. He spent the last 15 years performing all over Chicago at the Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare & The Second City among others.  He is also an award-winning composer/songwriter, having written hundreds of songs and four full-length musicals!

In anticipation of his live show with us on July 11th at 6PM, Jonathan was nice enough to email us from his home-base in New York to discuss the bands musical influences, live show experience, and what inspires them on a day-to-day basis

BAR NINE: What type of band are you?
JONATHAN WAGNER: I am a piano man, with too many thoughts NOT to sing them

BN: Tell us the brief history of your band
JW: I’ve been playing songs, funny and sad, since the 90’s. I started as a guitar-based stand-up, and have progressed into a pop-piano artist with a deeply cynical side. I’ve been focused on my acting career the last few years, but now I’m getting back into my songwriting and can’t wait to try out some of my new stuff. (It’s good)

BN: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
JW: Holy British Trinity of McCartney, Elton and Freddie Mercury

BN: What are your dreams and goals?
JW: To write a song that a lot of people like. (Also, to never have to go back to my day job)

BN Who writes the songs, what are they about?
JW: I do. About 75% are written in either in the first or last month of relationships (so, happy/sad love songs). The rest are snarky thoughts that I am compelled to sing to people in bars

BN: How do you promote your band and shows?
JW: By answering questionnaires like this. Lots of social media and word of mouth. Guilt is also effective in getting your friends out

BN: Describe your show, visual and musically
JW: Me, and my awesome musical guests, playing some rocking songs, and some funny songs. No light show... yet

BN: What do you think about downloading music online?
JW: For it. Increased distribution is great as long as the artists are getting paid

BN: What's your outlook on the record industry today?
JW: The old paradigm is gone, I’m fascinated to see what happens now that technology has made music is so democratic

BN: What's your claim to fame?
JW: I am currently understudying the lead (Dewey Finn) in “School of Rock: The Musical.” I spent 15 years teaching at Chicago’s famed Second City, and have three former students on SNL

BN: Tell us a story about a day in your life
JW: Aside from my job, it’s really not that interesting, I promise. But I HAVE had to go on as Dewey in SOR three times in the middle of the show...

BN: What inspires you to do what you do?
JW: The idea that this thought I had, can become a song. That song can travel invisibly across the world and touch someone I’ve never met. That’s pretty cool

BN: What advice would you give to fellow bands?
JW: You should cover my songs

BN: What are some of your pet peeves?
JW: Lazy lyrics, performers who obviously work on their “look” way more than their “sound.” Karaoke singers who pick reeeeeeally long songs that are WAAAAAAY too hard for them to pull off...

BN: How does music affect you and the world around you?
JW: My Mutant Sonic Scream can do 2D8 damage, but I only use it for the purposes of good

BN: What are the biggest obstacles for bands?
JW: Getting people who don’t know you to give a crap. It’s HARD to get people to leave their house and spend money on something new. (Insert “Ratatouille” criticism speech here...)

BN: What's the best and worst thing about playing clubs?
JW: Best: The intimacy. Worst: Asshole drunks

BN: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there
JW: Still finalizing dates for this winter. You should be there because I am delightful, and my songs will be the soundtrack your life never knew it needed

Steven Padernacht