Covering Robyn’s iconic “Dancing On My Own” is no easy feat–the timeless love ballad has topped multiple countries’ music charts, appeared in countless television shows, made us dance, and made us cry all at the same time. Lo and behold, Jake McMullen has succeeded beyond our highest expectations.
The young singer/songwriter has managed to re-invent the 2010 hit with a brand new, very personal flair. By replacing Robyn’s synth pop-dominated production with smooth guitar licks and organic percussion, McMullen’s “Dancing On My Own” has taken on a brand new essence, and yet, it still retains the relatable lyrics that we’ve all grown to so attached to over the years. Not to mention, those lyrics are sung by one of the most pleasantly crisp and velvety voices.
Much like his 2015 Always EP, McMullen’s “Dancing On My Own” cover reinforces his decision to move from Orange Country to Nashville to pursue his passion for songwriting and continue to refine his distinct indie-folk sound. All the while, he’s remained relatively modest with the goal of striving “for greatness and trying to make sense of this life and find those moments of happiness along the way.”
Listen to Jake McMullen’s “Dancing On My Own” below, then read our Q&A for more insight into its making as well as McMullen’s influences, creation process, and overall incentives.
OTW: Love your rendition of “Dancing On My Own!” What is it about that song that drew you in? What’d you change from the original to make it your own?
JM: Thanks! What drew me in ultimately was that its a great song and felt like I had a personal interpretation to offer to it.
I worked on the song with producer Micah Tawlks and producer/drummer Dabney Morris. I have never done a cover song before so it was a fun experience to reimagine things. I originally proposed a more ballad-esque downtempo version of the song when talking with Micah about it. But after a few hours in the studio, things just weren’t presenting themselves in the way I imagined. Then Dabney found that pad sound you hear at the beginning and laid down the drum beat, and from there, things took off and ideas started to come very naturally. The whole process was a lot of fun.
OTW: Who did you grow up listening to & where do you draw influences for your music?
JM: I grew up listening to lots of different artists. I distinctly remember my dad playing Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Frank Sinatra and The Beach Boys on a consistent basis. Nowadays, it all just depends on the mood I’m in. But I listen to a wide range of things.
Of course what I listen to naturally influences my music. But a lot of life experiences and trying to put a sound on a feeling to expand and present that feeling in a sonic sense influences me a lot as well I think.
OTW: Tell us about the making and meaning behind your Always EP. Is there a particular sound or theme you went for & do you plan to maintain that in future releases?
JM: At the time of making the Always EP, it was a lot of just me and my guitar and writing everything that way and bringing it into the studio to flesh out. And most of the songs spurred from a time where I was settling in from a move and finding my way through those changes.
I’ve strayed from strictly writing the way I used to and allowed myself to explore new ways for songs to present themselves. I’ve really dove into exploring new sounds. A friend of mine showed me how to work Logic shortly after finishing that first EP and that has opened this whole new world to me. Still maintaining a focus on the song itself and its bare bones. But at the same time, taking the time prior to going into the studio to work out the production myself and chase inspiring sounds that I find or hear in my head and allow that method to reveal a song. Every song is different and I’m just trying to make things I’m proud of and want to hear. And hopefully if it connects with me, it’ll connect with others.
OTW: In one word, what would you say makes you unique as an artist?
OTW: Who are 3 artists on your Ones To Watch list & why?
JM: In no particular order…
Spooky Black- Smooth. Groove. Feel.
Caleb Groh- One of my favorite Nashville artists. Song after song after song is inspiring.
Myzica- A lesson in perfect 80’s songwriting. An Amy Grant and Cyndi Lauper lovechild. Another Nashville favorite.
OTW: Describe your perfect Saturday. (what can we find you doing when you’re not making music)
JM: Good sleep. Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Outdoors. Coffee and a good book. Sitting on my deck listening to the night over a glass of whiskey.
OTW: What are you working on at the moment? What’s your ultimate goal as an artist?
JM: Writing and recording. Trying to push myself everyday to constantly get better. Should have some more stuff out soon.
It’s hard to say what the ultimate goal is at the moment, as I’ve just tried to keep my head down and make things and move forward. But I really just want to make great songs and records and play them for as many people as possible. Strive for greatness and try to make sense of this life and find those moments of happiness along the way.
OTW: Anything else you’d like to share?
JM: Thanks to Ones To Watch for sharing the song! I’m really appreciative for those who have been supportive and listen to what I make. Hard to fathom that at times.