I think I’m gonna start a new life
You want the old me?
Well I left him behind
—JBACH, Old Me
By Paul Natinsky
An epiphany in the form of a surprise phone call changed the course of Jonathon Bach’s life, and he hasn’t looked back since. When he was 19, attending the University of Michigan, singing and playing piano, the now 23-year-old picked up the phone. It was the popular TV music show, The Voice, and they wanted him to audition for a spot.
Having quit piano lessons in 8th grade and only beginning to sing seriously at 16, he headed out to Los Angeles at the show’s expense. What followed was an odyssey lasting several months and moving him closer to his dream.
The Voice is a show that pits singer-contestants against one another once they are selected by celebrity musician judges who coach them on teams.
Bach sang an acapella version of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Pop star and composer Pharrell spun his chair after three lines and selected Bach. Pharrell then enlisted rapper and music industry impresario P Diddy to co-coach Bach in the show’s competition.
Before that fateful selection Bach made it past the first couple of rounds of auditions. The real competition started in October 2016. Bach made several trips to LA and back; at first for a week or so and then for months. He enjoyed the full Hollywood experience: hotels, chauffeurs and star treatment that included access to the Universal Studios lot.
His life was filled with rehearsals, voice lessons, lawyer and record label meetings. “Every artist that makes it onto the show is a Republic Records signed artist. I was at one point signed to Republic Records for at least two songs with them.”
He didn’t share his music with his family because he was unsure how it would be received, so they really didn’t know how good he was.
Bach, who lost his “battle” contest to another team member, used the experience to launch a budding pop career.
Before his run on The Voice, Bach sang in a school-based acapella group at UM. The Voice talent scouts saw some of his taped performances and recruited him to audition. Keeping his audition a secret—he told his cousin and piano accompanist they were going to an open mic night—Bach made the cut and headed to Los Angeles.
“It was crazy,” said Bach. “I was not looking for it. I doubt I would ever done it on my own. So it was completely out of the blue.”
His “battle” contest was the first time his parents saw him perform and they were blown away by their son’s talent. They supported his ambitions from that point forward. Bach said his experience on The Voice was the first time anyone treated him like an artist and told him that was what he was meant to be.
“It was crazy, it was like full immersion; you know like when people go to Spain and then after three months they can speak Spanish, they come back and tell us how they eat paellas and they are all changed and stuff? It was like that, but for music,” he explained It completely turned everything upside-down for me.”
From Jonathon to JBACH
Losing on The Voice was hard to take, but Bach took the praise and encouragement he earned on the show, reinvented himself as JBACH and moved to LA to pursue his dream.
In the four years JBACH has been in LA, he has released two singles, “Old Me” and “Taste.” His funky pop style and clever confessional lyrics are infectious, but they have come at a high price. JBACH spends most of his time writing and composing in the same apartment he leased when he moved to LA. He once wrote 22 songs in 21 days. So far, he has only deemed three worthy of recording. His newest single, “When The Dark Comes,” is soon to be released. A video of “Taste,” was due out in July. Both “Old Me” and “Taste” are available on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services.
Among the highlights of JBACH’s career is a January 2017 opening act gig before 3,000 fans for an Ohio performance by indie pop stars the Chainsmokers. Tempering the rush of that experience was JBACH’s frustration that he only had one song and some mixes to play.
While he has redoubled his commitment to writing, he has eschewed performing other artists’ music to continue to work on his own, working “every job under the sun” to make ends meet. His labors have included being duped into a telemarketing job and teaching music.
“The starving artist life is very real, I’m telling you,” he said. “It makes you work harder because you are funding everything yourself.”
As he continues the long climb on the ladder to pop stardom, JBACH has become a celebrity in the Chaldean community, a phenomenon he calls “Chaldean celebridom.”
He has appeared on the cover of the Chaldean News. People come up to him all the time—even at a wedding performance in San Diego. “I feel like a cool ambassador for the Chaldean people because people will ask, “what are you.” We’re Iraqi Christians. It’s so cool to explain that and tell people what it is.”
JBACH said he has received a lot of communication from Chaldean people, especially after “Old Me” came out and people said they could relate to it.
“It’s about doing your own thing, so every Chaldean who is not a dentist, doctor, lawyer or pharmacist can relate to it.
“The Chaldean people had to come here from Iraq and make a life for themselves and our generation shouldn’t be afraid to go where we need to go and make our own careers the same way our ancestors did.”
His Instagram account is loaded with young and older Chaldean people inspired by his example.
“My mom told me about a friend whose kid left everything behind for Mission work, based on my telling people to go forward and do what they want to do,” Bach explained.
When he hears that people have shed their self-consciousness to pursue their dreams, he said, “it touches my soul.”