Jonathon Childers has one major problem to face
– he is finally happy. When a family member dies or a girlfriend walks out on him, it is much easier to scrawl a few angry words and work them into a song. Somewhere along the line his muses changed, the songs were still written, and he continued to move through bizarre and unsteady territory as a new musician in Champaign-Urbana.
Childers’ musical path proves improvements can stem from the most unfavorable of situations. He learned how to play the guitar as a distraction from a nasty break up in high school, and he wrote a number of songs after a close family member passed away. Music is his way of coping – a healthy outlet to harvest negativity into something positive for the ears.
He took guitar lessons after said break up and started a band with some friends called Store in a Cool Place in Byron, Ill. They recorded their album in a sort of protest against the school’s production of Godspell, but Childers admits it wasn’t his best work.
“I listen to it now, and it was really pretty crappy,” Childers says. “I still wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and we were sort of just messing around.”
Luckily he didn’t give up after strike one, and his first gig on campus came from his job as a sandwich maker. Potbelly’s allowed Childers to play his tunes Fridays at noon, and rewarded him with $15 an hour and a free sandwich. The corner of Potbelly’s was surprisingly the perfect place for him to hone his skills and try out some songs for a new audience, and I’m sure the sandwich didn’t hurt either.
After the free sammies ended, Childers found it very difficult to score a show in town. “I once walked to Cowboy Monkey from ISR for an open mic night to play for three people who didn’t listen,” he says. “I’m not bashing those sorts of shows; they’re just something you have to start off doing.”
Childers also grabbed onto a handful of gigs at the Iron Post and has been taking part in a few house shows, the most recent of which was last week with Caw! Caw! from Chicago.
“I’ll play anywhere someone asks me to,” he explains. “It’s an honor to be asked, but there’s a fine line between playing a lot of shows and over-saturating the market.”
He pedaled himself to open mic nights until a winter fiasco caused him to put life on pause. He was walking outside when he slipped and fell on the ice, shattering the bones in his leg. After a visit to the doctor at Provena Covenant Medical Center, he was told they couldn’t do anything to fix it and to “accept deformity.”
“That was a really hard thing to hear,” he says. “I decided to get a second opinion, but between that time I was just hanging out with a broken leg. It was about a week and a half.”
He finally received a much-needed surgery on Abe Lincoln’s 200th birthday in Springfield, Ill. The doctors hadn’t informed Childers of exactly what the surgery would entail, and it wasn’t until seeing the x-ray he realized they had put 15 screws into his leg.
It’s been a long haul since the break; he had to cancel his trip to visit his girlfriend in Italy, took a month off school, laid with his leg elevated for what most would consider far too long, and suffered from trouble controlling the pain.
Even this agonizing setback wasn’t enough to keep him from his music. He kept a notebook by his bed and continued to write in his bedridden state. He played shows with his cast, and after months of pain and physical therapy has finally graduated to just a hefty black boot and crutches.
“I’m definitely more appreciative now of being able to go to a silly party and have fun with friends,” he says. His spirits are repairing themselves as the breaks heal. He’s back to his good-natured and level-headed self, but he admits the future is a little unnerving. He would love to continue playing music, but the idea of being a working musician is a scary concept.
“I’ve been telling people for years that I want to be a rock star when I grow up,” he explains. “It’s a funny joke when you’re a sophomore in college, but when you become a senior and college is coming to a close it gets a little frightening.”
He plans to continue singing about women gone wrong and partying with friends, just to see where it will take him. Jonathon Childers is a man who has faced numerous adversities in only a few short years, so if he tells you his leg was broken in a bar fight, just play along. It’ll make him feel a little better.