Life & Culture

The Australian Musician Who Found Sobriety, Then Love, and Released an LP

Another Man meets Jarrod Mahon aka Emerson Snowe, who opens up about all things romance

  • TextBen Perdue

Emerson Snowe is more than a moniker. The musical project that Jarrod Mahon has been working on since he was 17 came into its own the day he stopped drinking: July 16, 2016. The result of a couple of stints in mental health units while playing and touring with Brisbane garage-pop outfit, The Creases, after some ill-fated attempts to kick-start his creativity with booze backfired.

Now that he can remember them, Jarrod loves dates. On most days since finding sobriety he has recorded a new song, improvised on the spot, like a diary entry. A two-year stream of consciousness that has spawned a string of EPs and recent live shows, as the Aussie artist’s alter ego fronts a full band for the first time. The personality he constructed to provide the confidence to get up on stage finally morphing into the man beneath as his self-assuredness as a lyricist grows. Infectiously upbeat love songs, jangling with all the romance and immediacy of that dynamic writing style, pay testament to that.

Here, he tells Another Man about discovering the joys of beach dates with girlfriend Tina, his hero Daniel Johnston and the prospect of killing for love.

Would you describe yourself as a romantic?

Emerson Snowe: 100% – I think it has something to do with being an only child. I hold onto people around me even tighter, and maybe I’m too emotional because I never learned to have a sister or a brother.

Who was your first crush?

Emerson Snowe: My babysitter, because she was cute. Or maybe Drew Barrymore in Charlie’s Angels. Or the one with black hair in The Powerpuff Girls. No, Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice. As soon as I saw that I was like ‘oh my god’. It’s the dark features and that whole abnormal thing. Winona has been a lifelong infatuation; all her movies are awesome.

Have you ever had your heart broken?

Emerson Snowe: I’d say so. Even good relationships go through a rough patch. I think when I was younger I did a lot because I was too reliant on people around me, putting trust in a lot of people. Sometimes when something doesn’t work out you take it personally, because you don’t know any other way. I still think I’m learning. My girlfriend now is great, and I’m so happy because I’m learning how nice relationships can be, they can be awesome, like having a best friend.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love?

Emerson Snowe: Moving to Paris for three months to be with my girlfriend. All my songs are about her. I stopped drinking in July 2016 and met her in August that year, so she’s been there from the start of me getting my head together. That means a lot to me, and I’m very grateful and appreciative. Sometimes it’s hard to be present – you’re always thinking of the next thing. In music and art there’s never a point where you feel like you’re finished. It’s always about what’s next. Artists and painters lose it because they can achieve everything and still not feel like they’ve done anything at all, even though from outside they’re killing it.

What wouldn’t you do for love?

Emerson Snowe: Well I’d kill for sure, so I don’t know.

Do you have a secret passion?

Emerson Snowe: I don’t know if it’s a passion but I love going deep on the web. If I watch a video of someone on youtube I’ll follow that person’s history right back to the start. Right back to when they were totally normal.

Can you describe the perfect date?

Emerson Snowe: We went to Nice for the first time and found some amazing beaches, and I’m not one for the beach because in Australia it’s sand, and I’m not a fan. But this was pebbles and the water was clear. We had some really good times at the beach, stopping off at the supermarket on the way. But even then I was thinking about what’s next.

What are you obsessed with?

Emerson Snowe: I get very obsessive over certain things, often artists. Recently it’s been Lou Reed. I never gave myself the time to get into these kinds of people before. The Beatles, Bowie, Nick Cave. I’ve learned so much about Nick Cave and I’m so glad I’m listening to these artists and reading about them. I read Just Kids when I’d stopped drinking, and Patti Smith became such an influence. And with Nick Cave and Patti, they’re still alive now so you can tell them how much of inspiration they are, how much they mean to you. It’s just fucking cool to be appreciative. Like last night I headlined a show at The Sebright Arms and I’m just really thankful that it even happened.

What’s your heart’s desire right now?

Emerson Snowe: I want to leave something behind. I’d like to be remembered. It sounds arrogant but I’m just really happy with the stuff I’m doing now. I’ve been through a lot of shit and I’m just happy to be here. I’m open about everything, like when people ask about the drinking, because that’s all I know. When I became Emerson Snowe it started as a heightened form of myself that gave me the confidence I needed on stage, by putting on nail polish or wearing certain things. But now it’s just me up there.

What’s the greatest love song?

Emerson Snowe: What The World Needs Now by Bert Bacharach is my favourite song, but the version from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. It’s the fucking best song ever.

Who is your romantic hero and why?

Emerson Snowe: Daniel Johnston for sure, because all his songs were about loving one girl, and it’s totally unreciprocated. Somehow he’s still writing about her. And he’s made the most beautiful music because of love. That’s the power of it. I’ve got a Daniel Johnston tattoo. It’s amazing how much love can change your whole life. You’ll change your hair, your image, your friends, and even where you live, overnight, just because someone comes into your life. Isn’t it insane?

A version of this article appeared in the A/W18 ‘Romance and Ritual’ issue of Another Man.