photo credit Josh Cheuse

The video for “Days Of Insanity” off J.S. Ondara’s critically lauded debut album, Tales of America, is premiering today. The video was directed the Academy Award-winner Jessica Yu (“13 Reasons Why,” “Billions). Watch/share the video HERE.

Ondara was inspired to write the song after watching a conversation between Stephen Colbert and John Mulaney. He explains further in an essay written about the song—see below.

Ondara continues to celebrate Tales of America, as well as the deluxe version Tales of America: The Second Coming, both out via Verve Forecast. Ondara will also have an official Record Store Day Black Friday release, Tales of America B Sides, coming November 29. The recording features bonus tracks from the deluxe album and is only available on vinyl.

Ondara’s music continues to receive widespread critical acclaim—Billboard featured the LP as one of their “50 Best Albums of 2019 (So Far)” and “Saying Goodbye” was featured in NPR Music’s “Best Songs of 2019 So Far.” Ondara also made his television debut on “CBS This Morning: Saturday”—watch him play “Saying Goodbye,” “Torch Song” and “Lebanon” accompanied by Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes. He also performed on the “Today Show” and on Live from Here with Chris Thile.

Ondara is currently touring in support of Jack Savoretti in the U.K. and will round out the month with select dates in France. This run follows Ondara’s sold out headlining U.S. tour, which included standout performances at Xponential Festival, Newport Folk Festival and Edmonton Folk Festival this summer.

Tales of America is a completely acoustic album produced by Grammy-nominated Mike Viola. The LP was recorded at Boulevard Recording and East West Studios in Los Angeles, with all songs written by Ondara. It features collaborations with Andrew Bird, Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith from Dawes and Joey Ryan from The Milk Carton Kids.

J.S. Ondara grew up in Nairobi, Kenya listening to American alt-rock and making up his own songs for as long as he can remember. At an early age he fell in love with the music of Bob Dylan and moved to Minneapolis in 2013 to pursue a career as a singer and songwriter. He began making his way in the local music scene, continually writing songs about what he saw, felt and experienced in a place far different from home. Since then, he has toured as a headliner nationwide as well as opening for the likes of Neil Young, Lindsey Buckingham, Anderson East, First Aid Kit, The Milk Carton Kids, Mt. Joy and The Head & The Heart.


Tales of America: The Second Coming

  1. American Dream
  2. Torch Song
  3. Saying Goodbye
  4. Days Of Insanity
  5. Television Girl
  6. Turkish Bandana
  7. Lebanon
  8. Good Question
  9. Master O’Connor
  10. Give Me a Moment
  11. God Bless America

Bonus Tracks

  1. Saying Goodbye (Boulevard Demo)
  2. Torch Song (Echo Park)
  3. Milk and Honey feat. Madison Cunningham
  4. Heart of Gold
  5. I’m Afraid of Americans


November 12—Birmingham, UK—Birmingham Symphony Hall* [SOLD OUT]

November 14—Perth, UK—Perth Concert Hall*

November 15—Edinburgh, UK—The Usher Hall* [SOLD OUT]

November 16—Glasgow, UK—Glasgow Royal Concert Hall* [SOLD OUT]

November 18—Aberdeen, UK—Aberdeen Music Hall*

November 19—Manchester, UK—Bridgewater Hall* [SOLD OUT]

November 21—Newcastle upon Tyne, UK—O2 City Hall*

November 22—Hull, UK—Bonus Arena* [SOLD OUT]

November 26—Orleans, France—L’Astrolabe

November 27—Paris, France—Élysée Montmartre

November 28—Dijon, France—La Vapeur

November 29—Mulhouse, France—Noumatrouff

December 7—Minneapolis, MN—First Avenue [SOLD OUT]

*supporting Jack Savoretti

“Days Of Insanity” Essay by J.S. Ondara

It’s a rich time to be a folk singer in America, the songs keep writing themselves everyday. Complete with the mystery, tragedy and riveting suspense known to folk songs. Every headline, every tweet, every quote, every photograph, every post, every catchphrase is a folk song. Alas! 

As I was working on Tales of America, my debut album, one evening back at my hotel, I was watching videos of puppies and kittens; a pre-bed ritual that I developed after touring relentlessly and conjuring up a troublesome sleep schedule. Sleep had become elusive and entirely inaccessible at times. These clips seemed to help in lulling me to sleep so it became a ritual every night to watch them before bed. 

On this particular night, a few minutes into this practice of visually-induced melatonin, the algorithmic gods of YouTube sort to send me on a different path. The path of late night TV clips. Typically, I would stay on course and resist such suggestions, but I was mighty worn on this night, I needed a heavier dose of distraction. “…stub me with your syringe oh tubular doctor, for against my wish, my body and mind have conspired to deprive me of rest.  I care not for whatever your chemicals may carry, just that I can remember only what I must and forget all else…”

Thus, in accordance with the doctor’s prescription, I went forth and indulged in a series of late night TV clips. One of them stood out. A clip of the host Stephen Colbert with a guest known as John Mulaney. As part of their conversation, John told Stephen of a trip he had recently taken to Japan. While there he came up with an analogy for explaining to the Japanese people what the current times are like in America. “It’s like there is a horse loose in a hospital,” he would say, alluding to the peculiar times in American politics and the resulting unrest. I remember watching that video and thinking, “well that’s another folk song.” So I rose from the comforts of my hotel bed and in a few minutes penned the song “Days Of Insanity.”

That song is a stamp of that moment for me, much as I hope Tales of America would be a stamp of our current times. A song, a painting, a book, a sculpture, a poem, a story, art in all its myriad forms…it’s all just a letter; a letter from the heart of one to the heart of many. A letter carrying the stamp of time. A stamp of both human feat and human folly, because for us to grow we need to remember it all; our most prideful moments and our most shameful ones as well.  

These are certainly the days of insanity, not just in America but throughout the world. Fear not however because the human race has endured worse times.  As civilization took shape over millennia, every passing century was undoubtedly rife with prophets and poets who were genuinely astounded by their respective worlds. Yet we are here today, a testament to human resilience. 

A reporter once asked me, “What do you think is the fate of America and the human race at large?” “What a bold question!” I said. “Well you made this record so you asked for it,” he said with a subtle laugh. I sat still and gazed at the clock above his head. After some minutes of quiet and gazing, I muttered something of an answer…

“Well, we shall either ruin ourselves to extinction, in which case we shall all perish, together; and that could be comforting in its own shade for there is communion in all unity, even at the feet of destruction. More likely though is that we shall pull ourselves into another phase of relief and prosperity. Just briefly however as the sapien’s brain is still too small for its present world, it’s ego too precarious. Eventually the sapien will undoubtedly fall prey to the devil’s call. The call to abandon reason for temporary thrills, the call to strip naked and bathe in the sea of emotion. And then later, after several moons, new seeds will be cast, new persons born, new lessons learnt. Then another time of prosperity will reign. The fate of humanity is the fate of time, and time is a wayward and a fickle mistress that knows no master.”

Well that’s what I wish I had said. During the interview, I just kept gazing at the clock until the reporter skipped to another question. 


About Velton 701 Articles
Velton Hayworth is a professional photographer and blogger. Velton loves to cover the nightlife and entertainment scene. Follow Velton on Twitter @ILoveFtWorth