As the lead track from his new Clover Lane album, Jonah Tolchin’s “21st Century Girl” really does its job well. Everything about the song and video perfectly conveys the irony of Tolchin being a “21st century man” albeit one with a thoroughly retro sound. After all, the kid is only 21, but he grew up admiring guys like Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt — hardly modern fare — and he’s been at this music thing for a while now: “From a very early age, I was always interested in music, running around my dining room table with instruments and wanting to have a parade.”
Even from that early age, music meant fun to Tolchin. And that still holds true now, as he prepares to release his debut album on Yep Roc Records. Now that he’s a professional musician, what are his goals? “Being able to play un-jeopardized music that comes from the soul without people saying, ‘Can you put this here on that song? We’ll get you all this airplay or money or whatever,’” Tolchin admits. “I don’t care about any of that stuff. I’d be doing this if I didn’t have a label. I’d be doing this if I was just playing with my friends in the basement. It’s just something that I have to do. I’m not trying to force anything. I’m just having fun.”
While Clover Lane is chock full of throwback, knee-slapping, rip-roaring goodness, “21st Century Girl” stands out thanks to the spot-on production of Marvin Etzioni. Thematically, Tolchin says the song is about waking up to right here, right now which is something he aims to do: “If you’re always striving for the next thing, you’re never really paying attention to what’s happening right in front of you. And I really try to stay in the present moment.”
But that’s just how it is with Tolchin, as he takes a sort of “it is what it is” approach to his artistry and his life. “I like all types of music. I’m starting to get more into rock and roll. The songs are one thing on the record, but when we go out and play them with a band, they become a little more rock,” he says. “But it all comes from the same place, this source, this unknown. Some people would call it God, but that starts to get on the line and a lot of confusion can come in. It’s all coming from beyond ourselves.”
With a heart full of old soul wisdom, it’s no wonder Tolchin’s record is full of old school sounds.

This review originally appeared on PopMatters.