J.R. August (Nikola Vranić) is the leading young musical talent in the Balkans. As a sideman to fellow Croatian artists, he performed or recorded with the likes of Jimmy Rip (Television, Mick Jagger), Bernard Fowler (backing vocalist for The Rolling Stones), Sharlotte Gibson (same), Fuzzbee Morse, Phil Jones (Tom Petty), Remi Kabaka, Kim Shaheen and others. He has performed at L.A.’s famed Viper Room, Whisky A Go-Go and Rainbow Bar.
For the last couple of years, Nikola has turned to his own music, influenced by his smalltown life in northern Croatia, painted by the daily wanderings to the rivers and forests of Gorski Kotar and the region.
A precocious talent for songwriting, singing and the piano, J.R. first started as a schoolboy playing cover gigs at local bars, going from one small town to the other at a young age, a peculiar bird to the locals. Soon enough he was noticed by the burgeoning music scene in the nearby city of Varaždin, where he got his first serious musical work as the keyboard player for a local band Voodoo Lizards, with whom he toured internationally, going as far as L.A.
Performing as a sideman wasn’t enough, though, so Nikola turned to his own music under the name of J.R. August, a tribute to his grandfather and his uncle. His unusual talent for songwriting was soon picked up by the public, and even Coldplay featured one of his songs on their website. His music draws from various streams: from old piano blues and boogie-woogie, through folk and country songwriters, to contemporary indie music – but it is entirely his own. Built out of the Imaginarium of rivers and forests and the experience of growing up close to them, J.R.’s music is a music of storytelling in which recurring tropes build his “church of song”.
Featuring ten songs specially chosen from his seemingly endless songbook, Dangerous Waters is J.R. August’s long-awaited debut album, published under Croatia Records, the leading publisher in the region and successor to the famed Jugoton, the house responsible for the cult Yugoslav New Wave music of the late ‘70s and ‘80s. It brings together songs from his earlier EPs, as well as new material that shows J.R. as an even more ambitious storyteller – such as The Brown Trout and the Nightingale, an epic of mountain forests and rivers in which narration is segmented by the simple and warm melodies of the saxophones. The album includes the singularly beautiful ballads Lead the Way, River Runs Through and When I Wake Up Tomorrow, as well as the more upbeat, gospel-driven Let’s Get Together. The influence of Gospel is also recognizable in the album’s titular song, a staple of J.R.’s live repertoire, a celebratory statement of seizing the day in the dangerous waters of life. Among all of these songwriting gems, stands out “Crucify Me” – J.R. August’s most recognizable song, a poignant piece of defiant introspection and meditation on people who try to hold us back. But as J.R. August shows with his incredible debut, there is no holding back his amazing talent that with this album finally gets to be presented the way it fully deserves.