Jonathan Brinkley

Jonathan Brinkley

 Portland, Oregon, USA

Carried by his powerful, clear-as-daylight vocals, Jonathan's songs elevate listeners and make them think. Original melodies and fingerstyle guitar work dominate the arrangements, and positive lyrics ring true without being heavy-handed. He offers a lighter way to see the world.


To hear much more of Jonathan's latest CD, go here:

A singer/songwriter for seventeen years, Jonathan hails from the suburbs of Dallas/Ft Worth, Texas, but spent his early twenties as a wandering minstrel, hitchhiking around the country, playing for whomever would listen. He saw humanity at its best in his travels, which formed the basis of his musical philosophy: to point out what's right in the world. "There are enough folksingers out there trying to break your heart," he says. "I'm doing my best to help it beat stronger." When he first encountered the Pacific Northwest, he knew he'd call it home eventually. Since arriving in Portland in the Spring of 2004, he's been delighting audiences of widely varying demographics in all sorts of venues around the world. He's been called "a Paul Simon with modern sensibilities." Playing mostly fingerstyle acoustic guitar, he spins unapologetically positive songs, and some that recall the heartbreak of conventional folk, but remain pointedly optimistic. Transformation, liberation, and reconciliation between joy and pain are common themes. His clear-as-daylight tenor voice rings true and calls people in. His concerts are exercises in awakening, where his intimacy and vulnerability invite listeners to go deeper into themselves.

In the artist's words:

My early influences were varied: John Denver, Tori Amos, Pink Floyd, Willie Nelson, The Temptations. Then came Pearl Jam , Nine Inch Nails, and James Taylor. Paul Simon is a great influence on me, more musically than lyrically, though. Striving for diversity, I write in many styles, and try to create some of my own. Since I realized I couldn't carry a piano on my back about thirteen years ago, I have focused on guitar work. I wrote my first "folk" song at eighteen on a visit to a friend in Seattle, inspired by my first exposure to the Indigo Girls at a Seattle Center concert. I sang it with piano accompaniment and cringed upon hearing how much it sounded like Elton John--an artist I like, but did not want to imitate. So, picking up my classical guitar (I actually aspired to playing classical music), I slowly picked out the chords and the part basically wrote itself. I considered myself a guitarist from then on.

Shortly after that, it was time to break out of the box society had built for me, and live the life of the vagabond. For the better part of two years, I hitchhiked all around the U.S., mostly with my singer-songwriter friend Stefan Prigmore, with whom I would eventually form the Fort Worth, Texas-based duo, "Strange Faith", the name chosen because of our unusually trusting and optimistic lifestyle. We would perform on street corners or in dive bars, wherever they would have us. The encounters I had proved to me that the vast majority of people were good, generous, and hungry for unmasked, genuine interaction, not the programmed variety we all encounter daily. I want to be real with people. I want to say common things in uncommon ways. A lyric I'm proud of: "I love you fierce and to the point. I love you ever-changing. I love you bodily: in my bones and joints. I love you paradigm-rearranging."

Along with a steel stringed guitar, I picked up a few other influences along the way, one major one being Ani Difranco. She taught me that it was okay to be vulnerable on stage, to be who I am, to not place myself above an audience. I still try to emulate her in many ways. Dave Matthews gave me the idea that an acoustic guitar could be a hugely dynamic, rhythm-based instrument that is capable of carrying a band, and Iron and Wine proved that soft music can still be hip, interesting, and even intense.

Eventually, Stefan and I went our separate ways, and I settled here in Portland, Oregon. I quickly found a thriving and supportive community, thanks to an angel placed in my path known as Elizabeth Joy Zarek. Elizabeth and I would eventually embark on our own musical journey, but first, I was impatient for my first real CD release. I recorded the live album, "I Was Born This Way--My Birthday at Mississippi Studios" on November 1st, 2005. It was stripped down, raw, and intimate. Exactly how I wanted to be known to my audience at the time. I played shows locally at coffee shops, farmers' markets, and house concerts to promote the album. I traveled some more, peddling CDs and still looking forward to the day I would create a full-on studio record.

All Day Lovers was the name given to the collaboration between the lovely Elizabeth Joy Zarek and myself. We released "Sounds of You", again recorded at Mississippi Studios, in April of 2008. With love songs as its theme, it focused on the seamless blended harmonies of our two voices, like the very essence of intimacy whispering in your ear. The Portland Sentinel had this to say: "True to their name, love songs abound on 'Sounds of You'. So heartwarming and uplifting, in fact, that they could easily be mistaken for gospel music at time


Everything's a Phoenix

Written By: Jonathan Brinkley

From my death comes ashes
flash of wing, dash and dive
when this whole thing crashes
I'll still be alive

and you'll come with me
now everything's a phoenix flying

and you'll rise with me
now everything's a phoenix burning

teetering on the edge my arms make panic circles in the air
I'm holding on, I'm holding on
teetering on the edge of the abyss I smile and flap my wings
I'm letting go and getting gone

Everything's a Phoenix Now

Never Far

Written By: Jonathan Brinkley

We're never far, never far away from wonder
we'll feast our eyes, learn to satisfy their hunger
It's no surprise that everything is so surprising
I see the sun and everything around me rising

Consider how we numb our senses down
to fit inside a plan someone else made
when we were made to feel every last bar of this serenade


Consider what your hands did all day long
what they have built and who they clothed and fed
and everything they touched and everything they may touch yet

Consider what your lungs are doing now
as they inflate, you don't even have to try
Did you ever watch a baby stare
with unabashed astonishment
at her own kinetic grace
as she simply waved a hand in the air?

We'll say we had no idea,
we just forgot how near we are.


Consider all the love inside you now
It doesn't matter how alone you feel
You're sitting on a well so vast, it's all that's really real.


Written By: Jonathan Brinkley

i've been a wreck
but with you, i'm reckless
i've been a recluse
but you tighten my strings
and play

i'm taking chances
it's time to unwind
when i come to my senses
i'm out of my mind

when a touch feels bigger than its consequences
i can't think we'll burn in a fire that quenches
like this

it's gonna be messy
it's gonna be so beautiful
it's gonna prove us right
it's gonna prove us wrong

of course i care
but let's not be careful
i want to say the wrong things
wrong but still true
filling the air full

of everything we've risked to feel this way
the only danger's in not giving enough away

what's left when the fire burns down?
maybe the rough blade that becomes a sharp knife
cuts clean and often deep
and safety serves those satisfied with a still life

let's love what's left when the fire burns down

it's gonna be messy

Morning Psalm

Written By: Jonathan Brinkley

Sun gold
and sky blue
There's nothing in this world as sturdy as gratitude

root low
and water high
though in my life I've been a craver,
like a desert pine I sip and savor
my whole body long.

Shoulder light
and breath deep
my eyes reflect the colors of the company I keep

green green
I'm lost and found
I'm on the ground
I'm in the sound
and I cannot feel my weight.

This state did not just happen to me
It came because I chose it
with a thought, with a breath
with accepting that all events
are certain as death

Ardor in my heart
foundation for a calm
though this quickening springs
as restless as a psalm

Cry Joy in the open air,
Cry Joy any way you dare.

Not Hiding Now

Written By: Jonathan Brinkley

i used to try to impress people with how "enlightened" i was
now i try to impress people with how honest i am
one day i hope to not try to impress people at all
by the way, i hope you like this song

i'd like to say i'm sorry to everyone affected by me not being who i really am--it's not my fault, you see, i was blinded by the thought of who i had to be.
had to hide 'cause the real me was small and scared of being powerless or powerful or anything with

god, i'm really laying it all out there right now, aren't i?
or maybe i'm just laying it all down

i'd like to try not hiding now
right now


"Everything's a Phoenix" - released on May 30, 2011. It can be streamed or downloaded in its entirety at

"Sounds of You" - April 2008. Duo project with Elizabeth Joy Zarek under the name "All Day Lovers"

"I was born this way: my birthday at mississippi studios" - released January 2006. Live recording.

Set List

I typically play between 45 minutes and 2 hours, between 13 and 20 songs, which include:
after the flame
what's within
nothing changes
falling free
how you are
the circle
moon and tide
my feet know the ground
highest love
let me see you
perfect fool
the lullabye
Great Grandmother
Wander Well
This Whole Other Life
Far From Land
The Circle II
The Invitation
Love What You Find
Say Yes To Love
Everything's a Fenix
Good to Be Good
Lazy Bones
Gresham Fahrenheit 104
Me and My Friends
Not Hiding Now