Jon Vinyl doesn’t look back at his first foray into songwriting very fondly. “It went horribly,” he says with a laugh. “It was really hard for me to put how I feel into words, follow it with a catchy melody, and on top of that, sing in the proper key.” Even though the process was rough at first, the gratification the now-21-year-old Pickering, ON, native got out of creating something musical “felt amazing,” and he was instantly hooked.

Fast-forward a few years to the present day, and Vinyl (born Jonathan Hamilton) has figured out a songwriting formula that works for him; one that draws inspiration from his everyday life, and comes out in the form of gorgeous, sparkling R&B vignettes. Influenced by some of the genre’s biggest heavyweights, from Luther Vandross to Frank Ocean, Vinyl’s delivery is thoughtful and measured, taking its time to transform thoughts on fleeting romances (“Cherry Blossom”) and past experiences (“Nostalgia”) into expansive melodies that immerse the listener in Vinyl’s personal sonic universe. “My music being relatable is something that matters most,” says Vinyl. “Knowing that my lyrics may help someone who’s going through something makes this journey worthwhile.”

One of Vinyl’s biggest goals is to perform in front of thousands of fans, and see them shout his lyrics back at him one day. It’s a work-in-progress, but his music did find a way to reach thousands, if not millions, early on in his career when a rather famous high school friend of his shouted him out on social media: Shawn Mendes. Mendes shared “Nostalgia” with his fans, and as a result gave Vinyl a big boost. It’s a friendship that he still values today, and he says the two have lots of “in-depth conversations” about music and life.

“We talk about the trials and tribulations of songwriting, honest lyrics, and writer’s block,” he says. “The one thing we always realize after speaking is that our passion for music exceeds all doubts in the end.”

It’s an important and confident perspective to have, as Vinyl readies himself for his next big step. In 2019, he’ll release his debut EP, to an audience surely waiting to sing his songs back at him.