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Cavono: “I think my voice is like if John Legend and Billie Eilish had a baby.” Photo courtesy of Mike Metz

I don’t know how else to put this, but when you glance at Cavono’s Instagram bio, he almost sounds like the protagonist in an ’80s anime series.

“Songwriter, Singer, Ex-Martial Artist,” it reads, and when you see him in person, that perception is difficult to shake. He is tall, lithe, and handsome, with a ponytail, mustache, and goatee that suggest he might have stepped out of a hypothetical remake of Ice Pirates or a futuristic Song of Ice and Fire show about the Velaryons and set in the 2060s. He is fascinating and mysterious, schooled in self-defense since the age of 7, and is employed by a private investigation firm.

Well, that and a pharmacy. And a bar. As extraordinary as a pop-singing martial artist who may or may not follow suspicious characters for work sounds, Cavono is the nom de guerre (and middle name) of London Morris, who, in addition to the PI work and a part-time gig at a chain drugstore, moonlights at the Boiled Owl Tavern (where I also work) as security. Even his side-job sounds kind of exciting, so if all of that together stretches your threshold of believability, I will attest to having seen him casually kick the air almost a foot higher than his head, and I’ve also heard him sing, and I was amazed in both instances. And while I wasn’t there, he showed some of the Boiled Owl staff how to make throwing darts out of paper clips. The video I saw of it proved they were surprisingly effective.

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I should also note that when he performed at the Owl a couple weeks ago — his third show ever — he packed the house, yet long before Cavono took to the mic that night, there was just London, a suburban kid born in the mid-’80s about an hour southwest of Chicago, growing up in a village called Robbins, whose early 2000s population hovered around 6,660. Wanting more out of life than the inevitable stereotyping one gets from such a place, he moved to Hyde Park, on the Windy City’s South Side, when he was 19. The move to the city ended up being exactly what he’d hoped for.

“I met friends, and I helped them get places,” he said, “and they were like, ‘You should stay here,’ and that was the beginning of me being an adult.”

You might say that the road from London Morris to Cavono started with this move, and, yeah, I know that “small town kid who took taekwondo for two years before branching into ninjitsu for almost 20 years moves to the big city and eventually becomes a pop singer/private investigator” is basically a heroic journey trope, and if it were an anime, I would kind of expect the music that plays over the credits to sound a lot like the music Cavono makes. Would I watch this movie? Fuck, yeah, I would. Especially for that hypothetical jam played during the hypothetical credits.

Eventually, in 2013, Morris’ family moved to Texas, so he joined them. He got jobs here, met new people, made new friends. The years passed, he started dating a concert pianist named Jose, and the two got a house. And during all of this, he discovered karaoke.

That Cavono’s musical origins are rooted in karaoke also seems like a detail from an anime series, but still, that’s where his career as a singer began.

“I met Will Roth, who was running karaoke at Urban Cowboy,” Cavono said. “I’d never done it before.”

This was in 2015, and after some initial hesitation, he steeled himself and belted out Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” He was instantly hooked.

“The butterflies went away instantly,” he said. “It was the weirdest thing. I was so scared, and then I wasn’t. I went up there every week, and I spent my time at home learning all these random songs.”

He sang karaoke for years, and all the while Roth and other friends encouraged him to write his own material. Finally, in 2021, he gave it a shot, releasing an album that August.

“I knew I didn’t want a band, because my time is very limited, and I didn’t want to have to wait on someone to get a babysitter or whatever,” he said.

He knew he didn’t want to be another solo guy playing guitar, and he wasn’t interested in Americana or folk music anyway. “In my mind, I thought I could be a cover artist, but that sounded boring. And I have a lot to say.”

Cavono says his very first song, “Glass,” blew up in the U.K. and also Brazil, drawing some surprising, respectable streaming numbers for a new artist with very little promotion other than organic social media shares. Cavono makes sense of it because “Glass” is “dark and depressing,” ergo moody pop must go over well with people living beneath the melancholy gray of British skies. And over the past year and a half, he’s continued to work on new singles, layering his bass-baritone over mid-tempo EDM and synth-heavy ballads. He does cop to his lack of musical training, but Jose, a music professor at TCC, has helped him learn the basics of theory and composition.

Cavono also gets an assist from Roth (who himself is part of a synth-wave project called VYLIT), who runs Cavono’s sound at his live shows. Otherwise, Cavono writes all of his own material, using instrumental tracks from a producer’s library. He said his favorite music is early 2000s emo bands like New Found Glory and Panic! at the Disco, which, if you change the clothes and make the drums and guitars sound a lot more electronically processed, is, essentially, pop music. And Cavono does have a lot to say. In a way, making music is the goal of the quest he began in Hyde Park.

“I think my voice is like if John Legend and Billie Eilish had a baby, very dark, sultry,” he said. “I write about past experiences. My song ‘Rewind’ is a very poppy, dance-y song, but it’s about domestic violence.”

His job as a door guy at a bar has turned him into a shrewd observer of human behavior. “It’s things I see at the bar, working the door. It’s like, y’know, that’s the 40th time I’ve heard that rumor. I should probably write about it. … I know there’s someone who can relate to what I’m singing about who would like someone to say it. … I want to be that light for someone who’s going through something.”

Judging by the way his performance resonated with the crowd at the Boiled Owl, Cavono is the pop hero a lot of people have been looking for.

 

Cavono
9pm Wed, Oct 12, at Grandma’s,
715 W Magnolia Av, FW. Free.

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