Jon Marro is a man of many talents: working as a freelance graphic artist, he has contributed designs for merchandise, album artwork and tour posters to numerous popular and talented artists (including Dave Matthews Band, Cary Brothers, Jason Mraz and Madonna), and alongside this, he has also founded and built the eco-friendly t-shirt company, Blend Apparel. With a passion for music and all it involves, an eye for bold and inspiring designs, a zeal for sending out positive messages to the world, and a deep love for everything and everyone he encounters, Room Thirteen were excited to find out more about the man we think of as music's artist.

R13: What got you started in working artistically with bands?
JM: Ever since I started going to concerts, I've always loved the show posters. You know, you go to a cool venue and you see all the past posters on the wall and they look all cool, hip, and indie and you feel cool and hip and indie for being a part of the same aesthetic. Well I wanted to create that aesthetic. I wanted to create that experience for the fans. I wanted to be able to visually represent the emotions and nostalgia of going to a show- be a part of something bigger than my energy. So, I started doing gig posters for my friends bands, and then, honestly I just started cold-emailing musicians I wanted to work for. I would mock up merchandise or show posters and send it to them or their management and voila! They almost always liked what they saw, and I started working with them.

R13: You've designed merchandise for some amazing artists- how did those commissions come about?
JM: Like I mentioned before, some were started by my initiating, other bands found me out of recommendations. I've been very blessed to be "in the know" of a lot of musicians before they "made it big," so I'd get to them before they were established, and create an amazing rapport. Most of the clients I work for I'm also friends with. I love that I can actually scroll through my phone and chat artist to artist with these people I'm fans of. I'm also lucky, in the sense that I've surrounded myself with amazing and genuine people, not just talented musicians.

R13: What inspires your music-focused designs?
JM: Lyrics. Before I started doing graphic design I got a degree at Maryland Institute College Of Art in illustration. Illustration essentially teaches you to convert text into image, so for me the lyrics or a song title became the text...and I just followed the images that listening evoked.

R13: How does it feel to be the one responsible for putting a band's style or sound into an image or design?
JM: It feels great. I like to call myself, and take pride in being, a "Visual Caretaker."

R13: Have you always had an interest in tour posters, album covers, and other music-related graphics?
JM: I've always been in love with images. Images to me communicate instantly and in so many ways. "A picture speaks a thousand words" as the old adage goes, and to me it's fascinating that music depends on visual art to sell it, but not the other way around. You don't see paintings or photos on the wall that come with their own soundtrack. What I love about what I do is I create ephemera. Something tactile and observable that evokes a feeling of a memory. That's fascinating to me. Music, and live music especially, is one of my favorite things in the world; I think it's natural to want to align yourself and contribute yourself to something that brings you joy.

R13: Do those designs or your illustrative work interest you more?
JM: Lately it's been more design, but I would like to get back to painting or drawing. I'd love to have more shows in galleries. I'm calling what I'm in now my "Andy Warhol Phase." For whatever reason pop art seems to be my most effective form of communication to get these messages out there. They are simple, direct, and easy to relate to for a large demographic, where my illustrative work is much more personal. And right now, I want to affect the masses. I feel called to awaken myself and others to the wonders and realities of our reality.

R13: You've also started the company Blend Apparel. What originally inspired the idea of an eco-friendly t-shirt company?
JM: As I was working with and for bands I realized their were some ideas I wanted to put out there of my own without slapping somebody's name next to the image. I had been told the merch I had designed was selling extremely well, so I decided to just jump in. The company was always using sweatshop free clothing; not until 2006 did we become a "green" company. Eco-friendly literally seemed like the natural path.

R13: How did you develop your designs?
JM: Really the same way any other designs would come to me, only in Blend's case it was life, not necessarily a song or lyric that would help an image develop in the emulsion of my mind. Observing the world and the circumstances around me would naturally draw up questions-and I tend to think with my eyes, so what you see is what I got.

R13: How did the US singer-songwriter Jason Mraz come to be involved in the company?
JM: Jason was my first ever mainstream client. We met just before his first album came out and hit it off. We've been friends since 2002, and I lived with him for about a year and a half from 2004-2006 and would ship out the original Blend designs out of my closet in his house. He's always been a huge supporter of everything I've done, and one day he and I spent the day up in San Francisco at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and on the flight back we were talking art and Blend came up and he decided to invest. Our other partner, Jeff Goss, who I met through Jason, was the initial investor. I credit him just as much for believing in this company. The three of us have a great dynamic and all sit in our respective roles really efficiently. I couldn't be happier.

R13: What's your dream for Blend's future?
JM: Great question. I'd love to be heavily involved in charitable work- have our own eco-friendly screen printing facility, and even textile mill that manufactures sustainable clothing. I'd love to be making a difference in every aspect of the company, from providing amazing benefits and healthcare to our employees to continuing to ship a hand-written note to each customer. This is a company created in and for love. Our goal is to plant as many seeds of smiles and awareness out there in the world as possible. Anyone who wears a shirt of ours has a responsibility: to be a messenger. To uplift and awaken anyone whose path crosses their shirt. It's love propaganda really, and we're constructing a world of connective communication based on it.

R13: You have access to a really exciting, vibrant music scene in California- how does that affect you and your work?
JM: California, in my opinion, is where it's at. It totally affects me in that I love it here, and most undeniably vibrate at a higher frequency than I did in other states (emotional and municipal) I've lived in.

R13: How does your areas of work and artistic style of today compare with those of your days as a college art student?
JM: I've always love to raise questions with my work. I'm almost like a visual philosopher, pondering my own inner world and the one around me, trying to make sense of it all through questions. I heard a great quote that goes: "Unquestioned answers are scarier than unanswered questions." I try to live by that... Some days more successfully than others.

R13: Are there any music artists you hope to work with someday?
JM: Paul Simon, John Mayer, Peter Gabriel, U2, Radiohead. Basically anybody who's got access to millions of fans. I infuse all of my work with love and purpose, so working with them will allow me to reach an even larger audience, and allow me to ask even more people questions I haven't yet solved, but still love asking anyway.