Dave: Hello John! I want to first thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Let's go back a ways... Tell me about your musical background. When did you first start playing
and what did you play first??
John: Hey Dave! How are you?? Thanks for doing this interview! My background, huh? Well, I've been playing music for a very long time. I started playing guitar when I was five years old. My parents decided that I needed a hobby and sent me for lessons. I took them for a couple of years and then learned on my own. I also learned to play several other instruments along the way, like bass guitar, drums, piano & keyboards and trumpet, yestrumpet which I played all through grammar and high school and until I was about 21 or so. I started to play paying gigs in my teens and have never stopped. I've done well over a thousand shows, probably at this point somewhere near 1,300-1,400, and have averaged 140 shows a year for the last few years. So far this year alone I've done 140 and it's only July, so this is going to end up a busy year. As far as being a solo artist, I've always been a songwriter, but never felt that my songs were good enough to be out there. I was in many bands as a band member and worked a lot of gigs as a sideman, playing various instruments and singing. I did this for a very long time and had a great time and some awesome gigs. I toured the whole U.S. that way. But a couple of years ago, I got tired of answering to everyone else and decided that it was time to step out on my own and see if I had what it took to make a career of my own out of music. It always seemed that I was one step away from big success all the time and I never knew if it was me, or if others were messing it up or me. I also felt that my songwriting was finally at a level that I was proud of. So I decided to write, record, produce, mix, master and release my own album. This way if anything went wrong, I had no one to blame for it. I would know if it was my time or if I should just go back to being a hired gun.
Dave: What do you feel influenced you to develop your love for music??
John: I'm really not sure where it comes from. No one else in my family is musical at all. We always sang at Christmas and stuff, but it was usually pretty ugly! I've always had a love for music. It's just been something that has always been inside of me. Ever since I can remember, I've been singing and wanted to have one instrument or another in my hand and have always wanted to be onstage. The first time I was on stage was in pre-school and I've never looked back since then. I was probably about 4 years old. I spent every year of my life since then on one stage or another, and the love of being on stage has never diminished. I love listening to every kind of music too. I have about 600-700 CD's in my collection and it is as diverse a collection as you can get. From Metal to Country to Classical to Blues to Flamenco and Spanish style. I just love good music and will listen to just about anything if it's good.
Dave: Let's discuss your early gigging experience. Name some bands you gigged with. Also, tell me about your first gig.
John: My first gig? Hmmm, I have to think about this for a minute. Well, if you don't count all the gigs I played in school, in the school bands and stuff, I guess my first real gig was with my first real band named American Heartbeat. I was either 16 or 17 years old. They were already an established band in the area when I joined them as a lead guitarist/background vocalist. My first gig was at a place named Gennarro's in Weehawken, NJ. It was a bar/restaurant. I think it's actually still around. I got paid about $50 and thought "Wow, this
is awesome!" I thought it was all an easy ride from there! I was getting paid to play music! Whoohooo! Little did I know that the next 15 years would hold before actually getting somewhere!
Dave: Things definitely can be interesting in the biz and can differ from what one might expect. Talking about interesting events, you played the Ultrasound gig this year by playing an acoustic set poolside. How did you get the gig and how did you survive the heat. It was extremely hot and you didn't miss a beat.
John: Well, I saw an ad for the show on a website somewhere or in a newsletter. I actually don't remember where. I contacted Dave Tedder and requested permission to send in a press kit. I did and then I waited. The deadline was rapidly approaching and I hadn't heard anything, so I called Dave to make sure that my press kit got to him. I'm glad I did that, because he never
received it and thought I wasn't interested. I Fedexed another press kit to him overnight and he called me about a week or so later and asked me if I wanted to be in the show! I of course said yes, but explained that I didn't have a band and that I was a solo acoustic act. He said that he had something in mind and eventually got back to me with the poolside acoustic set idea. I
love it and that's how I wound up poolside.
As far as the heat goes, WOW was it hot! When my wife, Michelle and I got off the plane in Vegas we were totally blown away by how hot it was! It was normally about 90 degrees at that time of year from what we were told, but it was 105 degrees or hotter every day we were there!! My biggest mistake of the weekend was putting my guitars out by the pool way too early! I wanted them
to heat up since they'd been in the hotel room in the air conditioning for the whole night. I wanted the strings to warm up so I could tune them. WELL, heat up they did! By the time I went on, the strings were so hot, they were burning my finger tips! And the face of the guitars were so hot that I couldn't rest my arm on them! It was funny. But it was the best time. I mean, I've played outside in hot weather before, but never like that. I can laugh about the whole thing, but I'll never complain about it. It was a great experience to be at the Ultrasound and a weekend I'll never forget.
Dave: On 'Leap of Faith', you do a duet with your wife. What inspired you to do this and how comfortable was she in the studio. How did you arrange for Robin Brock to duet the song with you at Ultrasound?? It seemed very natural.
John: Well, I had been working on the song for a while and hit a wall as far as where to go with it. I finally asked my wife if she'd look at it and take a crack at finishing it. She agreed and wrote the 2nd half of the song. When I read it, I thought it would make a nice duet. I asked her to sing it with me to see how it sounded. After hearing her sing it, I knew I wanted her to do it on the album. She very reluctantly agreed. I actually had to beg her! She was not comfortable in the studio at all. She'll barely sing in front of me, never mind strangers! We wound up putting her in another room down the hall, alone, and ran the microphone and headphones down the hall with long cables! It worked out great and she did a great job on the song!
As far as getting Robin Brock to do the song with me at Ultrasound, I blackmailed her into doing it with incriminating pictures! I told her I'd post them on the net if she didn't do it! LOL!! No, seriously, I got in touch with her management and inquired as to whether Robin would be interested in doing the song with me. I sent them a copy of the song and she agreed to do it. We met for the first time in Vegas and rehearsed the song a few times on the afternoon before the show, and then again that morning. She was amazing. She came up and just nailed the song. I was very impressed with her voice and how calm and cool she was. A first rate performer and vocalist.
Dave: You were recently endorsed by Ovation. How did the endorsement happen?? I noticed that you were already playing Ovation. Did this help push the endorsement??
John: I love Ovation Guitars. I've been playing them for as long as I can remember. The two I have are both about 20 years old, but still in great shape and still sound amazing! They are the only acoustics I've ever owned. When the CD started doing well, and I signed with A2 and had the tour behind me, and knowing that I'd be doing another, I contacted Ovation and asked them about a sponsorship. The interviewed me, went over my press kit and ultimately decided that I met the criteria and accepted me into the sponsorship program. I was assigned a local Ovation Representative who I deal with directly and can email and call for whatever needs I have. We've already set up some sessions at the local music store for me to go and play some new Ovations to
see which one I want! It's been great. They treat you very well, and just being affiliated with the Ovation name, and knowing some of the other players who are, is exciting.
Dave: I did recieve notification of you being signed by A2 which I thought was very cool. For those who don't know, A2 is based in England and is an upstart label with a decent roster. The A2 guys were at Ultrasound and were fun to get to know. Was this a multi-album deal or just for your current album??
John: This current contract is a single album contract for "Leap". We agreed to do it that way for convenience and because there was already some sales and promotion for the album as an independent release. But, the more I deal with A2, the happier I am with the label and even though this was a one album deal, we've already discussed doing my next album through them. I have
investors here in the US who will be financing the next album and they are aware that I want the next album to go through A2 also. A2 is happy with this and so are the investors since we'll already have the network for distribution and such in place. So as long as the next album is up to standards for them, which I know it will be, we'll sign a deal for that album, and maybe at that time, we'll ink a multi-album deal.