We had the pleasure of talking to British soul-pop sensation John Newman when he was in Stockholm performing at NRJ’s 20th celebration party at Café Opéra. After a morning in the gym, John chilled for a while on the coach in the library of Nobis hotel, and chatted with us about everything from haters and chaws to the brain tumor that inspired him to try to enjoy every single day that he gets to wake up and do what he loves the most – music.
John has had extreme success with his first single “Love Me Again,” which has peaked at number one on the charts across 14 countries, and top ten in 40 countries! The single has achieved great success in his home country as well, where it has gone gold and dominated the official singles chart for seven consecutive weeks. We asked John how it feels to suddenly be an international celebrity.
- Surreal. Weird. But it’s really nice because I’ve never quite believed things. The day I got it, I didn’t really know how to take it. I went to Paris that evening because we started our three months of promo, which is just about to end. The thing about promo is that when you sit and speak about it, you realize how far you’ve come. It makes me proud, to think of what I’ve done. I’ve worked really hard, every single day. Focusing on day by day, you kind of get stuck in there and forget what’s happing on the outside. But it’s cool, it’s all a bit mad!
Love to the Music
John thinks that the best shows are the ones with full live bands, when he doesn’t have to feel like a robot. He likes to have control over things; he is just a massive perfectionist! When performing, John looks like he’s never done anything else, like he was born on the stage. But when we asked him how he feels up there, he answered that it feels like he is about to “have a brain surgery!”
- I have to think about so many things, it’s crazy! I kind of arrange all the music. I spend a lot of time looking after my band. I think about the lightings and the set. Then I also have to think about the crowd and the songs that I’m singing, on top of the technical side of performance. It’s like so many things! But that rush, for about an hour, is just the best feeling ever. I think it’s just because I enjoy it. I enjoy having all these ideas, and expressing them. I really like getting involved creatively in things. But then, I also have a great team around me. They’re all professionals in different areas. So I do listen to people… just, not very well, haha!
John sings a lot about love and relationships, but he told us that it’s not always that easy to put keep all the pieces together when you are as passionate about your career as John.
- Shit went down with my latest relationship. I think it was for the best, I feel pretty good. It’s just hard because I’ve always kind of related to my job, and now my job ruined my relationship – again. It happens quite a lot. Well, the past two relationships, which have been quite big ones. I work so much and my mind is always on overdrive, so I don’t put my all into the relationships. Then it fails and I feel bad. But in the end, I’ve got to keep my priorities right. I’m 23 years old, in the future I can settle down.
John will release his debut album, Tribute, on October 14. John reveals himself as not only a singer, but also as a producer and songwriter. The album includes the hit single “Love Me Again” as well as the new single “Cheating,” which was released on October 7.
- I’m so proud of the album! What I mentioned about getting involved in everything – this album was the thing that all of my involvement went into, it’s the final product of everything. To be able to hold it in your hands is an incredible feeling. Just to know that it’s complete and to put a project to bed feels amazing. It’s not like I rushed it, I took so much time with it. I really enjoyed making it and I’ve learned very much. I feel that I’ve done a good job showing myself as both a producer and an artist.
Haters Looking Stupid
John’s musical journey started off at the early age of 14, inspired by his mother’s old Motown and Northern Soul vinyls. With homegrown productions, he performed at local pubs around his hometown Settle. We asked John about his very first live performance.
- It was a bit weird… I grew up in a small town in northern England where if you were different it wasn’t really accepted. It was really hard to perform in front of my friends. They were all kind of macho, liked getting pissed on the weekends and listening to house music. I think the first song I wrote was about how I spoke to my dad for the first time in six years. To sing that to my friends was horrible, I think everyone laughed at me. It went down quite well afterwards though, because I had actually expressed myself in front of them, and that felt amazing. I had to start somewhere.
Newman’s dad left the family when John was only a kid. His mom, who worked as a receptionist, raised him all by herself. It made him really appreciate what he has today… every single penny that he has earned so far. John learned to not care about all of the haters. Today, they’re the ones calling him up. In the end, all these “friends” have actually helped him in a way. They’ve made him want to express himself even more, and mainly about them! It all came to the point when he kind of sat there thinking; Idiots! They began to laugh at themselves almost, since Newman began to write songs about them. It just showed how much they didn’t care since they weren’t even listening to the lyrics, lyrics that were expressing how upset John was getting with them.
Take Nothing for Granted
A while ago, John Newman suddenly started to go blind. He went to an optician, and they sent him to the eye hospital, which then sent him to a neurosurgeon… John had a tumor in his brain and they had to take it out. We asked him how the incident has affected him as a musician and as a person. It turns out that in between the struggle, some good things came out.
- It matured me as a person, a lot. I definitely cut down drinking and having too much fun. Now I have fun in different ways, like drinking red wine and eating good food, instead of nights out, haha! It’s good!
John has never written about his critical health situation. He has studied pop music, and says that even though the radio may have played it, in the end, people driving home from work don’t want to hear about a person lying in a hospital bed with a brain tumor. They want to hear about things that they can actually relate to.
- In terms of my work, it has made me very driven. I could have not been doing this… I could have not been doing anything! It makes you want to just work everyday because I don’t ever want to not be doing music. It’s inspiring almost, when something like that comes along. You kind of realize that you should enjoy everyday and get the most out of life.