Owner of some of the most distinctive vocal cords in the industry, John Newman returns to the charts equipped with the feel-good anthem, “Waiting For A Lifetime”. Following his much-acclaimed collaborations with the likes of Calvin Harris, “Waiting For A Lifetime” overflows with club-ready cords, soaring synths and beats which lead you into a state of euphoria. With the help of the track’s official lyric video, “Waiting For A Lifetime” emanates that fuzzy feeling you get from long and light evenings, beers in the garden and spontaneous gatherings with your loved ones. Though John Newman may have taken a brief hiatus from his sound, it would appear the time was not wasted, as the track drips with a passion and vulnerability that is totally new and unexpected.
When discussing the journey which led him to his latest release, John explains, “To discover the next step in this amazing journey I’ve took on some pretty challenging days. It is hard to change and adapt yourself when it’s only you that has curated your own barriers. For years I was leaning on a side of me that was influenced by Northern Soul and Motown. Although it will always inspire me, I felt I began to lose grip, lose focus and become disorientated. I had to stop making music and try to hold my creativity back as I was using it as a device to cover up my emotions and fears. When I achieved feeling positive and better, I felt was really missing something which was music, being creative and a project!”
Making his return to music loud and clear, we spoke with the artist about his musical influences and his musical journey so far.
To read the full interview and to stream “Waiting For A Lifetime”, scroll below…
What was your first introduction to music?
My first introduction to music was actually my dad. He was a folk musician and very much into his music, and then my dad left when I was six and I think after that I kind of had to rediscover what that was. My mum was playing Motown records around the house all the time, and my uncle Tony was really into northern soul and went dancing all the time, so I was getting all these influences. To be honest, I think it was kind of the thing that got me into music in the end was the accessibility to be able to do that on a computer after I’d been learning bits of guitar and stuff like that. To start being able to put that in a computer at home was the thing that really pushed me into making further music.
Who inspired you musically growing up? How does this compare to your current influences?
In all honesty, dance music has always inspired me constantly. There’s something euphoric about it and it reminds me of being a teenager, having fun with my friends and having euphoric times almost. I think dance music’s a funny thing, it’s there on every great night that you have and every time you have fun. It’s there and it’s this amazing thing, and for me it really holds that euphoria and that sentimental value and still inspires me so much now, and did from the age of 10, probably.
How does it feel to return to music? What has changed between now and before you took a break?
Everything has changed! It feels very good. It feels like the beginning of something which is important for me to realise and see, it’s going to take a lot of work to show that I’m seriously, seriously passionate about this new concept I’ve created for me. And it’s seriously authentic, and it runs within my veins. So, it’s just going to take time to adjust for people to adjust but it’s happening already, and I think it will only happen more and more and more because I’m very stubborn. I changed my management, I changed my record label and I think it was a very, very bold decision to move out of the old era, including everyone that worked in it. But it was so good for a new mentality for everyone, and me as well.
For many people, lock-down took a toll on their mental health. You’ve been open about your own struggles during this time. Would you be able to tell us about this experience and if it’s affected you as a creative?
Yeah, lockdown really did take its struggles on many, many, many people, and people lost their lives, and people lost their families, and people lost their loved ones. I think that’s the most important thing is to not look at it as lockdown, but to look at it as this pandemic. For me, personally – and this is not a sympathy story compared to the people that have lost their people – it did really take a toll on me. I felt like, as a man, and as a young man, you’re told to forget things all the time, and shut up, and grow some balls if you have any issues. So, to deal with these mental issues that I had, I would run away, and I would cover it up with champagne, and red carpets, and fast cars and pretend that I was still as successful as I’ve always been. But really, I was born in my mind always to want to succeed. I think it’s because my father left us, I wanted to prove that I didn’t need that father figure — that I will succeed on my own terms. I think instead of running away I had to sit at home and deal with these emotions and it got really, really dark and that led to the point of me thinking I can’t do music anymore because I don’t want to, I hate it. I hate the politics, and I hate the industry, I hate everything bar actually making the music but even that, I was overthinking it. It just got really messy so, yeah it took some time to meditate, to rebuild, to strip my life away and then rebuild it and now I’ve got music back into the place where I want it to be. I do still have bad days where I struggle with it, but I love making music, so I need to remember that all the time.
Would you say growing up male in Yorkshire had an effect on how you deal or have dealt with navigating your emotions?
Yeah, totally. In the town that I grew up in, the male suicide rate is ridiculously high compared to the number of people there, and it’s like if you ever opened up to anyone and said, “I don’t feel good, my head doesn’t feel good,” they’d just be like “take a paracetamol” or “have a beer, you need a beer, what’s wrong with you? Grow some balls.” And I think that’s claustrophobic if you don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to in them situations. So, I think it’s really important that people allow these conversations and people lure people into these conversations. To allow them to open up to speak, and don’t be judgemental and don’t be shallow, and don’t be naive either. I think it’s really important to hear people out.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming musicians and creatives in terms of managing their well-being?
Honestly, I think that the biggest piece of information I can give is do what you want to do and just enjoy it. I think the most important thing is that support is success. People will always jump on and support you, or work more for you, or there’ll be more people working for you and everything like that. And it might feel a bit like “oh god, where’s my little dream gone from my bedroom?” or whatever. But it’s about expansion and I think the more these people come on board, the more you need to learn that that bedroom can be put out around the whole world by all these people. So, opinions are important, and opinions mean that you’ve succeeded, or you are succeeding, because everyone’s got an opinion but it’s fine, everyone’s also got a nose. So, you know, opinions are like noses, everyone’s got one. So, I think just take it with a pinch of salt and just ultimately continue to do that thing that drove you to do music in your bedroom, or the first glimmers of light that you got within making music.
What advice do you wish you’d been given when you first started music?
Life’s a journey not a destination — I already knew it. I don’t think I’d have changed anything, I think I’ve learned things at the right time, and I think I’ve learned from mistakes and I’ve learned from positive things at the right time and acted upon it at the right time, so I think that’s it. I mean any pre-warning would’ve adapted how it would’ve gone and I’d have lived in kind of thinking “oh it’s coming, it’s coming.” But I think how it came together was the right way, with both downs and ups and highs and lows and I’ve learned from them and changed from them and that’s what anyone else should expect. But also, just ride it, as a wave, just ride it- it’s really fun.
What effect would you want your new single, “Waiting For A Lifetime” to have on your listeners?
I spoke about my dad a lot already in this interview and said that he left when I was a kid, but I actually dealt with a lot of my mental health issues through lockdown and after speaking to someone I realised I was in a lot of pain from my childhood and my dad. My dad was still alive and I took the plunge to reach out to him after I’d not spoken to him for 15, 16 years or something… even 20 years maybe… I can’t remember. And it was hard, it was really, really hard, because I am stubborn and strong in that way and I don’t often show emotions. It was hard to reach out, but it’s the greatest thing that I did — and I really enjoyed the last two years of his life. It was one of the most healthy and best things for me, and I was so proud. My dad actually passed away on the day that I released “Waiting for a Lifetime” so I dedicated the song to him. That’s what I feel from the song every time and it’s really hard to listen to it, but other people, lyrics and songs are like star signs, and if someone tells you what’s coming, you often adapt that into your life so, it’s a totally open book on however it relates to anybody else’s life.
You’ve began to incorporate your skills as a DJ into your work. What can you tell us about this addition to your performance?
I used to DJ when I was like, 12, all the way through until 17, 18 and then focused more on kind of the songwriting and more soulful music side of things and didn’t really DJ for a while but it’s something that I’ve always done on and off, and really loved it every time I’ve done it. I really do love it, it’s part of my upbringing as I said dance music was, so it feels natural to me to bring this in. I was tired of kind of being a frontman and you know, after you’ve learned a lot about your mind, you actually can sometimes pick-up insecurities and struggle to stand on the front of the stage like that too much anymore. I think it was a natural progression to find this whole new vibe that I could get creative in and really enjoy that process of building this whole live show – like the visuals and the lighting and the DJ setup, but then also how I do looping and the whole setup that I have for my synths and all this and how it works- the tech of it was an amazing project for me to do and yeah I’m really enjoying that whole process, it feels like a one man band and I think I’m showing off the talents that I felt were being so wasted, just being a guy with a blonde streak and his quiff singing three lyrics to a chorus.
You’ve collaborated with some great artists including Rudimental and Calvin Harris. Who would be your ideal next collab?
There are some amazingly talented people that have come into music recently, but I love a big old-school collab like BRITS level, like Dizzee Rascal and Florence kind of thing. Talking of Florence, I’d love to collaborate with Florence, I’d love to collaborate with Sia. Griff, I love Griff very much, I think she’s amazing. I think Sigrid’s incredible.
What do you like to do to unwind?
To unwind, I like to meditate. I like to get in cold water, very cold water. I like to go in saunas and very cold water. I like to hike and I like to try and get out and see the world and I also like to get really pissed on the weekends and often go and listen to dance music with my friends, and enjoy myself.
What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
I’m most looking forward to restrictions lifted, people feeling safe again and being well again, and not at risk again. That’s really exciting, first and foremost. And then I really enjoy the fact that I might be able to go and play to them all, at festivals and go to festivals and hopefully watch my career go upwards and upwards throughout the year. That would be really, really nice, and really amazing. And I’d be really proud because it’s something that I’ve worked so hard on.