HIS latest single has been wrapped around my brain…
and coming into my vision at unexpected times. I have been speaking with the U.S. songwriter Vincent John about his new track, Shiny Car, and what compelled its birth. His E.P., Tangerine, is upcoming, so I was eager to know a bit more about it. I discover what the scene is like in Philadelphia – where Vincent John is based – and whether he will come to the U.K.
He tells me whether he is a fan of British music and what his favourite career memory is; if he gets time to switch off from music; which musicians have inspired him; what it has been like working with the legendary Lee Fields – Vincent John ends the interview by choosing a stunning song.
Hi, Vincent. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! Thank you for having me. I am very well - and hope the same for you.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Vincent John. I am a songwriter, musician; producer and artist.
Tell me about Shiny Car. What is the song about? Did it come together easily?
Shiny Car started out as an instrumental. I had just finished releasing my debut, Never Go Back, and felt this was a step in the right direction for the next batch of songs and, at the same time, an extension of Never Go Back.
It is taken from the E.P., Tangerine. Can you reveal the subjects and stories that compelled the songs? What sort of topics inspired you during its creation?
I pull from my own life and the lives of those close to me for inspiration. Occasionally, political themes creep in - but my intention is to create music that makes people feel good. I try to create metaphors for those themes when they do arise.
The E.P. brings together classic recording with some modern touches. Is it important you blend the old and new in your music?
Absolutely. Most of the music I love dates back to the '60s thru the '80s. But, it is important to me to try to bridge the gap between what inspires me and what most people relate to these days. It’s not easy but, in the end, it is very gratifying.
You have worked with Lee Fields, Nicole Wray and Aaradhna. Have those experiences been impactful and important?!
Working with these people has been a gift. All of those individuals, as well as ones not mentioned, have been very important to me as a person and an artist. I have an immense respect for those who I collaborate for and with. Not only are those some of my favorite artists, they are friends and role models who I consider myself lucky to know.
Which artists inspired you to get into music? Who do you count as influences?
I grew up listening to Motown. My mother loved the '60s and '70s Pop music, so that’s what I was listening to in my formative years. It’s hard to pin down one favorite but, for what it’s worth, I think the best (Soul) singers who ever lived are Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.
Philadelphia is where you are based. What is the area like in regards to music? Is it a good place to perform?
Philadelphia is known as a hotbed for Indie Rock and R&B. I love to perform in Philadelphia. It is my home and I’m proud of it. My favorite venues would have to be The Fillmore, Union Transfer and Johnny Brenda’s.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Yes! We are booking dates in PHL, N.Y.C. and L.A. right now for 2018. Stay tuned for more info soon.
Do you think you’ll play the U.K. this year? Do you like the music coming out of here?
I would love to make it across the pond with this project this year. I do tend to like a lot of what’s coming out of the U.K. these days - Michael Kiwanuka, Alex Francis; Pale Waves and Fishbach…to name a few.
IN THIS PHOTO: Pale Waves
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
A broader awareness of the music I am making for a generation in flux. I hope the records can brighten someone’s day every day...
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I played L’Olympia in Paris with Lee Fields this January 2018. That was pretty moving. The Beatles, and countless others, have played there.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Do as much as you can yourself to ensure your vision is not obscured. This day in age, you have to wear many hats, but don’t let the records suffer as a result - that’s always got to be number-one.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I honestly don’t lately, but I am happiest when I am busy working. Occasionally, I’ll go on a vinyl buying tear - but that’s not really getting away from music, is it?! (laughs).
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
William Onyeabor - Good Name
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