» News and Features » John Newman interview: "I got to close Coachella... a real pinch me moment"
John Newman interview: "I got to close Coachella... a real pinch me moment"
The chart-topping vocal sensation is back with brand new music, a brand new stage show and more! Hear what fans can expect from John Newman 2.0 straight from the horse's mouth in this exclusive Skiddle interview
Date published: 7th Jul 2022
A bonafide British pop legend who first appeared on our screens in his iconic soul-inspired get-up almost a decade ago, John Newman is an artist who, at just 32-years-of-age, has already experienced nearly every possible up and down the music industry and life could throw at him.
The UK chart-topper, who found near-instantaneous fame with his debut single, 'Love Me Again', back in 2013, has endured more than many will ever encounter throughout the entirety of their lives. From the peak of his success as a recording artist to the subsequent crippling lows of his depression post-tour, and the multiple surgeries he had to undergo following his diagnosis of not one but two brain tumours - it would be fair to say he's handled his reasonable share of both good and bad luck.
Given his turbulent career and existence thus far, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Newman was ready to step away from the stage altogether. And you'd be wrong. Quite the opposite actually. The proud Settle-born Yorkshireman has announced he's back and in better shape both physically and mentally than ever before. And what's more, he's got a brand new sound, live show and appearance to boot.
We caught up with the reinvigorated singer-come-DJ, to discover a little more about what fans can expect from John Newman 2.0, whilst touching upon his life-altering experiences and more. Continue reading to check out the full interview...
John Newman! It’s an absolute pleasure to speak with you. How are you, where are you and what’s on today's agenda?
"Hi, Skiddle! So today I was meant to be arriving home from Dumfries, as I had a show up there, but it got cancelled last night due to really high winds. I’m quite glad I’m safe and well and at home working in the studio as usual today."
It’s great to have you back releasing music, with a brand new direction no less. Far from the soulful sounds heard on your debut album, 2013’s Tributes, your new singles ‘Waiting For A Lifetime’ and ‘Holy Love’ lean much heavier on the dance elements of your previous releases. What’s inspired the change in your sound?
"I feel like any artist should develop over time and I put myself in a position, as an artist, where I was being held to a certain era or place. And that’s all down to the success I had on “Love Me Again” and “Feel the Love”. I felt like I'd anchored myself in the 2010s almost. So I took some time to work on my mental health, among many other things away from music, just to see how it felt, but I always ended up going back to making music, focusing especially on the sounds that inspired me as a kid growing up."
"Dance music was something that was always there and, as you know, I’ve done collaborations with loads of dance acts in the past. So yeah, it felt natural to head in this semi-new direction, like I was appeasing the young John Newman inside of me whilst building on the dance tracks I'd previously featured on, moving away from the soul sound I'd been labelled with."
Which artists, if any, are helping to sonically shape this new sound? Whose music is having the most significant influence on you currently?
"When you get into dance music there’s such a deep, deep, deep hole to fall down when it comes to the history of the genre and the massive records that have been issued through the eras. There are so many different sub-genres and stories to be explored and discovered. Generally, I would say my new material is inspired by the elements found in techno and deep house."
"Regarding artists, I'm a huge fan of progressive-house acts the likes of Steve Angello and Eric Prydz, probably two of my biggest influences. Then there are the big ones like Calvin Harris and MK who are really pushing through to a more commercial level."
"I’m also really inspired by 90s rave music, which I think comes through on my first record. I was always adamant that I wanted it to sound like a 90s rave record mixed with soul."
With all the excitement surrounding the new singles, we obviously had to ask, can we expect to see you out on the road performing your new records live this year? And if so, where can fans look forward to seeing you?
"In terms of performing live, I am really focusing on delivering this whole new show that I’ve put together. It's a one-man-band sort of experience focusing on my love for DJing. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be singing. There's probably more signing in my live show now than there ever has been! I've just found new and experimental ways to do both: using loopers, building up effects, editing my vocals live on stage, and playing synths whilst mixing my records on the decks."
"It’s really high-energy, heavy dance music for those who have yet to see it live. I feel like I’m introducing myself to a whole new generation of music fans, and dance is a very prominent commercial thing currently. So yeah, it’s really exciting."
"I want to perform all over the world and hit up all the amazing EDM and dance festivals. The goal is to get myself bedded into that scene. It’s just gonna take some time for people to adjust to the new Newman. But where there’s a will, there’s a way!"
Courageously, you’ve spoken openly about touring and how you used heading out on the road as a way to escape emotions you perhaps didn’t want to deal with at the time, ultimately leading to depression during the lockdown. How has your outlook on touring changed? And what advice would you give to other performers out there who might be struggling?
"After working hard on getting my mental state back in a good place, I came to realise that I was responsible for creating these situations where I'd end up embarrassing myself, forcing me to take flight. I began to understand why I was doing these extreme things to try and cover over my emotions all the time. I think touring was one of those extreme things but it wasn’t the gigs themselves. Although, after everything I've been through, I can assuredly say that I could never face standing on a stage again in that suit with that blond streak because of my experiences through the lockdown. It just doesn’t feel like my confidence lies there anymore, which is completely fine because of this clearer headspace I'm in. "
"My advice to anyone that is just starting out or beginning to tour would be don't let it go to your head and stop every now and then to take in how exciting a time it is, not only for yourself but your nearest. We don't know what adversity lies before us so appreciate every little step along your journey, because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime thing that you’re doing. Or it might be for the rest of your life!"
Pinch me moments. We think it’s fair to say you’ve had more than a few in your career, performing recently with Jax Jones as part of the Queens Platinum Jubilee celebrations in London for example. How was that experience and how does it compare to others?
"That was a very, very scary moment for me, to be honest. Oppositely to how others might feel, I find it’s always nice to see the abuse on social media after these big shows, especially the nerve-wracking TV performances beamed to millions of people because it means you've performed in front of enough people to get a mixed opinion. It's a nice way of looking at it, I guess."
"Just before I walked on, I actually had a huge moment where I thought about my Grandma, who’s no longer with me, and my dad, who’s also no longer with me. These are people who have grown up in working-class Yorkshire and the queen and the monarchy held huge significance to them. I was thinking how proud my grandma and my dad would’ve been to see me be part of such a huge moment in history. And doing it all alongside Jax Jones, what could be better! He’s a lovely person, and randomly he’s also my neighbour. That’s actually how I came about the whole thing. It was an amazing experience."
"The biggest pinch-me moment I've ever had, however, has to be performing after Rihanna at Coachella with Calvin Harris. Calvin was headlining on a Sunday night and the last song was 'Blame'. So yeah, I basically got to close Coachella. That was a real pinch-me moment. Really incredible."
What would be your ultimate booking? The one show you’d really have to pinch yourself hard to really make sure you were there?
"There’s a long list of festivals that I’d love to play, like EDC Festival in Vegas, Ultra Miami, Tomorrowland in Belgium, and, of course, Creamfields. They are all amazing events. But I think for me, with this new crossover direction of sound I'm working on, the main one has to be Glastonbury. I think it’s always been a huge aim of mine and when you consider the dance direction the likes of Drake and Beyonce are heading in, it's not out of the question."
"There are actually two venues or events that I’ve always wanted to do. Number one, when I’m doing my law of attraction and I’m kinda visualizing, is doing my own headline show at Wembley Stadium. Number two is to headline Glastonbury. My dreams are slightly bigger than reality right now, I know. I’ve got a lot of work to do."
Finally, we saw you recently took to Instagram to ask your fans to share their dance floor confessions. We’d like to turn that back on you. Come on now, ‘fess up.
"Honestly, as a student in Leeds and as a touring musician for many years, and a bit of a down-the-pub drinker Yorkshireman, I actually don’t think there’s any that would be feasible to go into any sort of interview whatsoever. I got a bit nervous about doing this interview, knowing I was going to get asked this question. So yeah, I’d rather leave it to other people to tell me, that won’t be judged upon it."
Fancy being one of the first to see John Newman's brand new experimental live show? head to the bottom of the page to get tickets to see the return of the superstar at the Millenium Square in Leeds on Saturday 23rd July, performing live at the must-attend event of the summer - Club Classical Anthems.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.