Join us as we delve into the captivating world of John Newman, his musical journey, and his aspirations for the future. Stay tuned for an insightful and inspiring conversation with one of the industry’s most talented and passionate artists.

John Newman Interview by Ben Farrin

Hey John, please let me start by thanking you for your time, it’s always a pleasure! It’s been 4 years since we last spoke to you (pre-covid)! SO MUCH has happened since 2019. Music-wise, can you talk to us about what’s going on with John Newman now, maybe starting with the huge Tomorrowland Music debut release!…

Yes, my new single ‘Hold On To My Love’ is out which is really exciting. For people who might have heard my old stuff, it’s a different sound but it was a perfect choice as an introduction to where I am now as an artist. I think it educated people in the right way of me being a producer, but the song also leans into my new live show and that euphoric feeling within that.

I’ve got loads more music coming that I’m getting ready for and it’s all in the dance format and my new era.

I’m listening to “Hold On To My Love” whilst I write these Qs, it’s a brilliant, uplifting feel-good anthem. What does the song mean to you, and how do you feel when you hear and perform/play it live?

It’s always difficult when you’ve been doing this for twelve or so years and then you’re happily married with a child, pain is hard to find sometimes so you have to find new subjects or areas of inspiration. For me, this one came from needing to have something emotive. I also wanted to reference the energy of a classic 90s trance tune, in the way that they have this really simple, but euphoric, lyric. I just wanted it to have that old Pacha/Space/Cream feel to it and that mainly came from where I wrote the song which was backstage with my friends at Ushuaïa in Ibiza. I started singing over this beat which I’ve shared the original clip of on social media. It just needed to be something strongly emotive and powerful, that let people know musically, where my head is at now.

One of the comments to the “Hold on To My Love” music video reads “John he’s absolutely the most talented male artist of our time. You can see that he puts his heart and soul into everything. Musical genius!!”. Leading on from this comment, I wanted to ask how you feel about your own progression… what goals do you set yourself and where are you at with them?

This is a hard one to answer because as an artist you constantly judge yourself. There’s a lot of documentaries coming out now about the impact of music on personal lives and on the people behind the pressure – that’s a great documentary title! It gives me great joy to hear a comment like that, and I’m really proud, but it’s sometimes hard to accept because I’m always thinking “I can do better” or “you think that’s good? I can do better than that.” That can be hard to live with. To constantly want to do better and be my own inner citric at the same time. I’ve been doing this well over ten years now and without the people supporting my music and sharing comments like the one above, I wouldn’t be able to keep doing it, so I am forever thankful.

You continually raise the bar! I’ve seen your Tomorrowland Winter 2023 live DJ performance. It gave me goose bumps when you sang into the mic, layering the vocals whilst mixing. The energy in your sets and the effort you give is 100% clear to see. How long have you been DJing for and what fulfils you more – performing live singing at a concert, or DJing?

DJing is actually the first thing I did, when I was a kid growing up in Settle in Yorkshire, the singing didn’t come until later. In terms of comparing the two eras, let’s say, I think the first era of my sound felt incredible, but I think the issue is what happens with success is that it captures a moment in time and then you’re held to that moment in time until it dies out. I don’t think that’s fair to myself allow that, due to believing in my own talent, so that’s when I needed to do something different.

I took time out to refresh and now I’m super excited for the future of what I’ve created. My live show has been developed over three years and there’s still another couple of years of progression ahead. I’m playing catch up with people who have been doing this live and exposed for 20 years so it’s an ongoing project, but I’m excited for the future. It really challenged me; I was so bored of my career before. I believe when operating in professional music that you should be challenged it should be exhausting and tiring because it’s not meant to be easy.

You also closed the amazing set with “Hold On To My Love”. It really did look like an epic journey – I wish I had been there. Clubbers dancing like crazy, the tunes, mixing, live vocals, epic lights. You must feel very proud to have positioned yourself as a top DJ (with extra levels of talent) at Tomorrowland playing huge gigs like that?

Completely! To the bottom of my heart that gig was something different. I say I can come back to the studio and make things better but in that moment, the severity of it was that I just walked off stage and broke down into tears because I’d been working for three years towards it. And in the last three months of knowing I had that gig, I was working like 15 hours a day which completely moved my focus from friend and family time, and everything else.

I’ve put my whole career on the line for this. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work but this is me now and that set felt like I’d really achieved something amazing and was a reflection of the journey, so it was completely overwhelming. I think that emotion came across to the crowd in the set too, and that’s something I never want to lose. So yeah, I’m really proud of myself and that feels really good because I say that quite rarely.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction and that show, and the Tomorrowland show in summer, were two of the events that very early on I said; “I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna play them.”

Superb! Do you have plans to release a new album soon with your new uplifting electro/house vibe?

I’d love to but I believe that it’s going to take a movement from the people to start persuading record labels that one-off TikTok songs aren’t the way forward. Those viral hits are obviously working well financially for them, but we’re going to kill music, so we need artists to continue to release albums, get budgets for them and be given freedom to do so which is non-existent currently.

It’s hard, I’m told that as a DJ in the dance scene I have to stay constant and current and that’s different for me and that’s a challenge in itself. I would love to sit down and make a body of work. The secret is that I’ve actually made three albums since my second album and people turn around and say “where’s John Newman gone?,” “what’s John Newman doing?” and I’ve been making three albums then taking them to different labels along the way and they’ve just picked a single or two singles out of there. That’s the severity of how the music industry is looking at bodies of work at the moment. It’s just a picking-pot for singles in the real world if you’re not a Lewis Capaldi or a Taylor Swift. And nothing against those artists either, more power to them, but I would love to see the concept of albums become more widespread for all artists again.

Who in your opinion are the top 3 DJs in the world right now, and why?

Swedish House Mafia – I think the guys are struggling to show themselves on a huge commercial level because people want their old stuff, but I believe that they are pioneering dance music as we know it. I think what they’re doing right now is really important and their new album was misunderstood, by myself even on the first listen because I was like “where’s the ‘Don’t You Worry Child?” I think now, on more of a listen, this is now setting the standards of dance music.”

Fred Again – When I was just talking about the industry and the quality of music that’s coming out, and that albums are slowly disappearing, it takes artists with very sharp arrows to go and break through that and I think Fred Again is one of those. He’s always been a talented songwriter and producer and his live shows are amazing.

Alesso – I personally love him. He’s into new interstellar vibes and that Tech House sound whilst being quite euphoric. I think it’s slowly moved into a new area that’s actually amazing.

Do you have a home studio and if so, what are your favourite bits of kit? Have you made room for a Pioneer DJM-A9?

I do have a very nice large home studio, I’m very thankful and very lucky, however I’m pissed-off with it today because my interface is broken so none of the studio actually works on my computer.

Funnily enough, I’ve still got all the same bits of kit as before as I’ve always had a dance influence in my music. I’ve still got my M1 Korg which is the classic 90s house keyboard and all the same synths. They all do the same stuff, and you can use them in any genre, it’s more about the mixing at the end.

In terms of my Pioneer set up, I do have a very nice set up, thanks to Pioneer! In an intuitive way, I’ve actually looped my whole studio set up through my Pioneer set up so I can use Pioneer’s effects, I can trial new things for the live show and then record it back into my computer. The new mixer (DJM-A9) I saw a very long time ago which was cool as I got an insight into what it was, and even got asked my opinion on it as well. I don’t have the new model because, I use a larger mixer, I use a V10 mixer which allows me to run more channels, run Ableton Live and things like that, but I do suggest any new DJ goes and gets the new model because they’ve completely stepped up the mark now, it’s amazing.

With festival season upon us, what are your plans in terms of performances – any standout shows coming up?

I’ve got Tomorrowland Belgium which is super exciting and Tomorrowland Brazil. I think it’s still taking time to educate the world on the new me and making people believe it’s the right thing. Change takes a lot of time but it’s looking super positive. We’ve got various gigs all around Europe and hopefully the more commercial festival names that al lot of people know, I will achieve over time. Like I said, I’m a big believer in positive thinking, I use the Law of Attraction and visualise my dreams and another one is to do Ultra Miami and Ultra Worldwide so hopefully we’ll start that journey soon and if we don’t, it’s fine I’ll just sit at home and cry.

I did recently put on my social media “I will headline your festival” so wish me luck!

What’s your top festival tip for newbie clubbers and festival goers?

I once went to Leeds Festival and my mate told me that all the energy that you need is in a can of beans. Especially when cold. I didn’t know if he was joking so I took about 20 cans of beans with me. I had no money, I lost my friend on the first day, I also kind of struggled socially, so I just sat in my tent eating beans for three days. That was the worst experience of my life, I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. What I’d recommended is preparing and saving some money so that you can actually buy the hotdogs and the food onsite. Don’t take cans of cold beans. Also just get wasted…because why not!”

Until next time John, I’d like to personally thank you, wish you all the best and lastly ask – if you can send one message to people around the world, what would it be?

Keep loving, keep caring and keep thinking.