Written by: Jack Wynne
John Newman burst onto centre stage a decade ago when he made a number one record together with Rudimental called 'Feel the Love'. Since then the Yorkshireman has gone on to work with a whole string of huge artists, including Calvin Harris, Nile Rodgers and Sigala, amassing millions of record sales in the process.
However things became too much in 2020 when Newman confessed there was too much pressure, and he needed some time out. Fast forward two years and Newman has returned with a renewed energy and a different direction, leaning away from Motown influences and channelling a more dance-orientated sound.
Having sat down with Newman, he talked about a whole host of topics including his latest single 'Holy Love', how much pressure there is in the industry and why Wigan Pier will always bring fond memories. When asked about the reaction to his new song he admitted that it was key to be patient and allow people the chance to really warm to his new style.
“It’s not a result that’s straight back on the net because I’ve seen number ones come in,” he added. “You just have to stay relaxed about it. The bottom line is it’s a completely different sound for me and I’m going in a whole new direction so I just have to keep working at it and the results will come.”
Newman has seen huge success in the past with records like 'Blame' together with Harris but he warned about the dangers of comparing what he is doing now to those previous hits. It was also clear to see that being content when sat in the studio, day-to-day, is the main priority for the Yorkshireman.
“Songs like 'Blame' with Calvin [Harris] are a very easy reference to my music, but that’s with Calvin Harris who had just broken Michael Jackson’s record when we put that out,” he said.
“The most important thing is that I have something which drives me to want to sit in the studio and keep making the music despite the pains and issues that can come with making music. I love being sat in my studio or on stage as well so as long as I get to do those things I’m happy with all the success that comes in whatever scale.”
Newman took a well-documented break from the music industry and admitted he came to a point where the “suffocation” of his mental health had reached a critical stage and enough was enough.
“When I started running to a poor mental health state it was so suffocating doing my job,” he commented. "I couldn’t deal with it anymore. One day the binman started singing 'Love Me Again' and I just wasn’t in the mood. I couldn’t do it to myself and I couldn’t do it to other people that are being respectful.”
When asked about exactly how the music industry affects an artist’s mental health Newman explained that it’s the uncertainty which can have the biggest detriment.“Musicians struggle to get a mortgage because you can have a good year, a bad year and then a good year,” he continued. “When you start feeling the peak coming down into the lower part of the wave that can really affect you.”
When a record doesn’t attract major success and subsequently bookings don't come in for shows it can really dent an artist’s confidence. Then it can be affected even further when social media platforms cultivate these facades of instant success. Newman admitted it can be “overwhelming” if you’re already struggling.
At the outset these issues are often overlooked because artists may be travelling all over, playing multiple shows every weekend and making music in between that they don’t have the time to stop and think about the potential consequences. That was exactly the case for Newman and he confessed it was hugely exciting.
“At the beginning for me it was just mesmerisingly amazing,” he said. “Having all that adrenaline in you all the time and running off three or four hours sleep. Laptop open programming all the time or practising all the time. Lessons all the time on your voice whilst on a tour bus."
Back when he was a teenager it was all about hard house and Clubland tunes for Newman and it was at that point he decided to buy his first pair of turntables. He also grew up in a small Yorkshire town where lots of people used to satisfy their love for house music by visiting the former nightclub, Wigan Pier.
Newman has worked with some big producers over the years and was eager to wax lyrical about Harris in particular - the pair collaborated on 'Blame' in 2014: “I’d say Calvin by a thousand miles,” he continued. “He’s just so prolific and very genius at what he does. Everything is so simple and calculated. It was really inspiring to open up to his world and see how he works. It reignited that kid in the bedroom thing again. It still felt to me like he could’ve been sitting doing that in his bedroom even though he has this big amazing studio.”
The crazy work ethic is what appeals the most to Newman when he collaborates with other artists. He will often enter his studio at the crack of dawn and then leave at 23:00 in the evening and so when he comes across other individuals like this it is easy to see why they’re achieving their dreams.
To finish, Newman was pressed on whether he would be looking to release a third LP but he admitted the demand is simply not there and the way in which we consume music has changed dramatically.
There has been a huge change in what the labels and fans are looking for with most albums being overlooked if they don’t contain a hit single. Newman confessed it is only the huge superstar acts like Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran who will release albums. Nowadays music can be consumed so quickly that it’s often the 60-second songs featured on TikTok which are the most successful, according to Newman.
“My wife turned round to me yesterday and said I can understand why you wouldn’t want to listen to a whole ten songs by the same person,” he added. “With Spotify playlists you’re so used to hearing hit after hit. You can’t really enjoy the journey of an album anymore without thinking 'I’m bored'.”
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