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STAR Views: John Stone

By: Estella Pan

John Stone

John Stone didn’t dream of becoming a singer; from the time he was a young boy, he knew that’s what he wanted to do. "I kind of knew that I’d end up being an attorney or a singer." For the Alabama native, "country music was the first music I was introduced to. All my family and friends, everyone listened to country music when we were little and growing up. So, I was hooked right off the bat." John remembers how his childhood days of riding with and listening to his dad sing ignited a musical fire deep within his own spirit: "Back when I was a kid, we had this old ’63 Ford pickup truck. It didn’t have a radio it in, so daddy would sing all the time. Daddy knew the words to a thousand songs and we’d sing Merle Haggard songs going down the road. That really got me interested in music. Just as plain as day, I can see it right now like I was still sitting in that truck." More recently, those very memories have come to hold even more significance. "I got see two years ago at the Ryman Auditorium with my dad. It was awesome and a very moving experience for me. It was emotional. When he sang ‘Mama Tried,’ I looked over at dad and said, ‘Remember all the times we’d sit in that old truck and sing that song?’ It just broke me up!" Those musical roots clung tight and after joining his first band in his late teens, John knew music was the means by which he would travel! "The first time I stepped in front of the audience, I belonged to it!"

Not long after, Nashville acquired a new resident and in 2004, he introduced himself to country fans in the form of his debut album aptly titled Meet John Stone. When I posed the question about which song he relates to most, he grows pensive. A moment later he shares, "I guess from a personal point, it would be ‘The Drive.’" He drew inspiration for the tune straight from his life. "I wrote that one from a real life experience. I was having a bad day; a lot of things were going wrong in my life. I was out on my back porch real early one morning – I can’t remember if I had stayed up late or got up early that day – but as the sun was breaking in, I was looking at my truck and thinking about driving off and not looking back. Then, the story started coming to me in my head, so I grabbed my guitar and went back out on the porch. Instead of running away from everything that was happening, I turned those emotions into a song." As for his favorite song from the album, John doesn't miss a beat in stating, "My favorite is ‘Baby Come Back,’ which is track twelve. The first time I heard that song, I fell in love with it. It's just got a great feel to it when I play and sing it live." He points out: "The only thing wrong with it is it's one of the songs that I didn’t write!"

They say the very first time an artist hears his or her own song playing on the radio is always an especially memorable moment. That is no different for John. "The first time I heard myself on a major radio station without expecting it was here in Nashville, and WSM, 95.5 FM ‘The Wolf’ played it. So, I'm going down the road when I heard it, and I just got so excited! I was calling everyone and saying, ‘My song’s on the radio!!’ Among the phone calls he made, one was to the Program Director for the station, to which he exclaimed, "Man, if I wasn’t in three lanes of traffic, I’d jump out and do a victory dance right now!" He adds, "It’s one thing if you’re expecting it, but just to be driving, and suddenly your own voice comes across, that's really cool!"

John Stone

So, is there a new album on the way from John? He fills us in, "Yes, I am definitely working on new music! I’ve been writing with some of the top writers here in Nashville lately. We are planning on going into the studio in the next few weeks to put down some tracks. We're going to get a single out in the next few months. I’m excited about it!" While we're waiting for the album to be finished, here’s a preview of what to expect: "[It’s going to be] pretty much in the same vain as my Meet John Stone album. There are going to be some ballads that will pull at your heartstrings. There are going to be midtempo songs that take you to a cool place. And, there are going to be some rockers – just attitude, driven songs on there!" John has found a style that works for him and he uses that to his advantage. "I cut Meet John Stone when I first got to town, and I’ve learned so much since then about this business and how to really make music!" He has taken in those valuable lessons and therefore feels that the new album "will be a reflection of my first album. But it will also be music that has evolved, because I have evolved as a songwriter and an artist."

Meet John Stone received high acclaim because it captured his "live" energy onto a studio album, and John doesn’t have plans to change that approach for his new album. "I’m going to try my best to keep it edgy and raw. That’s the kind of sound I want my albums to have." The same philosophy applies when he writes songs. "I try to write and record music in my style. I don’t write music because I think it would sound good on the radio. I do stuff that works for me." He emphasizes his preference for a different kind of perfection – "I don't want my albums to be all slick and perfect, because I’m not slick and shiny; I never have been." – but points out the importance of being able to swallow constructive criticism given by others. "You have to take who you are and what works and try to marry the two; it's a give and take. You can’t come to town and say, ‘This is who I am, and you can take it or leave it!’" Instead, he advises, "You have to be who are, but you also have to adapt to your surroundings and be open to suggestions."

In fact, one of the biggest lessons John has picked up is one that, once learned, can sustain anyone through the toughest curve balls that the industry will throw at you. He shares his insight: "I’ve always tried to be a down-to-earth person, but sometimes, you can lose sight of the big picture and why you’re doing the things that you do. So, getting a lesson in humility right about the time I first got to town was a good thing for me. Not everybody likes your work – you can’t please everybody, and I’ve had some people that didn’t necessarily like the music I put out. [Knowing] those things keep me grounded." He offers these words of wisdom for those who may want to hit the hard road that is the music business: "It’s a whole different story when you're back on the local level, and you think you have an idea of what making music is and how songs should sound. Then you come up here, and you're around the best in the world. If you don’t learn and evolve, you really don’t have any business being here. You have to continually be a student of the business." Then, there's the unavoidable hard work that has to be put in, no matter what career one decides to pursue. "You can’t get anything without working hard for it. If I was still sitting at home waiting for someone to knock on my door and offer me a record deal, it just doesn't happen that way! You have to go after it. There are so many people in this town competing for the same thing that the demand is really low and the supply is really high; [it’s] your biggest enemy. So, I’ve tried to stay motivated and driven all the time." Spoken by a man who has been there and lived it.

One thing you might now know about John is that he has a knack for reciting movie lines. More specifically, he admits, "I can just about recite the whole movie of Forrest Gump!" His reasoning for doing so is simple. "I just liked that movie so well, and any movie that I like, for some reason, I can remember the dialogue in it." This unique hobby could potentially prove to be a distraction for others. "People get mad at me all the time when they watch movies with me – they’re always like Shhh!!!! – because I know every character’s lines."

STAR Country!

John Stone

What is one question you would ask yourself that I haven't already asked? What would your response be?
John: I would ask me What motivates me? Why do I do what I do and what do I expect out of it? What motivates me – and the reason I do what I do is – it’s like meeting somebody that you just fall madly in love with. When I got into the music business, it just captured me to the point where I belonged to it. I do it because I love it; it burns inside of me. I want the opportunity to put my music out to the people and let them decide my musical fate – not the music industry, critics, or programmers. If my career is decided by people sitting behind a desk, well then I never really got a true shot at it, because they're trying to say that they know what the public wants better than the public. I want to get my music out on the radio, videos, and in front of live audiences, and I want them to tell me if I live up to their standards, if I’m good enough to be here. Then, if I can’t sell records or concert tickets, I can know that I came here, gave it an honest shot, worked my butt off, that fans "got" my music, and it just wasn’t up to par. If the general public tells me, "There’s better songs than what you’re doing," I can live with that. I can get old, sit on my porch, drink coffee, and be okay with it. That’s what I expect out of it. I came to this town to make my fortune in the music business, whether as a singer, songwriter, or maybe producer or manager somewhere down the line. I came here to do that, and I’m not leaving ’til I do!

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