Posted On 18 Nov 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, April Showers, Artist Interview, B. Cox, Columbia, Donnell Jones, Dru Hill, Fredericksburg, Glenn Lewis, Inevitable, Jay Sean, John Michael, Jon B, Kanye West, Like A Drug, Lloyd, Michael Jackson, Musiq, Ne-Yo, Pharrell, RCA, Rick Ross, Sony, Sophisticated, Stevie Wonder, Timbaland, Top Notch Music Management, Trey Songz, Wale
At the age of 23, John Michael has established himself as one of the premier singer-songwriters of
the upcoming generation. Born in northeast Washington, D.C. and raised in Virginia, John Michael began writing at 16 years old. He has penned material for several distinguished producers who have worked with top artists such as Wale, Rick Ross, Lloyd and Jay Sean. Although he is a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes, John Michael is ready to step into the spotlight and showcase his own music.
Learn more about this promising musician in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So, what’s a typical day look like for you lately?
I’m very much consumed with various ideas or businesses I’m into. Besides being in the studio writing and recording my own work, I also do writing, mixing, and engineer work for other artists. I’ve gotten into photography and videography lately as well so I ended up starting a little business where I do photo and video for small businesses. It’s fun for me and I’m kind of a natural at using a camera so they always love my work. I also love cooking. So I will usually spend part of my day trying out a new recipe or just going all out on something I have had before. I’m really detailed oriented too so I think that helps with all those things I like to do.
Growing up, did you always know for certain that you wanted to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical moment?
I think my earliest musical moment was sneaking away to record myself singing “sunny side of the street” on my dad’s karaoke machine. I was about 8 or 9 years old. I always loved to sing but people around me would always tell me that the only reason I sounded good was because I was a little kid. So I kind of believed them. But as fate would have it when we moved from Woodbridge, VA to Fredericksburg, VA the first person I ever met in my new neighborhood was a kid named Arnold. He was a Korean-American kid. A lot shorter than everyone else our age. We became real good friends, and about 2 years later when we both were in 10th grade he introduced me to music recording software and the underground music scene developing on the internet. He and a few other people were meeting up after school and recording at his house. I got involved as just a producer first. Then one day I went home and downloaded the same program he had and figured it out enough to record a cover of “April Showers” by Dru Hill. Everyone heard it and went crazy. I’ve been kind of making music ever since.
How would you describe the sound of your latest album, “Sophisticated”?
Sophisticated is a really ballad driven album. Most of the music I would make between 2008-2011 was ballads. I’ve always been a lover kind of guy. Family oriented, responsible, and all that. So my music reflected that. All that music I was making about my idea of love at the time ended up becoming that album which came out in 2013.
How has your sound grown and changed through the years? How do you think it’s stayed the same?
My sound has grown in a lot of ways. #1 since I record and mix my own music, I’ve grown a lot just as a record producer, vocal producer, mixer. I’m better at EQing and things like that. I’ve also grown a lot as a singer. I have more control of my voice. The main growth though is in the content of my songs. Before, my concept of love was a lot more naïve. And my experience was a lot more one sided. I think that was because at the time I was with my high school sweet heart. I was committed 100% to her for a long time.
Right before I started finding success with music I learned that she wasn’t as committed to me as I was to her. So that pain and ultimate understanding of love shows now in my music. When she and I broke up I died inside. I didn’t eat for days. All the while my music was taking off. Very weird time in my life. Luckily, I rebounded and ended up making some great music with that pain. But what still remains the same is my style. I’m still a smooth crooner. I have moments where I want to party or be shallow, but I’m still deep, insightful, thoughtful, and sincere with my delivery.
Your forthcoming album, “Like A Drug” will be out early next month. Can you describe the process of putting it together? How long did it take?
I’m gonna do something a little crazy here and tell you the truth of the process of this album. Because it was tough and making it came at the toughest time of my life. Hopefully no one judges me or anything but as an artist I’m tired of people not keeping it real. Overall it took a little over a year to create it. The thing that was difficult was the situation I was in. As people might know my last album had some success. I had “Sophisticated Lady” on it which was a hit song. I did a lot of touring and met a lot of people. But as many people in the industry know, new artists don’t really profit a whole lot. So fast forward to the end of 2013. I was kind of waiting for that call. Maybe it was wishful thinking but I was hoping to be picked up by a major label. I had already met with Sony, RCA, Columbia, and others. So I had reason to believe.
Meanwhile, (in order to pursue music) I had moved back home in 2012. So I was still there in between touring and taking care of my son. Well my parents ended up losing the house to bankruptcy. I remember, it was Christmas time and we were all dealing with this fact. I remember waiting on a train at Penn Station in New York and talking to my manager Marv about it. That trip was the trip in my mind I thought would be when I found out I was gonna get picked up by a major. Of course it ended up not being that. So after the show I’m sitting there in Penn Station, tired from walking around the city, its like 2am, and I see a bunch of homeless people digging in trash cans. All the while I think to myself, I might as well be homeless too. I was in a bad state. My manager could tell in my voice. Fast-forward to January 2014 and its time to clear out the old house and move to a new house. Only problem is the new house was some type of scam or something because it fell through. There was no new house. I sat there, my son was riding his bike around the empty old house. He had no clue what was going on. So I packed up our stuff in put it in my car. Me and my son drove over to one of those run down motels and I used the money I had for us to live there until I could figure something out. It was terrible. Forget music, I felt like a bad father. I’ll never forget pulling up to the hotel and my son looking up at me and asking, “dad, is this where we live now.” He was judging or mad, he just wanted to know is there where to call home from now on. I said no, this is just where we will be for a while. His mother wasn’t in a good position either so being with me was the best option. So this run down motel, became the scene of my new album “Like A Drug.” Only thing I unpacked was my studio equipment, my sons xbox, and personal hygiene stuff. Soon after we left the hotel and stayed at my brothers house for a little bit. Only problem is that I couldn’t record there. So whenever I got time I would pack my car up with the studio equipment, rent a hotel for a day or two and bang out some music. It was hectic to say the least. I also got a gym membership which helped keep me sane. I would take my son and get a nice workout every single day of the week. It helped provide me with structure. As I recorded, I prayed and worked hard because I had to do better for my son. I went through crazy depression. Even wrote a drunken goodbye letter to music that is still in my phone to this day. Through that hardwork and my belief in God I was able to get me and my son our own house in June of 2014. Just in time for him to go to kindergarten. Its crazy to think back to how bad 2014 was. I hated so many things for what led me to that. I blamed music because constant touring and being an “artist” kind of led me down that path. But I never gave up and I kept making music. I never stopped. And now I stand here today in the best financial, spiritual, and musical state I’ve ever been in in my life. It’s amazing what hard work can do. I’m sorry for that long answer but honestly, when people ask what led to this album, what was the process; that right there is the process. Experiencing homelessness, realizing that music biz is a true drug. It gives you this incredible high. People love you, free drinks, VIP, new friends. Then when that high is gone you are left with a devastating low. Hence the album title “Like A Drug.” Sadly, I can’t escape it. I’m addicted to music.
Yea, it kind of changes a lot. Most of my inspiration comes from me being ultra competitive. I hear an artist make something dope and I get upset on the inside. Not like “hating” upset. Just like, “ok I see you’re 10, but I’m about to raise you 20.” I strive to be the best and deep down always want to be better than everyone else.
How did you choose to release “Inevitable” before the album release? Why do you think it sums up the collection’s overall sound?
My idea was to bridge together the music you get from the album purchase along with my habit of putting a ton of music on soundcloud. So it’s like a bonus track that you have to go get and add to your playlist to make the album complete. I think one of the biggest things about “Inevitable” that shows where I am now is that if you notice, the song has no real structure. No hook, no pro-hook, no refrain. It’s just me vibing to a track. That’s where I am with music now.
I’m done trying to fit into a mold, or be like Ne-Yo or be like Trey Songz. I will make my music anyway I please. But on a side note, I don’t think anyone realized but that song is actually detailing an elaborate sexual fantasy of an adventurous couple making love in the back seat of a police car. “Chillin in the back of the vic” eludes to the police car “Crown Victoria” vehicle. “Don’t you trip, aint no evidence gone stick to this” is when I tell her not to worry about what we did in order to land in the back of the police car because we planned it out so good that there is no evidence to prosecute us.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your sound? Who would you love to work with one day in the future?
All artists inspire me. I think every single artist who has achieved success has some quality to be admired. Even the dance song artists. Of course my original sound inspiration comes from the likes of Musiq, Glenn Lewis, Donnell Jones, Jon B, Dru Hill, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson. I would love to work with Kanye West, Pharrell, B Cox, Timbaland. I met Rodney Jerkins one time for a brief moment. I remember I tweeted him and reminded him we met and that I make dope music. He was like, “you shoulda showed it to me” lol. That pisses me off to this day. One day Imma remind him it was me that day that he brushed off.
What do you hope is the message of your music?
My message is to the kids. Most music and entertainment lends itself to the emotionally numb. I just want them to know it’s ok to feel, ok to get hurt, ok to love, and most importantly; it’s ok to do things the right way. The way they were taught as children.