John Rowley: Guilt Trip + Interview


John Rowley describes himself as a ’18 year-old Sydneysider and musician-writer-person’, who gained a bit of recognition when Popjustice wrote about his great mash-up of Radioactive’ and ‘Pumped Up Kicks‘. He has made a few more interesting mash-ups since then, which you can listen to on his YouTube channel. But he has a few tracks of his own too, which I find much more interesting. ‘Guilt Trip’ is a melancholic synth pop track with a catchy melody and clever lyrics, and it comes with a b-side, titled ‘Connection’.

Plus, John is not only talented, he also chooses his pop artists pretty well. Here’s a small chat I had with him about music, the Olympics and Girls Aloud.

What sparkled your interest in music? 

JR: Well, my Dad’s got a pretty huge music collection ranging from the 50’s through to the 90’s with a few outliers on either side, so I guess music was always sort of ‘there’. I started playing clarinet when I was 8 as well, and ended up playing that for a decade! So hopefully I got some sort of melodic sensibility from there…

How did you get started in the world of music writing and producing?

JR: As part of studying music at school there was obviously a composition element. In earlier years, there was a fair bit of freedom in terms of style, so I think I wrote my first song during my music class when I was 16, trying to emulate the sort of pop I love. I don’t think I was all that successful – the song was called ‘Spare Key’ and followed the most uber-generic chord progression in existence, but hopefully I’ve improved slightly since then!

In terms of production, I have a friend who introduced me to a program called Reason, which I ended up getting for my 17th birthday, and I sort of learnt from there. It took a while to get a handle on though…I’m embarrassed to admit that the mastery of the fade-out took me months to figure out [laughs].

What is ‘Guilt Trip’ about? 

JR: I initially wrote the chorus about someone who loves taking the moral high ground. I left that for a couple of months, and eventually came back to write verses around it. As I was doing so, I sort of realised that in criticizing a person for their attitude of superiority, we kind of become just as self-righteous as the person we’re taking aim at. So I suppose, at its core, the song’s really about that realisation.

I see that you’re a fan of mash-ups and you’ve made a few yourself (the ‘Radioactive Kicks’ one is my favorite). Do you have any new ones planned? 

JR: I do indeed! I won’t give anything away, but I’ve got one ready to roll now. I’m thinking of putting it online once my YouTube channel hits 10,000 views, but I would also like that to coincide with a big ‘pop event’ happening later in the year, so we’ll see what happens!

As a fan of British pop music, what did you think of the Olympics closing ceremony? 

JR: I loved it! I actually really enjoyed the music in the Opening Ceremony too, though. I love the Rizzle Kicks album, and it was nice to have a splash of Sugababes in there too. I loved the Closing too, of course. One
performance that really jumped out at me was Jessie J’s version of ‘You Should Be Dancing’. I’ve never been a massive fan in the past, but I think that sort of disco-ey style really suited her voice brilliantly, and her delivery was great too as usual. Overall, though, I thought the line-up was a great mix between the established legends and the newer generation.

The Spice Girls were great, weren’t they. 

JR: Totally. Mel B is a judge on X Factor here so I’ve kind of fallen under her feisty spell, and it was great seeing her take to the stage. To be dead honest, the only Spice Girls song I really remember hearing first-hand is ‘Stop’, purely because I don’t think I was all that exposed to contemporary pop music until I started school. Obviously I’ve since become well-acquainted with their catalogue!

My only criticism would be that I’d have loved to see them spend a bit more time interacting with one another rather than zooming off in different directions in those cabs.

After watching your ‘This Pop’ video and seeing the ‘Chemistry’ album there (among many other great pop albums), I need to ask. Are you excited about Girls Aloud’s comeback? They’ve been working with Xenomania again, which is pretty exciting. 

JR: Nah, I’m not that bothered really.

JUST KIDDING I CAN’T WAIT. I am super, super, super excited, I think I might get a bit emotional seeing them back together to be honest! I only discovered them in 2008 on a trip to England, but I assure you I’ve made up for lost time. Of course, I’m slightly nervous about what they’ll come up with, but I have faith they’ll live up to my expectations.

I imagine that working with Xenomania would be in the bucket list of any aspiring singer/songwriter out there. 

JR: Of course. In my opinion, they are just incredible in their melding of an experimental outlook in terms of topsy-turvy structure, and a commercial sensibility in terms of melody and delivery. I think the precision and
subtlety of their production really solicits multiple listens, which is always something to be admired. They’re probably my biggest single influence, to be honest. So I would absolutely love to work with them, I’m sure I’d be dead nervous though!

What are you hoping to achieve with your music in the short-term? 

JR: I’m definitely managing my expectations. To be honest, I’ve just enjoyed seeing how things like recording a song in a studio work! If nothing else, it’s given me a bit of periphery insight as a music fan. I’d love to have my YouTube channel pass 10,000 views, like I said, and perhaps to write/co-write a song for a C-grade Australian pop star whose album charts at #78 and then disappears from sight and memory forever. That might be a bit unrealistic though, to be honest. Oh well!

Here’s the YouTube link to listen to ‘Guilt Trip’, though you can also download it (paying or not) through his official page here.

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