"I think I actually saw something today that was kind-of connected to what the whole song is about, in terms of being 50/50 in a relationship. It's not exactly about, 'you take out the bins this day, I'll take them this day', and then it stays fair, 'you cook the dinner and then I'll cook dinner'. It's not about that.
“It's about your full capacity, giving your own one-hundred percent, and your partner's, if they're giving their one-hundred percent, if they merge well, that's what works. But if someone isn't giving their all, let's say they're better at protecting, or nurturing, if they're not giving you that, even though they're capable, then that's where the 50/50 falls out, if that makes sense."
Sitting opposite Lloyd John in a busy café in Cork city centre as he outlines the concept behind upcoming single ‘I HOPE THAT U CRY!’, your writer gets a sense of the energy, urgency and the sheer onslaught of feeling that inform and power the Limerick-born singer and songwriter’s work - seeking, as he does, to tap into the power and sheer viscerality of heightened human emotions.
In this case, John seeks to translate the back-and-forth of learning and growing together in a relationship - and the process of learning to stand your ground, making sure your passion and effort are met - into a song that he hopes will set the tone for a run of singles across spring and summer.
"It could be anything, that the person that was weaker in one aspect, can learn. Pay attention and just learn from each other, and that's when the balance happens. It takes years of figuring things out. The song is kind-of like that. Now, it's a bit more... it's a bit more, 'in the heat of the moment', a bad-b*tch energy-type tune.”
John’s harnessing and direction of raw and scarcely-filtered emotions has been a hallmark of his since the age of 16, when a microphone and a laptop empowered him to put a shape on early single ‘Alive’ - which, as fate would have it, took off on streaming services, currently sitting at 2 million streams on Spotify.
Big feelings, quite simply, are a lot for some of us to sit with at the best of times, much less to work through to the point of finding the words, and the chords, to help externalise them. Having grown up in a household that immersed him in classical music, trad, theatre and other creative endeavours, John speaks about the process of songwriting with candour and fluency.
“I'm always thinking about music. I'm always thinking about writing. It's a little stomach feeling, that when something happens, you're like, 'okay, I need an hour, leave me alone, I'm going to write this'. Or it could be, 'I hit some sort of chord progression that I've never done before', and boom. 'Finally, s**t, something I can follow up with'. I've been doing a lot of that over the last year, I've sat down, and I've... just experienced lots.
“I'm in my final year in college, my lifestyle is switching loads, figuring out what's coming next, so I'm thinking a lot. My brain activity is really going right now. I'm also collaborating with lots of new artists as well, in terms of writing with them, or for them, or producing. Seeing their songwriting techniques, seeing their style of music, has really helped me expand my horizon of what I can do, and understand how other people are writing.”
The ‘Homesick’ EP, available now on your streaming platform of choice, provided John with the opportunity to displace some of the volume and turbulence that he underwent amid the Covid-19 crisis, from dealing with hard times and interpersonal strain, to his experience of his relationship being closeted in the early going, and the related frustrations.
Rather than sit back and be swallowed whole by circumstance, John sought to thread together four disparately-written songs, accompanied by a companion video project about his process.
“When the first inspiration [for the title track] came to me, I made a documentary, it's on YouTube. I set up a camera just recording the wall above so I could catch the audio. And I just sat down, and let every sort of pop influence or commercial aspect, anything in terms of audience retention, all these techniques to make a "good song", out the window. I just said, “let me write a song”, and whatever came out within that ten-minute sitting was pretty much the whole tune. It was one of the realest writing moments I've had.
“All of the songs dive deep into different genres within pop, but they all were written very far apart. I didn't want to think too deep into consistency. I just wanted the tracks to be what they were meant to be, if that makes sense. This was a first project, with songs that were completely separate on a given timeline. I wanted to give them their own little moments.”
The accompanying Irish tour - one that took in a headliner at Cork’s Cyprus Avenue as well as dates in Limerick’s Dolan’s and the Workman’s Cellar in Dublin - was also John’s first go-around at a DIY tour, handling the bulk of the booking, local promotion and show-running himself - never an entirely easy task, no matter how commercially-friendly your music is.
“It was the first time for a lot of things. The whole independent way of booking, managing, PR, everything, is becoming more common. Trying to put your best show forward, you need to be ready so far in advance, you need to have your stuff done, and put aside, so you can focus on the work.
“I started booking the shows eight months in advance, just to leave time, so everything was ready, and I could just focus on the music, and focus on creating the best show for whoever wants to come to the gigs. It blew my expectations away completely. My first headline show at Cyprus Avenue, I was just overwhelmed with the support, and Dolan's, my first time, to be honest, playing a proper gig in Dolan's, upstairs. It's a tricky one, because it's the one that no one finds. Dublin, that was very scary, down in Workman's Cellar, still had a great time, people showed up. It was such an eye-opener, I loved every minute of it.”
Lloyd John’s new single ‘I HOPE THAT U CRY!’ releases on streaming services on Friday, April 14, via PeaceofMind Records.