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John Allen: "Thanks Chuck, You Were Right!"

John Allen reveals the title of his upcoming album ... exclusively to 50K MUSIC MAG readers. Just read the interview he did with Sabine. Published March 16 2014.

  by Sabine

He has a beautiful sense of humor, an amazing throaty voice and a real bunch of talent: John Allen could just be the nice guy next door – or one of the heartiest songwriters you heard during the last decade. In our Q&A he talks about how it feels to reach 90% of a crowdfunding target in 20% of the time and – exclusively for 50K MUSIC – he reveals the title of his second album.

50K MUSIC: Where are you right now?
John: Right now I am in Krefeld. We've played a show at the KulTube in Moenchengladbach last night and went to stay with friends in Krefeld who were nice enough to offer us a place to sleep!

50K MUSIC: How is your tour going so far?
John: The tour is going very well, really. We're playing a mixture of bars, small clubs and house shows: For our house shows in Hamburg and Koblenz about 60 people turned up, which is quite a lot to fit into a living room. The show at Schokoladen in Berlin was also epic.

50K MUSIC: Sounds great! What about your voice?
John: Fortunately yes. I shot my voice some time last week so that by the time we hit Leipzig, I pretty much sounded like a lovechild of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. This led to having to cancel the show at Finnegans Pub in Altenburg, something I had never done before and I felt terrible about it. My tour manager and everyone involved specifically forbid me to speak, so that I could get my voice back on tracks. It's absolutely fine now!

50K MUSIC: Tell us about your tour mates from Ghost Of A Chance and Southerly.
John: Gladly. Let's start with Southerly: They are a band from Portland, Oregon. I'm on tour with their frontman and songwriter Krist Krueger. He's an amazing songwriter with a fantastic dry sense of humor. Also, he's a very, very good guitar-player and an avid music-lover. Ghost of a Chance is a songwriter from Mainz, Germany, who used to play in a hardcore band but now does his solo stuff. He has already opened up for Frank Turner, Billy Bragg and shared a stage with Rocky Votolato. His songs are dark, dreamy and immensely catchy.

We all didn't even know each other before the tour started, but it worked out fantastically. We get along with each other really, really well. We share the same sense of humor and the same taste in music. I can say that all three of us are really having a great time on the road.

 

50K MUSIC: Let’s talk about your crowdfunding project: After just 11 days you already collected more than 90% of the money you need to record the new album. You must be the happiest man on earth, aren’t you?
John: It's beyond belief, really. Before I started the crowdfunding, I was really nervous about whether it would work out at all or not. Everyone around me was extremely positive, but that's just not my nature, I'm afraid. However, when we hit the 1,000 € mark on the second day, it started to dawn on me that this was extraordinary. I've got this bet with a friend of mine: She said before the start of the project that I'd have reached 100 percent before March 18 and I told her she was crazy. Right now it looks like I owe her a beer and an apology.

The fact that this campaign is going better than I would have dared to dream and that we have the chance to go beyond 100 percent, gives us the opportunity to finance other projects as well: promotion, maybe a music video, along with things like artwork, which I was planning to pay out of my own pocket.

Again, to sum it up, I am beyond grateful to everyone who is supporting this, to all my friends and fans who share the project, who donate, who email me about it. It's almost scary, but yes, I am incredibly, incredibly happy and proud the way it's going. It's also fantastic feedback and a great deal of appreciation for my music.

50K MUSIC: Is there a song which is most wanted for the lyrics rewards?
John: Not yet, no. Most people write something like: “please send your favorite song”, which I think is very nice.

50K MUSIC: And which one would that be?
John: Oh, I have no idea yet. I've written 24 songs for this album, 12 of which will be put on the record. As of now, I really don't have any clear favourites.

50K MUSIC: The last und most expensive reward is “tattoos are fun”. What does that mean?
John: It means that if someone is actually crazy enough to invest 3000 € into my album, I will be crazy enough to get a tattoo of his choice. Some people said to me they thought I was being incredibly stupid and that I had to run around with some weird thing on my arm for the rest of my life, but here's the way I see it: If someone invests 3000 € of his own money into my music, he clearly appreciates it a lot. And I believe that no one who really likes my music wants to scar me for the rest of my life with some picture of a badly drawn Justin Bieber kind of thing – so I think the risk is not that big. Also, I've said that there are limitations: There is no chance I will get political symbols tattooed, no badges of football clubs and I will also make the decision on where the tattoo goes.

Having said that, I love tattoos and I believe tattoos are all about the story behind them. Personally, I think this would make quite a good story: Just imagine in 50 years when my grandchild asks me why I got a skull with a rose between its teeth on my back – and I can say that someone paid for my second record in return to have this done (laughs).

50K MUSIC: About the new album: You said you have 24 songs written and ready. How will you decide which will make it to the album?
John: That's a very difficult thing to say, because I do not have a strategy. There are a couple of songs that I feel have to be on the album – songs that I play live and that people ask me about, like “Lessons I Have Learned” or “Springtime”. And then there are songs that really mean much to me. I wrote one last week called "Famous Last Words" which will definitely be on the album. The truth is, somewhere in my mind, I have already decided which songs are going to be on the album. But I keep re-arranging the track list. And I'm still writing – so if a song comes up that I really, really like a day before I hit the studio, I might try and put it in as well.

50K MUSIC: Do you feel like being developed after touring the big style with Frank Turner?
John: You mean if my writing or performing has developed? I think, I learned a lot about myself and my music by touring with Frank. Before that, I usually played to 10-15 people max and the biggest lesson for me was to find out that my music does work with big audiences. The receptions I received around the country were staggering and it really set my sights on performing. It didn't influence my songwriting though, because I've always written for myself first of all. I do not write with an audience in mind.

 

50K MUSIC: But will there be a difference between the new album and “Sounds of Soul & Sin”?
John: I hope there will! Because if there wasn't a difference, why would people want to listen to the new record at all? This time around we'll bring in more musicians to create a fuller sound, to give the songs a little more depth and all. Right now we are looking for a cello player and a violin player, we already have a great piano player and drummer on board. I'm really looking forward to be going for a “full band sound” this time, without losing the intimacy of the first album. I really like "Sounds", I think it had some very good songs on it and I hope that the new album will be as well received as the old one.

50K MUSIC: Do you have a title or working title for the album yet?
John: I have already decided on that and I'm happy to reveal it exclusively with 50K MUSIC: The new album is most likely to be called “Sophomore”, which in the US is a student in his second year of high school and university. Since it's going to be my second album, it's appropriate. I got the idea from a follower on twitter who suggested it to me and I must say that I love it. You know, I'm a big fan of words and “sophomore” derives from the greek term “sophisma”, which is a compound of “sophos” for wise and “moros” which means foolish. Very philosophical (laughs).

50K MUSIC: You’re German and you live in Hamburg. Why do you sing in English?
John: For some reason I have always felt more drawn to the English language. It just sounded more right to me, I really can’t explain it. I have written songs in German before, but I've never got comfortable with them.

50K MUSIC: Last question: At the end of 2012 Chuck Ragan kind of kicked your ass by saying that “if you love music, you never stop playing and if you love what you are doing then you will find an audience who believes in you”. If you could reply something to Chuck right now – what would it be?
John: I guess it would be: “Thanks Chuck, you were right!”

50K MUSIC: Thank you, John, all the best for you and as Chuck said: please never stop playing.