John West on his humble hustle
March/11/2012 02:41 PM
(Pictured left: John West
Santa Monica, California)
"To the dreamers everywhere..."
Interview with John West
by Nicole Hanratty @LifeofaRockStar
Every once in a while you meet someone whom you know has what it takes to succeed.
I found John West on itunes one random afternoon while in search of some music that could prove to be mind altering. (I was having an existential moment.) Three of his songs "Lovely" with Pusha T @PUSHA_T, "Loved You Tonight," --my favorite--and "Right Now" made it to my daily workout playlist and helped my brain switch gears from "can't even focus on breathing" to "run and relax" mode.
Curiosity appropriately peaked, I connected with the artist @JohnWest on Twitter, then began to see something special appear in my timeline. Hashtagging his tweets #HumbleHustle this rising star moves about the country playing accessible venues, reaching out to fans and bringing a real face to the struggle up and coming musicians experience.
One recent cold Saturday afternoon, I watched John perform and draw an ever-growing crowd on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. He sold a slew of his CDs and took time to take photos with each and every one of his fans. Young girls swooned over him in stalker-like fashion. In his playful nature, he hopped up upon one of their backs for a quick snapshot filling them with glee.
I watched him sign autographs and spend time chatting with admirers. From a distance, it was hard to tell which one was the fan and which one was the musician as John was just as excited to meet each person by whom he was approached.
When the crowd died down, John walked me over to Coffee Bean and offered to buy me a hot cup of tea. Manners. Wow, this guy is the real deal.
We found a warm place to sit upstairs in the McDonalds food court of Third Street and I watched intently as the young musician whom recently sold out the Roxy and the Troubadour (both in West Hollywood), and has been signed by David Massey at Mercury Island Def Jam "IDJ" sat reflecting upon his life.
He answered each question thoughtfully while sipping at his herbal tea--while only once making light of the fact that he will do anything to get his music out there, including taking interviews with bloggers. "It's cool to connect with the fans. I'm just another dude on the streets drinking tea and doing blog interviews."
Originally from Baton Rouge, John West is the youngest of five kids. His sister motivated him to move out to Chicago where he was first exposed to spoken word performance poetry and hip hop. A cartoonist by trade, John graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies where he was trained in music and cartooning. John remarked, "Music was always just on the side, but that's what I found my passion being."
He moved to Los Angeles in 2005 and had been in town only two months working as a substitute teacher, (both his mother and his sister also teach) when he watched a girl perform on Third Street and decided he wanted to give that a try. Five years later, he is supporting himself by performing on the Promenade and selling CDs. He sells between 70 to 100 CDs each Saturday and Sunday, and on his best day sold 200. But John can still be caught managing his street crowd like a substitute teacher herds a rowdy classroom. He says performing on the streets is about "humbling yourself," and that John West has done.
Time and time again, his answers were full of humility. "I can make a living just playing on the streets," he said. "A record deal is just the icing on the cake. I'm just trying to keep my head straight." Nope not a trace of braggadocio to be found.
John West just released a single aptly named "Already There" featuring Big Sean.* Buy it on iTunes here. It hit the radio about five weeks ago and is playing on over 25 stations.
Even the lyrics make you believe this guy puts the people he loves first and values happiness.
"Is this the top of the world?
I'm livin' with the people I'ld die for.
If they aint at the top with you
Then you aint at the top.
Aint got a dollar, but I'm felling like a millionaire
You know that we're already there..."
"I hope for the best," John says, "but try not to expect stardom." Too late. Manners, humility, talent, intelligence and an infectious smile...John West is already there.
*@BigSean released his album Finally Famous in 2011 with Def Jam @DefJamRecordings.
To learn more about John West: