Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
JS: I tend to straddle the line between styles. I like mixing things up and sometimes I write something that is very uptempo, guitar-driven rock, and then the next song I write could be a low-key acoustic song. If I were explaining my style to someone I would say Americana-tinged rock meets 90s Britpop, filtered through the lens of a singer-songwriter.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
JS: I’ve been around for a little while. I started a band back in the mid-2000s called First In Space and we released five records over roughly ten years. I started dabbling with writing solo songs while we were still a band and I eventually recorded a solo album using songs left over from some of our previous recording sessions. I always liked staying active and since we were on a break of sorts at the time I used that as a catalyst to get my own name out there. I continued doing that off and on until we called it quits in 2018. After that I became more focused on my own songs and released a solo record that year.
Since then I have been at it mostly nonstop. I have released a pretty steady stream of music under my own name over the last several years. Late last year I released my first record on vinyl and now have some upcoming singles this summer.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
JS: I grew up listening to whatever was on in the house; Beatles, Dylan, Neil Young, etc. My first big musical obsession was Nirvana. From there I got into a lot of the mid-90s alternative and punk of the time and eventually landed on Oasis. That style of songwriting became a huge influence on me. I tend to focus on the songwriters, the people who really seem to forge an identity with their music. Elliott Smith, John Lennon, Noel Gallagher, to name a few, are some of my all-time favorite writers. I like that none of them wrote one type of song. There are rock and roll tunes, ballads and folk-leaning acoustic songs in all their catalogs. I like approaching songwriting the same way.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
JS: I’ve never been delusional about making music. It is incredibly difficult to “make it” in our increasingly virtual world. I like to think that pursuing music and creating music is success in itself. I write because I love doing it. I record because I enjoy figuring out how to take a basic idea and form a final product. When I perform it isn’t because I am making a lot of money, but because I get to play songs I wrote and hopefully connect with whoever is there watching me. Any additional tangible success is a bonus.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
JS: I write everything myself and I even play all the instruments myself. While I have worked within a band in the past, my solo output has mostly just been me layering in all the production myself.
I never set out to write about a specific topic. Mostly, I come up with a melody first that is being sung over some chords. That sort of spontaneous moment is hard to pinpoint. I am obsessed with melodies and for me I want that to stand out when someone hears my songs. Once I get to writing the lyrics I just sort of let my mind wander a bit and see where the melody takes me and what I can come up with organically. I like clever lyrics and good phrasing, so lyrics are always important. My daily life comes into play, experiences, etc. Really a song can be about anything. I just let it develop as it happens, if that makes sense.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
JS: We are in a near constant state of competing for everyone’s attention. There is so much going on and information is consumed so quickly that getting your name out there isn’t black and white. Social media is free and ubiquitous, but algorithms suppress posts and content. Even with a following online, you have to keep coming up with ways to get your message across. It is a constant challenge to promote a new song or show, but being relentless is usually the only approach that works. If you aren’t willing to put in the time and effort, then it will most certainly not get out there. Most artists have little budget to work with, so staying active is the best way to keep yourself relevant.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
JS: Personally I don’t download much music. I either stream it or I will buy the physical copy, if available. What is happening now is the whole thing shifted again. If you go back ten or fifteen years then downloading was the big thing. Streaming has surpassed it, but now you have a resurgence in vinyl sales. However, selling music and moving units isn’t what it used to be. Independent acts are struggling and very few bands can make a comfortable living off streaming payouts. Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
JS: Any of the ones that have made money haha! Seriously, though, I feel like any song that gives me as a listener an emotional reaction. Music is meant to be felt and not just heard. Too often people let music be background noise and forget how it feels to actually experience listening to it. When certain songs come on and you get a chill when you hear it, or even maybe a little choked up, it is exactly how music should be enjoyed. Most often those are songs that are tied into very specific moments in your life. I hope to have that effect on someone listening someday.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
JS: I can go on and on about what annoys me, but I will spare anyone reading this article the misery, haha. I’ll just say this, it is better to focus on the positives because being a musician is only going to get more challenging.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
JS: Recording and releasing a record for the first time. I have to go back to my band’s first album. We did everything the right way and then the other singer-guitarist in the band and myself took the final mixes to Chicago to have it mastered. Listening back to those songs for the first time together will always be as pure of a moment of joy as I will ever experience. We felt like we had finally created something worth hearing and we saw the end result of all our hard work come to life. We drank and listened back several times. It’s a good memory.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
JS: My new single comes out June 18th and will release everywhere; and then I have another single releasing August 13th. I have more new songs in the works and there will be more new singles later in the fall and into the winter. I usually focused on making albums in the past, but for now I am focusing on one song at a time. I think by the following year I will have a new full-length album in the works, though. I still enjoy trying to make a full musical statement with a cohesive collection of songs.
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
JS: Listeners can find my releases everywhere they enjoy music online. I just released two remixed and remastered collections of old songs that are now streaming. Plus I have a collection of songs still available on vinyl through Bandcamp called ‘Never Met A Stranger’. The two remastered collections divide my past output into two parts. ‘Northerner: Collective Vol. 1’ focuses on songs I wrote in 2019 and 2020. The other collection is called ‘Early Colors: Collective Vol. 2’ and it features songs from older releases that have been remixed and remastered for the purpose of streamlining my available content; and to update them for listeners. My new song releasing June 18th is called ‘It Was Easy Now’ and then I will release another new song on August 13th called ‘Feels Like I’m Fading Away’. I’ll include some links below for readers that are interested.
Bandcamp – https://johnnystanec.bandcamp.com/
I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me! Thanks!
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