Interview: JOHN.k Talks ‘If We Never Met’ EP & Big Break
JOHN.k caught lightning in a bottle when he self-released “OT” in 2017. The soulful synth-pop concoction caught the attention of Elvis Duran and the Orlando native soon found himself performing it on Today. That exposure, combined with the song’s whopping 18.5 million Spotify streams, caught the attention of record labels and he eventually signed with Epic Records. After spending close to a year perfecting his sound, the breakout star returns to the music scene today (April 26) with his much-anticipated debut EP, if we never met.
I recently had a chat with John about his big break and the eclectic sound of his debut EP. (It incorporates everything from wavy electronica to ’90s hip-hop beats). He also revealed a passion for pushing the boundaries of production, explained the origins of his four new songs and opened up about his next project. Yes, his second EP is almost complete. Stream if we never met, and get to know the newcomer a little better in our Q&A, below.
What’s the focus single on the EP?
We’re going to lead with “If We Never Met.” It’s the most vulnerable song. It’s obviously about a very special person in my life, but it’s so much more than that. It also encompasses the story of the team behind the music. Where would I be if I had never met my manager and all the people involved in making this music. What if I never met the people at Epic, you know? It’s also one of the most straightforward songs production-wise. From here, we can expand outward sonically and get a little more experimental with our sound.
How did you get your big break? I know “OT” was part of it.
I give all the credit to Elvis Duran. “OT” was the moment. It garnered a million streams within a month and I somehow got in front of Elvis. In October of 2017, he named me the artist of the month. We did an interview with him and then I performed “OT” on the Today. That kind of kicked it all off. It got labels curious. That’s when I knew things were about to change.
That song has almost 20 million streams. Is there a pressure to repeat that?
Yeah, there’s pressure. I haven’t released music in over a year. But, at the same time, we’re so excited because we have been creating songs that we all really, really believe in. I’m just so at peace with the product. Releasing this music is exciting because I don’t have to tweak it anymore. I don’t have to think about what could be better, what could be different. I have high expectations, but I also have no expectations.
You have a knack for mixing synths and soulful vocals. How did you arrive at this sound?
My team is very competitive, we’re not afraid to get experimental. We just wanted to push the boundaries of not only what my vocal can do, but also, “What can we do around it? How can we create something new?” We got there by constantly pushing the envelope. Everybody is operating at the edge of their creativity and bringing new ideas to the table. Some of the songs turned out a little differently than I thought they would in the writing room, but in a good way. It has been a really, really cool process.
Who produced the EP?
His name is FVCES with a V. He has been a huge part of this entire project.
How did you settle on the name JOHN.k?
I think we all felt like JOHN.k was strong and easy to remember. I mean it was either that or go with something crazy. We couldn’t come up with any cool names like The Weekend. So, we were like, “Okay, it’s JOHN.k.”
One of my favorite songs on the EP is “Rum And Tequila.” It’s very relatable. Is it based on something you went through?
“Rum And Tequila” has just stayed around. We have taken almost a year to release new music and that song was created around this time last year. It just hasn’t gone away. We always circle back to it. I always pride myself and my team on being very vulnerable and very honest. And if it’s not directly my story, then it’s something that somebody felt or went through at one point. One of the writers of the song was going through a break-up. What do you do if somebody moves on faster than you? How do you cope? Sometimes “Rum And Tequila” can help you get through it.
“1999” is another highlight. The Britney Spears reference is great.
I just wanted to have fun with that record and not overthink it. It started to develop its own personality in the writing room. It was one of those sessions that we squeezed in when we were in LA. We only had a four hour window. So I was kind of like, “Let’s not overthink it. Let’s just throw on some old hip-hop and get weird.” We finished the demo in that four hour period. It’s just a testament to not overthinking things.
Now, we have to talk about “Chill” because it lives up to its title.
I think “Chill” is the most experimental that we got on the EP. Right after we signed, we rented this house in LA and just built a makeshift studio and we all stayed there. We really focused on production as a team and just dove in. I’m really proud of the production on that song. I think it just hits you the right way. It also follows on from “Rum And Tequila.” When you start to feel okay again and get excited about sparking up something new. But also, you know, protecting yourself and being a little more like, “Let’s just keep it chill for now.”
You spent the best part of a year putting the EP together. Does your mind automatically go to your next project?
If I’m being honest, we’ve already have the next EP ready. The most exciting thing about this EP is knowing the music that we have loaded up behind it. We’re trying to take the next step, push the envelope even further. How far can we push it? It’s very liberating. It’s exciting. I get to create music with my best friends, all the time. I’m incredibly blessed. To say the least, there is much more music on the way.
Good luck with the EP. Thanks for your time.
I really appreciate it, man. Thank you so much.