On January 6th I had the immense pleasure of recording an acoustic set with one of Chicago's finest young budding songwriters, John Farrell. Johns shallow but impressive collection of rootsy Americana folk songs read like pages from a diary kept close to his chest. It's that close personal connection that draws the listener in and sheds insight into the increasingly transparent life of a not so transparent individual.
In the last year John has released a full length LP (2009's "In Passing") and his most recent work, a 5 song EP titled "If We Should Wander," all while playing with 3 different bands, going on a national tour and doing solo gigs. He plays all the instruments (except drums, those are done thanks to Kyle Gibson) and mixes the tracks himself. Did I mention that he has a film score or two under his belt? For only 25 the guy has some experience, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. Check out the short interview below to get a better idea of what makes this songwriter tick find out what five bands lit up his 2010.
The Steam Engine: Both of your official releases and a lot of your lyrics seemed to be themed towards movement. Is this a coincidence or a conscious effort? "In Passing" "If We Should Wander"
John Farrell: Well, it wasn’t a conscious effort, but clearly it was unconscious. Sometimes I don’t even realize why I’ve written something until someone asks me. “In Passing” seemed almost serendipitous as it came together. I was just writing songs in my own basement apartment while I was working two jobs and trying to stay in school. It was something I did (if I may be so cliché) “in Passing.” Since then I’ve quit my job, put a hold on school, sold my car, moved out of my apartment, and joined a touring band. The idea behind “If We Should Wander” is answered in the last song on the EP- “We’ll Come ‘Round.” So to put it plainly “If We Should Wander” for me personally, and a lot of musicians and song writers my age it means staying the course, which is the state of mind I was trying to capture. To me, doing something you’re willing to put everything you have into never comes easy. That’s why I think a lot of really talented people become bored so easily. I was an awful songwriter when I first started, and I feel like I’m only marginally better now, but that’s how I know I’m on the right course. This EP is about me really putting myself out there and giving music more than a secondhand effort. Since I was fifteen years old I’ve been doing everything I can to keep music a part of my life, and now just a part isn’t good enough. I want to make it what I do for a living, and I hope that one day I can.
TSE: Your a very personal song writer. How does being on the road and not having your usual stable of consistant relationships effect your songwriting?
JF: To be honest, being on the road helps lyrical process more that being at home. I have this great opportunity to travel and see things I wouldn’t normally see, and meet people (in my industry) that I wouldn’t normally meet. That’s one of the great things about being on the road. There’s always a story to tell, and always time to reflect on them. I wrote “Devil” in about two hours in the van one morning while everyone was still sleeping.
TSE: You'll be on the road pretty much non stop until February 2012 playing with another band, what are your plans for 2011 other than the EP?
JF: I really don’t know what my plans are. Everything in 2011 is contingent upon You, Me, and Everyone We Know. I’m very committed to that band and the guys that welcomed me into it. I feel like their latest album (which I did not play on, so that no one thinks I’m blowing myself) is very well done, and basically sold me on joining the band. That being said, the music I write is still my passion, and is always in the forefront of my mind. I already have more than enough songs for another EP, (if not an album) and some of those songs I’ve been working on with my old friends David Paha, Kyle Gibson, and Rico Vigil. (Kyle and Rico are also a part of YMAEWK.) Hopefully after this next tour and between the tours after that I will have time to record these songs. I want the next collection of music I put out there to be more of a collaborative effort, rather than only having my input and occasionally Kyle’s. Kyle has tracked drums and percussion on both of my solo projects, and has offered insight throughout.
TSE: Last five bands you listened to?
JF: I’m not sure what the last five artists that I’ve listened to are, but I’ll give you five artists that I’ve listened to a whole hell of a lot this past year in no particular order. Arcade Fire, the National, Tokyo Police Club, Elbow and Band of Horses. TSE
All of John's releases are available at his official website for free. He has a Radiohead type payment system setup. Catch John playing guitar, keys and trumpet for You, Me and Everyone We Know this year and check his official page for solo tour dates. For those of you in the Chicago area, John will be holding his official EP release party this Friday (1/15), I know I'll be there. For details click here.
01 Sudden Realization
02 Digging A Hole
04 Until We Dream
05 That's The Way (Led Zeppelin Cover)
06 La Cienga Just Smiled (Ryan Adams Cover)