Catch up with singer/songwriter John Stratton, listen to new single "All For You" and look for We've Only Just Begun to be released in April.
What got you interested in music?
John Stratton: Like a lot people, I'm sure, I grew up in a home where music was played and I was encouraged to play music and I think what got me interested in writing music was people's stories and just feeling how music can really connect with people's hearts and help people go through the things they face in life. So, for me, being a songwriter is, in a lot of ways, connected to my love for people and wanting to connect with different people throughout the world.
Do you remember what inspired your first song?
Yeah, my first song was inspired by me being grounded [laughs]. I got grounded and I was stuck upstairs and had just a guitar to entertain me and I ended up writing my first song in that situation.
Which artists influenced your sound?
I think that my primary influences, one of them would definitely be John Mayer - ever since I was fifteen I've been inspired by him. From artists these days, Ed Sheeran would be a big influence, people like Glen Hansard or Damien Rice, but I'm also influenced by a variety of genres. I like to listen to different genres and just find what makes those genres awesome and try to learn from them.
What tracks are you listening to now?
I've been listening to The 1975 a lot, I really dig how he sings and how he uses his voice; also been listening to the new Damien Rice; been listening to this guy, James Vincent McMorrow - he's awesome, I love his voice.
How would you describe We've Only Just Begun?
This album is like a bag of jellybeans where you have every kind of flavor, every kind of taste, because it represents the last five years of my growth as an artist and I've been going through a ton of transitions, from going to college, leaving college, moving to a new city; so the record, really what makes it have continuity is that it's about a journey and you can see from song to song I'm purposefully making it feel like the listener's growing with me. But, stylistically, there's alternative rock on there, there's blues, there's influences of acoustic folk, there's Mumford & Sons style stuff on there, there's even like an electronic influence on one of the songs that actually no one's heard off the record yet called "It's You" and it's more of like a 1975 influence. For me, what makes it kind of a record rather than a bunch of random songs is that you can sense the journey - and it's the same writer, I write all my own music - you can sense the journey and the continuity and the growth of the artist.
Is there a favorite track of yours off the forthcoming record?
Yeah, I think my favorite off the record will be the very last one called "To The Desert" and it's a song that just talks about the last step of this album's journey, which is just me coming out to a new valley called the Antelope Valley. I'm living in the desert now and it's just the most raw - I just finished recording it - it's just the most raw song on there, probably the most honest song on there, and it just talks about believing in holding on to what you believe you're supposed to do and are passionate about.
What's the best response you've heard since releasing "All For You"?
Since releasing "All For You" I think the coolest thing I've just heard is that people have told me they're going to use it in their weddings; I mean, it's a love song, so I'm not ashamed of that at all. It's just about having passion for somebody and saying nothing's going to separate me from them and it's been cool to have people contact me and say 'hey, just wanted to let you know we're going to use that song at our wedding' and it blows my mind.
What can you tell us about the nonprofit you hope to start?
When I was in college I really felt moved to just think more deeply about why is it that I'm even here on this Earth and what is it that we're all wanting, what is it that we're all longing for, and I really felt moved to begin to try and love people better and understand people. The word 'love' gets used a lot and we all talk about it, almost like what does it mean these days, but to me, in college, I felt that starting a movement called You Are Loved would represent valuing people, making the time to show them that they matter, that they have worth, and my passion is to one day begin an official nonprofit called You Are Loved. It could be cross cultural, cross anything; anybody could be involved with it and it would just be all about valuing people and reminding the world that they are loved, that they're worth knowing, they're worth valuing, worth investing in their life.
Have you been able to put it into practice?
I put it in practice, I made stickers in college and things you could put on your laptop and even car bumper stickers but, for me, it's more of, I guess, a lifestyle of what I want to live where just, when I encounter people, no matter where or how, that that would be the first thing they would know, from how we treat each other, is that they're valuable, they're loved. It is something that anybody who knows me closely knows is something I'm passionate about and there are people that are part of the You Are Loved movement, but it's not an official nonprofit yet and I'm waiting for the right moment to really launch it. I'm hoping that music artists and people in the industry would get on board with it so it could be something - kind of like To Write Love On Her Arms - something where people could incorporate this value, this truth if they believe it, into what they do and it would almost just be something they could add on to what they're already passionate about, which would be cool.
What do you want to say about your music?
My music is for people, for anybody that wants to listen. I want the songs I release to be songs that people can listen to that would just help them in life, be there for them through different moments. There's happy songs, there's sad songs, there's songs about hard stuff, songs about just loving people, and my hope is that I wouldn't be the artist everyone goes 'oh my gosh, what did he do this time' and all the shock value or the artist where everyone's like 'man, he's just so sexy,' I'd be the artist that people say 'this guy gets me, I feel like I can relate to him and when I just need something I know that I can throw his stuff on and it helps me'. That's my greatest hope, is that it's real, it's authentic, and that people can sense there's love in the music too.