The Argotist Online
John is a singer/songwriter originally from London but now based in Liverpool,
where she has lived since the early 1980s. From the age of around 6 until she
left school at 18 she attended the Newham Academy of Music, were she studied
among other things violin and piano, and where she was given the opportunity to
sing in various choirs.
is one of four artistic directors of Sense of Sound a training organisation that
specialises in vocal coaching and which has been in operation since 1991. She
holds the award for Business Woman of the Year for Arts and Culture given by the
European Federation of Black Women Business Owners.
has lectured at Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA),
performed on stage with George Michael and Elton John, and sung backing vocals
for Ray Lamontagne. She is currently working with Damon Albarn on his new opera,
Monkey; A Journey to the West.
also manages a choir of 30 a cappella singers called Sense of Sound who were
Grand Finalists in the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year competition in 2006. Most
recently, they performed at the Barbican alongside Pink Floyd, Damon Albarn,
Martha Wainwright and Chrissie Hynde in a Syd Barrett tribute concert.
musical tastes are hugely varied from Stevie to Chopin; Bulgarian traditional
folk singing to Prince; Joan Armatrading to Penguin Cafe Orchestra and
everything in between.
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
guess I don’t really think about it at the time of writing, but sometimes in
retrospect when I look back and speak the words I think that they could actually
stand up on their own as a spoken piece of work. So if that equates to poetry
then I guess I do.
The joy about freedom of expression in creativity is that you can say whatever
you want, in whatever way you want. The pop genre probably requires a certain
formula which is about rhyme and regularity, but lots of artists say what they
want to say in a more free form way. Joni Mitchell, for me, is the queen of
telling stories through song without rhyme, and has been one of the most
influential singer/songwriters of our time.
not really. Some poetry really touched me, though. I remember falling in love
with William Wordsworth’s ‘To Daffodils’ because of the dreamy imagery.
Come to think of it, I could relate to it more because the composer, Richard
Rodney Bennett, put music to it and our school choir sang it at The Royal
Festival Hall in London. So I guess that makes me a liar. I definitely enjoyed
it more because I could relate it to music. Apart from that though, there was no
but I was really moved by Joni’s version of Corinthians take on Love from the
Bible [on the album Wild Things Run Fast. Ed]. It is a beautiful piece of
is a universal language, and regardless of where in the world you may come from
music has an energy that we all understand. Rhythm and tones send vibrations
which muster up a feeling that the spoken word just doesn’t do in the same
way. Let’s face it, you can’t dance to the spoken word now can you!
© Jennifer John