F: Hi John, we are back from our holiday in Whitby, North Yorkshire and catching up again. It was good fun wasn't it meeting up with friends and family?
J: It was! Good to visit the old haunts again, especially my hometown Eston.
F: You've seen a lot of changes, have the past and present influenced your songwriting?
J: I grew up in Eston, a town with a rich industrial history. Those places had become political targets, from the coal mines to the steel and shipbuilding industries. There was a lot of social unrest and it made me angry and sad that politicians didn't seem to understand what being working class meant, having a decent job. My prospects were not good then.
F: Do the songs on "One take wonders" reflect your life at that point?
J: Yes, I decided to capture the energy of The Stilettos in a studio setting. We were sounding great, very tight, having played some sell out gigs. I wanted that raw, energetic essence in "one take", like the recording artists of the 50's and 60's. We stood in a room and brought our own style of Yorkshire humour and grit into the music as the tape rolled.
F: There are some strong messages reflecting that feeling in a lot of your songs. Are they relevant today?
Yes, I think so. Look at the British Steel company, in Scunthorpe where jobs will go if a buyer isn't found or government invests in it. In my dad's time and mine, British Steel Corporation was a nationalised industry. From the 1970's the politicians dismantled BSC and then de-nationalised and you knew you might need a Plan B.
F: Are your songs political then?
J: I wrote from my heart with no aim to make any specific statement. Song writing expressed my frustrations at what was happening to me and my mates and our local communities. I moved down to London to follow my dream of a music career. There weren't many options for me then and I had this passion for singing and writing songs.
F: Do you feel a strong connection with the North East? Does your music seem relevant now?
J: As you know, I have close relatives up North and visit as often as I can. In 2015, the steelworks plant in Redcar, near to Eston, closed. It's heartbreaking, and communities struggle to survive. It's a repeating loop, so in that respect the songs' messages resonate with how people feel now.
F: Are you proud to be a Northerner then? Coming from Eston?
J: I always will be, yes. Y'know, it all started with the iron ore in the Eston Hills, from the 1850's. Then Redcar became the location for the second biggest blast furnace in Europe. Steel from there built the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, Lambeth Bridge in London, the Bangkok Memorial Bridge and loads more structures around the world. I'm so proud to come from such a distinctive area.
What I do know is that the working-class spirit will never be killed, wherever you come from in the UK: North, South, East and West. That's why I also wrote about happy stuff as well, y'know!
F: I have to say, I love the happy stuff and the love songs you have written over the years.
J: Well it's a balance of hard and good times. Back then we had a lot of laughs too, often with little money. There was so much great British music when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's. And I loved music from Tamla Motown and the Stax Records era too. Everyone of all ages went dancing in some shape or form.
F: The pictures in the website Gallery are great too, they really celebrate that vintage era of the 1950's and 60's. You have fond memories of growing up then, don't you?
J: You bet! It was a world full of possibilities. From being a child and exploring the hills, fishing and building dens. To when I saved up and bought my first made-to-measure suit at 16, I thought I looked so sharp and cool! It was very common to have your clothes made for you, male or female, there wasn't the choice of shops you have now.
As teenagers we went dancing at the Top Deck, Redcar and Purple Onion, Middlesbrough. We saw bands at McCoys in Middlesbrough, James Finnegan Hall, Eston and Coatham Bowl, Redcar where David Coverdale performed! He was in a band called Government, which later helped him get an audition for rock band Deep Purple.
I started singing in the pubs and working men's clubs. Really, that was the start of my singing career. And I hope to tell you about the stories along the way, through my website.