Little League to Big League: This is Huron John
“If you've ever had depression, join me and we'll move on, use the birth for all it's worth, Hello John.”
It’s the 80’s. You're wearing your black chucks, high-waisted jeans, and an insanely bright colored windbreaker. You’re a social outcast; your crush just found out you have feelings towards them and turned you down. Now you’re in bed, lifelessly drifting away while playing your Gameboy and listening to Huron John’s tracks Friendzone and Yoko. Huron John has a way of creating a nostalgic and dream-like feel in his music that will transport you into another cliche coming of age movie. I truly felt as if I needed to be running down the school halls with my misfit group of friends or skating down the streets of a neighborhood.
Born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, 19-year-old John Wallace came out with his first EP: Never Inside (Released June 10th, 2018). The project had a completely different sound and vibe than what Wallace had worked on before. Wallace sent his project out to a fortunate friend before it’s release asking how it made them feel and in response, “Like you're just hanging out on Lake Huron or some shit.” And that’s how Huron John came about or some shit… So who really is Huron John?
How would you describe Huron John? Is he more of an alter ego or does he closely resonate the individualist you already are, just emulated through a different name?
Colorful, Explosive, Relatable.
I remember watching old cartoons and thinking how cool it was for a character to have an alter ego, like fucking ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’ or ‘Codename: Kids Next Door’. Especially if it was for say a character that is deemed as the weak link or the nerdy one out of the rest but then has the most badass alter ego. But in my case, Huron John isn’t per se an alter ego, rather to an extent, it's an amplified version of myself. If anything is important to me it’s definitely to be as authentic as I possibly can. I want to be as unapologetic for my quirks and music I’m putting out there as an artist. In the end, I don’t want to be something I’m not. Fun fact, I actually wanted to originally be “Neutron-John,’ (Yes it’s a play on Jimmy Neutron, loved that show.) but there’s apparently an electronic artist out there who goes by Olivia-Neutron-Jon. (Laughs)
What really drew you to make music?
Well, I guess how it all started was I started playing guitar in first grade (around there). I remember I would show up to my guitar lesson every week and I would always ask my guitar teacher, Tony, to teach me super vanilla rock songs, like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, all that shit. No shade to the classics, but I was asking him to just teach me the same stuff week-after-week. He asked me if this kind of thing was the only stuff I listened to, and I said yeah. One day he brought me Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness by Smashing Pumpkins on CD. It quickly became my favorite albums of all time, and I realized I wanted to make music of my own. Fast forward like five years and I discovered Tyler, The Creator, and instantly fell in love with this whole idea of making music without a band. The Wolf album specifically inspired me to start making beats. Down the line, discovering other solo-esque albums like Tame Impala’s Lonerism just really got the wheels turning for me, I guess. Shoutout to Tony, my old guitar teacher, I haven't seen that dude in like eight years.
How do you go about writing a song? What’s your process like if you have one?
The process of actually making music has always been kind of weird. I don’t ever sit down and write lyrics, melodies, hooks or whatever. I just kind of make beats and then come up with melodies later. The “WOLF” album by Tyler, The Creator is what inspired me to start making beats, so I kind of just started by following that model. Making some beats, writing later. Although, lately I’ve been experimenting with trying to write songs on guitar or keys, then translate it through production. And I guess with my lyrics I try to keep a unique style. Not tongue-in-cheek, like stuff, definitely has a serious meaning to it, but I like to keep a lighthearted-youthful vibe.
What are you trying to invoke with what you put out there? What do you want people who listen to your music feel?
I’m super big on nostalgic appeal, just like most of us. We live in a culture that is so focused on instant gratification. The hearts you get on Instagram. That type of thing. We’ve been almost imprisoned by this now natural instinct to be constantly stimulated. I struggle with that a ton as well. I just want to teach myself to slow down, appreciate where I came from, and appreciate the experiences and people that made me. I want people to feel the emotions and passions of old life experiences, but apply them to your life today, if that makes sense. My music is all about enhancing the quality of today through the emotions of yesterday. Am I sounding like a dumbass?
Have you collaborated with others? What does that process look like/ finding other artists and collaborating together?
Yes, collaboration was something I just got into like late 2018. I go to a music school, and I met some of my best friends there, Claire Ernst and Ben Elder. Both of them are insanely talented and have pushed me greatly. Collaborating with them has for sure been a game-changer for me. Not even strictly limited to them, but everyone else I’ve met at school. They’ve all helped me learn so much about my sound that I ever thought I could know. Helping me see me through a different lens if that makes sense. Shoutout to Jake, Sam, Oscar, Luke, basically everybody at school. All the 102 boys, you know who you are. Big shoutouts to some big brother figures like Mimic and Inner State 81. I’ve been blessed to meet some incredible people.
How have you interacted with and respond to fans?
I’m huge on fan interaction. That’s honestly one of the most important things to me as a music maker. I answer every DM that I can. There was this one kid from Pennsylvania who told me this one project that I made under a different name stopped him from killing himself. Then there’s this one girl from Jerusalem who always messages me first when new stuff comes out, because of the time zones or whatever. I’m sure she’s reading this, ‘Hi Idan.’ It’s a super humbling experience to me because in the grand scheme of artists I am literally a nothing. I’m a drop of water compared to an ocean like Kanye, Tyler, The Creator, etc. I’m only an inch into this mile-long-journey, and even answering people in DM’s or whatever is already a decent amount of work. It blows my mind how many DM’s someone like Tyler is getting every day. Crazy to me. But, I try to talk to as many people as I can, because I’m nothing without the people who press play. That’s the basis of it all, at the end of the day. I’ve never understood the typical diva-artist-archetype that hates his/her fans. You’re nothing without the people who support you, so I try my best to appreciate them. I want to be that artist that you can DM about something shitty that happened to you at school, or some kid you’re crushing on that doesn’t even know you exist. I’ve been there, dude. Whatever the fuck. It would be so crazy to me if one of my favorite artists just casually answered a message I sent them. Hopefully, I can be that for people, at least for a little while.
How does it feel performing? Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety?
Performing is sick. I’m still really new to it, I’ve only played 5 full-length sets and a couple of other few-song-performance type things. It’s a really weird thing to deal with. I can make music in my house or my dorm room and control every single aspect of how people hear me. I can make my snare drum as loud or as quiet as I want. I can edit that one lead synth to literally the most specific of parameters. I can cherry-pick that one photo for Instagram, and edit it so I look cool. I’m not going to lie about that type of thing, we all do it, right? But, performing live? You see me how you see me. You hear stuff that sometimes I don’t have complete control over. Maybe I miss a note on the guitar. Maybe you take a funny picture of me. There’s so much unpredictability in the live setting, and that’s why it’s so cool to me. I try to keep it as entertaining and as fun as I can. And yes, I’ve totally dealt with performance anxiety. I’m a super anxious guy naturally. Super minor shit is always setting me off. So, you could only imagine how I’m feeling before sets. But, it’s okay. Once the first track starts, I’m usually fine. I did a shit-ton of theater in high school, so it’s not that I get anxious in front of crowds, I don’t know. It’s just a whole other animal than just making beats in your room and having people hear it through their headphones.
Tell me about one of your favorite performance venues!
This one DIY venue in Chicago I just played called Elephant Ear was super sick. My friend set up our merch table and there was a life-sized cardboard cutout of Kim Jong Un next to it. We taped the display tee over his body (Laughs). That was super sick. I also played at this place owned by Fordham University in New York City back in March called Rodrigues, and that was tight as fuck too. As I said, I’m pretty new to the live thing, so I haven’t seen a ton of performance spaces yet, but I think we’ve had a pretty good time so far. If you’ve come out to see me live before, bless your heart. If not, see you sometime soon, (hopefully).
What advice would you give for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I know it’s so corny, but you just have to do it. I know that sounds so stupid and vague. But seriously. There were so many times before releasing the first EP that I thought about bagging this whole project entirely. You have to shake that inner voice inside of you that is telling you— you're going to fail. It’s an ongoing battle with that voice, and there will never be a moment that it isn’t present, but you have to do your best. Another tip I can give is persistence. This whole thing is one giant high-school science-lab experiment. Each song is giving me more data on what works, what doesn’t, my strengths, my weaknesses, etc. The more persistent you become, the more people will start gravitating towards what you’re putting out. Stick to your message, and adjust it as you go along. People can pick up on if you believe in your shit or not. If you don’t believe in your product, nobody else will. You need to be your biggest advocate. Whether you’re making music, clothes, videos, a podcast, or you’re sticking up to some dickhead trying to pick on you. Be your biggest advocate.
What do your next steps look like? Any upcoming projects/music? Any merch?
Yeah! I’m currently super deep in an eight or nine-song project that I’m dropping on Black Friday. I haven’t really said shit about it yet, but it’s called APOCALYPSE, WOW. I’m stepping into some new territory lyrically, and sonically, so I’m super excited for later this year. I feel like my music is best in that like August to December pocket of the year. Hopefully, I’m going to get some music videos out this summer, too. My grandpa just gave me his old tape recorder. Shoutout to him. I actually just worked on merch today too, as well. I’m going to be doing my first worldwide-shipping type thing, either in late July or early August. We’ve been working on some cool designs, so hopefully, people fuck with that. Either way, I just want to put stuff out that makes people happy. That’s really the base reason of why anyone should do anything, right? I’m just trying to build a catalog that creates this larger universe that I have my eyes on. I’m a very big-picture person, I’m all about the big idea. What’s the overall purpose of what you’re trying to do? So, I think the second half of this year is going to be tight.
My FaceTime call with John.
Just wanted to thank Kyla and Abby again, I’m ecstatic to join the Pure Nowhere team! Also a really big shoutout to John for being my first interviewee. Great to have met you, dude! I’m excited to see you make it big.
Huron John will be releasing a new single, SEAFOAM, on July 5th. Keep an eye out later this year for a new project, ‘APOCOLYPSE, WOW,” which will be dropping Black Friday! Check out his past releases, all published on Spotify - linked here.