Interview Feature: John Rowley

My old ass almost collapsed into a walking frame when 18-year old Sydney pop singer/songwriter John Rowley told me that Delta Goodrem was one of his childhood pop idols.


I am not accustomed to interviewing someone so young that they list artists that have emerged in the last 10 years as their musical heroes.

But it gets better.

“The first pop song I recall actually enjoying was ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’,” Rowley confessed over the phone before I let out a mighty Fran Drescher-esque cry for the Lord to sweep low with his chariot and take me home.

That last bit might not have happened but I strive to embellish and exaggerate a point where I see fit.

This A-grade taste in British pop music was what endeared me to John in the first place when I came across his earnest email press release a couple of months ago, namechecking Girls Aloud and Xenomania.

John’s own brand of moody electro pop balladry could have easily sprung from that side of the pond. His latest single ‘Guilt Trip’ recalls the pensive maturity of Pet Shop Boys and Darren Hayes‘ finer electronica gems.

“I listen to so much British pop. Looking at my CD collection, I don’t have that much Australian stuff here but I have Sneaky Sound System – they are probably one of my favourite Australian acts – some early Delta, and Daniel Merriweather,” John said.

While his sonic aspirations reflect styles glimpsed from the other side of the earth, the lyrical inspiration for ‘Guilt Trip’ draws closer to home.

“I wrote it about someone who adopts this stance of superiority and moral high standing. I was talking to my friend about it and I realised that in criticising this person for being critical, we were taking on those exact qualities ourselves,” John said.

“It’s about exploring those contradictions.”

The well-articulated ballad is Rowley’s second original following ‘Stones From Glass Houses’, and frankly, one would have to wonder if the young man’s ever going to write a cheery song.

“I’ve tried to sit down and write a happy song but I find it so hard. It always comes off so contrived and cheesy,” John said.

“I am a happy person, but I think there is a difference between having a happy conversation with someone and sitting down by yourself and writing a song about how everything is just swell.”

“I think what I’ve also tried to do, to some extent, is avoid writing about normal themes. My favourite songs are usually about gritty things and just turning stuff on its head,” he said.

What’s next

John is working on a few more mash up/covers. Some Popjustice gazers might remember the site featuring his blend of Marina and the Diamonds‘ ‘Radioactive’ and Foster The People‘s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’.

He’s actually just uploaded this fun little mash up of Coldplay‘s ‘Paradise’ with some Spice Girls hits (including some solo Spice singles) sung over the top. Paraspice, he calls it. This coming from a kid who knows maybe three Spice Girl songs? Bless.

Rowley said he’s probably got enough material to compile an EP but it’s just a matter of time to write and record. Watch this space.


Download John Rowley‘s ‘Guilt Trip’ from Bandcamp for free or any fee you wish to pay.


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