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INTERVIEW: John Salaway

Pic by Blake Russell

Frontman. Acclaimed songwriter. Sideman. Nationally-endorsed multi-instrumentalist. Producer. Since moving to Nashville in the early 2000s, John Salaway has become one of the city’s most accomplished musicians, holding down a weekly residency at the world-class BB King’s Blues Club while also playing shows with acts like Peter Frampton, Ben Folds, Anderson East, Zach Williams, and Denny Laine from the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney’s Wings. He’s a drummer. A guitarist. A pianist. And with albums like 2019’s Americana Dreams, he shows the full range of his abilities, mixing a lifelong appreciation for the Beatles’ classic pop melodies with the southern-fried sounds of his adopted hometown.

“With every album I make, you’ll always hear a touch of the Beatles,” says Salaway, who has worked with the Fab Four’s iconic sound engineer, Geoff Emerick. “With Americana Dreams, though, I wanted to show off my Americana influences, which come mostly from Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Tom Petty.”

Hi there, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi Vents! I’ve been great! Feeling extremely grateful and blessed.

Can you talk to us more about your song “You Better Believe”?

This is the only song on the album that isn’t new. Kyle Daniel and I wrote this one quite a few years ago. The title is a cliche’ that we’ve all heard but I wanted there to be a spiritual subtext to it about being a believer or believing in something deeper and more profound than just our daily human routines.

“You better believe” is talking to someone who’s in a rough place. Someone who’s being closed-minded and who thinks they know it all… it’s pleading with them to just stop and listen for a minute. You better believe that there’s much more to life than what you’re going through. You better believe that there’s something worth believing in… life is so much more enjoyable when you have something to believe in!

Did any event, in particular, inspire you to write this song?

Life in general. We’ve all been in that situation before. We all struggle and go through hard stuff sometimes and it helps to have people to talk with about it.

Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the track “A Little Bit Broken”?

I feel like we have all been broken by someone or something in life. It’s part of or human existence and spiritual journey. Some of us are broken right now but we CAN put ourselves back together and keep trying and keep moving forward.

I think life is better when we are honest about our flaws and our brokenness. Nobody is perfect so we need to stop pretending. It’s liberating to be open and real and say “I’m not perfect. I have been broken but I’m doing the best I can, trying to be the best that I can be. Take it or leave it.” 🙂

How was the recording and writing process?

For many years, I have been investing in my own studio and I’m incredibly grateful that we got it to where I can produce good sounding records that can be heard on the radio and tv. “A Little Bit Broken” went to #1 on the worldwide indie radio top 40 charts and I produced it at my home studio with my engineer Josh Koskela! I’m so thankful for that.

In the past, I played all the instruments on my album but on this album, I brought in some of my incredibly talented friends to collaborate, which is what makes the album so enjoyable for me.

The recording process for me is this: I always record an acoustic guitar part first, then drums, then bass and everything else on top. I’m a drummer first and foremost, so the rhythm and groove are incredibly important to me and if that feels right then the rest of the song will be right. I usually never do more than 2 or 3 takes of each instrument because I want to keep a real, organic, natural feel to the instruments. They don’t have to be perfect, they just have to feel right!

When it comes to writing, I’m a natural at creating riffs and hooks. I think the Beatles fan in me is drawn to catchy hooks that are easy to remember. Sometimes the verses will be hard to finish and that’s where I’ll seek out talented writers like India Ramey, Craig Wilson, & Bri Murphy to help me finish the songs.

How did the process of putting together this LP differ from your previous releases?

This is my greatest work yet! The main reason for that is because of the songwriters and musicians that I got to collaborate with. They are dear friends of mine and I’m so thankful that they are on my record. I’ve also sharpened my skills as a musician and producer over the years and I’m very happy with where I’m at musically.

What role does Nashville play in your music?

Nashville is inspiring for many reasons. We are surrounded by music, creativity, energy, and talented people. There’s also a lot of beautiful nature throughout Tennessee where inspiration is found.

You can’t get away from the musical history and heritage here. There are songs in the air, in the earth, in the trees, and every breath that we breathe.

What aspect of your life did you get to explore on this LP?

I’m always exploring our human existence and spiritual journey through thought, meditation, prayer, and song.

I think we are all more alike than we think we are. We all experience love, loss, joy, pain, blessings, and hardship. I write about this a lot and try to remind myself and others to look at the bright side of life and stay positive because everything will be alright in the end.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The people in my life.

Any plans to hit the road?

At the moment, I perform weekly at BB king’s club in downtown Nashville which is great because people visit that club from all over the world. So it’s like touring and playing to new people except the audience comes to me.

I currently do some regional touring and hit a few major markets. I may look into more touring in 2020.

What else is happening next in John Salaway’s world?

I’m incredibly grateful because I get to do what I love for a living. Besides being a solo artist, I’m also a producer and I’m producing songs for an amazing country artist named Benjamin Stanley Owens, and producing some Alternative pop songs for an incredible female artist named EvyIvy.

I’m also a professional booking agent and I book a few bands and I’m a musical director at a great venue in middle Tennessee called Hop Springs. I also lead and play drums in a really cool, high energy Beatles experience called Forever Abbey Road. I also pitch songs to film and tv opportunities.

I’m always working on new projects, new shows, new collaborations and each week is different from the last. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed to get to do what I love for a living.

Thank you so much for interviewing me! Wishing you a path filled with love, laughter, music, and blessings.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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