John French: Singer/Songwriter

Photography by Paige French

When and Why Did You Start Playing?

Shortly after watching me play my first game of basketball, my dad brought home my first guitar —maybe as a hint that I should take up a different hobby instead of the game. It did not take me long to learn chords and teach myself to play, and I started writing music almost immediately. What started out as just a spontaneous gift, turned into what I do today.

Is Your Family Musical and How Did That Influence You?

Yes, my parents actually met at a talent show. My dad plays guitar and sings.  My mom played classical guitar and minored in voice in college. She also played the piano. As far as music in our house growing up, it was by no means ever forced or pushed on me. It was actually more like a best kept secret. I remember my dad used to keep a beautiful rosewood guitar shut up in the case under their bed. I would sneak into the room, open the case, and just smell it—it was the best smell in the world.

Then I would run away! Nostalgically, I play on a rosewood guitar today.

Where you influenced by any old records? Which Ones?

Most definitely. I have very distinct memories of coming to love the music my parents loved as I was growing up. As most kids that are my age, their parents knew and listened to the Beatles, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel etc. These greatly influenced me and still do now, but in that same era I was also surrounded with all the somewhat awful teen pop that was popular at the time. (I don’t even want to admit this) but… I remember in the same week as a young teen buying a Beetles CD and an Enrique Iglesias CD. I’m not quite sure how to reconcile that, but it speaks to the fact that I was influenced by a variety of artists and styles.

Your band, John French & The Bastilles; How Did you Come Together, and a little more about the name?

Most of the band members, the core group, I grew up with or have known for a very long time. Our drummer Kevin and I went to high school together. Rebecca (backup singer) and I met when she showed up uninvited to my birthday party in High School with someone. We have been singing together ever since. The rest of the group has organically come together in the midst of and after college. As for the name, for an entire summer we brainstormed for names for John French and the __________. We would play a set say in Nashville under one name, and at the end of the evening just totally hate the name, and switch to a new one in Atlanta. The one that really seemed to stick was this identity crisis of word/name, the “Bastilles” It spoke to liberty, individuality, freedom, uproar…it sounded good, we like it. It stuck. You have to have a sense of humor in what your band is called.

Tell Us a Little More About Your Songwriting Process

I’ve always tried to keep journals, but never could—I can’t even blog, but I do have stacks of notebooks filled with songs, words, phrases. Songwriting helps me make sense of my life; growing up, it was a tool to help me process information, and then in turn share my feelings.

One of the largest struggles of being alive is the need to be understood by the people around you. I choose to do that through music and lyrics.

For me, songwriting is a reflective and exploratory process. The way I work through particular experiences in my life it through songwriting. Sometimes the words and phrases that don’t make sense together at all,  end up coming together into the most profound song. It’s what I’m feeling, it’s what I’m processing and working out.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in the next few years.

I am newly engaged, so definitely settling down more to home life, creating, writing, performing. I may be somewhat of an anomaly as an artist as I am more interested in making music than performing it. I do not have the desire to tour fulltime or be on the road all year (not saying that is a bad thing for those who do), that’s just not who I am. I want to sing, write, and create fulltime, while still performing and having a home.

Where can we find you now? Where are you currently performing?

The beauty of the age we live in is that people don’t have to come to see me to hear my music. Itunes, Spotify, and other digital outlets make it easy to get to know an artist without going to see them. We are often in Atlanta, the Carolinas, and other places in the southeast, but home is Athens, GA, so that would be a really likely place to find us performing. Locally, surrounded by our community.