John Newman has spoken candidly about suffering from depression during the lockdown and how falling back into love for music helped him recover before releasing new single ‘Waiting For A Lifetime’. Watch our video interview with Newman above.
In an exclusive interview with NME, the singer, songwriter, producer and DJ – who has collaborated with the likes of Rudimental, Sigala, Calvin Harris and David Guetta, and returns today with a new single – reflected on the impact of a decade on the road.
“When you’re touring, it doesn’t matter if a single isn’t doing very well or there’s a mess going on at home or you don’t like yourself as a person, it’s not something you really know,” he said.
But when the lockdown hit, he said he quickly realized he wasn’t happy. “When that opportunity to run and hide was taken away from me, I realized that I was actually miserable and thus not happy with how my career was going,” he admitted. “I realized I was just running a thousand miles an hour to hide that.
“Grabbing the free champagne and taking pictures on the red carpet and thinking that was success, when really I’ve lost all vision of what success is, which is the pure love and emotion of something you created to do good.”
He added that “in the beginning it was a lot to deal with, to deal with these emotions of me and who I am, and how I can make myself better. That was really hard.”
When he realized he had no room for music, he “sounded the alarm” and got rid of his label and management. “For years I leaned on a side of me that was influenced by Northern Soul and Motown. Although it will always inspire me, I felt like I was starting to lose traction, losing focus and getting disoriented,” he said.
“I just decided ‘I’m not happy and I don’t have a fight in me anymore’. But as soon as I did, I felt the pressure drop – to feel better.”
Newman continued: “I was screwed because I couldn’t put out music so what was the point, and I had no responsibility either, so I just had to focus on getting better mentally and coming out of a really depressed and some days suicidal condition. , and make myself feel good again.”
By going back to making music and producing the kinds of dance numbers he loved as a kid, he recovered. “It really helped create something that was just for me,” Newman said NME. “I wouldn’t even sing to it. I made long instrumental dance numbers that made me feel great and emotional and that’s what music should be.”
Now, two years after leaving his label and management and heading in a new direction, John is back with “Waiting For A Lifetime,” a song he says is the epitome of “letting go of the shackles and making myself happy, which I realized I had waited so long to be able to do.”
“There’s a text in it -“flashing lights, let my tears on the dance floor, empty nights, I’ve been holding on to something more‘ — and that’s literally about the idea of running around the world, trying to escape every emotion and hide from everything I’ve ever done wrong or was ashamed of,” he said. “It got to the point where I had to write that song and when I did, I immediately felt so much better.”
He revealed that the song was also inspired by wanting to bring that feeling into his relationship. “If someone suffers for a long time, it must be a tough job for the person on the other side,” he said. “My wife was there for me and she would say these things and I would go crazy for her.”
He continued: “I remember one day I apologized and said, ‘I’m done with everything, I don’t have a temper for confrontations or anything’. I sympathize with everyone who has had to go through it in the first person, but also as someone’s partner.
“But it’s great for someone to have that person there because then things go wrong when they don’t – they say ‘check your friends’ and it’s really important. If I hadn’t had Nana, my lady, I don’t know what would have happened.”
About how the new single represents an artistic revival, Newman said: “I’m literally doing what I set out to do as a kid, for all the glitz and glamor and everything that comes with success.
“When I started out, I was actually quite scared of the idea of fame, so it was kind of nice to get rid of all that and go back to making tunes in my room,” he added, adding the studio described as his safe place. Also, how can you become famous during a pandemic unless you’re doing shit dances on TikTok?”
“I have no doubt it’s a great pop track and anyway if people don’t like it they can just listen to all my old soul stuff on Spotify.”
He said the lockdown was a good thing in that way, because it allowed him to “just be myself and do what that kid always did in the bedroom”, and to “connect with something from my childhood” , recalling producing and DJing on his laptop as a teenager.
“For me, music was always a huge release — especially dance music when I was a kid,” he said, adding that he remembers getting Fruity Loops out of a Kellogs box as a kid. “Like my single ‘Love Me Again’ , you can definitely hear that influence – it’s a huge dance number. ”
Going back to his dance roots has also led him to change his live show to make it “much more energetic”. After reopening the trunks of his early hits and remixing them into festival-sized anthems, he said: “It’s more of a DJ/live hybrid, with a mix of live vocals, live mixing and beat triggering, which really the energy and to make it a real party instead of just performing my ballads.
“It comes across as great – I have found a way to further develop myself and my talents,” he added. “To challenge myself. I wanted to do something different. I still am, but in a new atmosphere that I feel comfortable with.”
This summer, John will be playing a range of DJ sets and mixing online for fans as part of his Under the Decks series.
“I think being behind the turntables is definitely more reassuring for someone who’s been through a mental health crisis,” he said. “I don’t know if I could still be at the front of the stage like I’m Alex Turner or James Dean!”
Most exciting, he said, is that he doesn’t know how his return will go: “I’m insanely nervous, but very excited. I could become the greatest artist in the world or it could all go wrong, who knows?”
‘Waiting For A Lifetime’ is out now.