Slidin’ Thru: John Splithoff

November 20, 2018

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

John Splithoff is a musician who creates from the heart. Hailing from Chicago but now based in New York, the singer, songwriter, and producer arrives on the scene with his own sound and style, blending the realms of pop and R&B soul altogether. With his standout single “Sing To You” accumulating over 35 million streams on Spotify alone, he proves with hard work and dedication, dreams really do come true. Read more…

Currently on the road opening for Andy Grammer, John continues to grind and perfect his craft on the daily. Now, he is eager and excited to unleash his debut EP titled Make It Happen, giving the people those feel-good, uplifting records we all need and love.

For those who don’t know, who is John Splithoff?
He is a singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois, currently living in New York City. He’s been there for 5 years. He writes pop and R&B music. He sings, plays guitar, piano. He produces. He acts. I’m a guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. I’m a Midwestern lad.

Being from Chicago, how does that play into your life and career?
I have extreme Midwest values and traditions. I’m all about family being from the Midwest. I’m very lucky to have had the support from my family. My dad’s a musician so I grew up playing guitar with him. He taught me how to play. Living in New York, it’s always awesome to go home to Chicago for Thanksgiving or holidays. Chicago has a lot of great music: soul, blues, and obviously hip-hop.

Who are your biggest influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of different music. I play guitar and my name is John, so people will automatically assume, “Oh you’re like John Mayer! But your last name is weirder.” I grew up listening to classic rock like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, then I eventually got into Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, The Doobie Brothers, Prince, D’angelo. At the same time listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Jurassic 5, etc., then I got into jazz music.

How would you describe your sound?
The music that I started writing towards the end of high school was just to write love songs for my girlfriend, which is a pretty common reason why dudes start writing songs. Then when I got to college, I realized the music that’s really stuck out to people (that I’ve released) is just people feeling a general sense of optimism. The optimistic music doesn’t always become the most popular music, but I still like making people feel good mentally and physically. My record is literally called “Make it Happen,” so I just want to make people feel good.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
So important. I love coming to LA with a mission. I always get inspired when I come here with a to-do list. It’s really easy to come here and just see what happens. Sometimes that works out really well, sometimes it doesn’t. You have a good time no matter what, but it’s so easy to come out and be like, “LA is so nice, I just want to chill.” I found that when I came out here with a set amount of time to get stuff done, and I get it done, I feel so motivated. I produce music out here. It’s just really rewarding.

At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I’ve had different bouts of success with releasing music. The point in which I was like “I made the right choice” was when I put out a song, and I saw people from the other side of the world covering it and sending me messages. I’ve gotten a lot of support from people in Australia, New Zealand, Jakarta, Philippines, etc. When I noticed that people are asking me to come play in all of these different parts of the world, that’s when I knew. The fact that I could connect with people so far away.

What was the inspiration behind keeping your real name?
Couldn’t come up with a better one. [laughs] And it’s pretty unique. It’s the kind of name that in a loud bar when you’re trying to close out the tab, and you tell them, they’re just like, “What?!” You’re yelling “Splithoff!” Split-off!

Talk about the success of “Sing To You,” which has over 2.5 million views on Youtube from audio alone.
The biggest thing to happen was on Spotify. Spotify got to like 35 million streams, and that was from playlisting. That song was the second single that I put out. I had an idea that it would find success just based on the reactions that people had to it in the industry, outside the industry, the meetings I had based on this one 3.5-minute song. I was gearing up for it to find success, but at the same time, I knew nothing could happen. That’s just how music goes.

I was like “cool, time to do more.” Then I was working on something that I thought sucked. It was at like 4 in the morning. I refreshed my Spotify artist page and I saw that my monthly listeners went up by 3x as much. I was like “whoa, what?” Then I saw that I got put on these 4 really big playlists, which was a first. It just grew exponentially from there. I was very lucky to find the same support from Spotify getting it on these playlists and exposing the songs to all these people. The song “Show Me” got to like 24 million streams on Spotify.

That’s another thing that made me feel that I was doing the right thing. It’s getting playlisted. It’s getting a lot of support. I’m getting a listening foundation. Now, the next step is being able to play this live because what I learned is when you play live for people, there’s a way deeper connection for them who want to be your fans there, as opposed to just hearing your song on a playlist. When they see you live, they realize “I see this person as a human being who I like. I like their music, I like what they do, I want to follow them.”

You just released your Make It Happen EP. What is it you want fans to get from your story?
It’s whatever people take from it that makes them feel a certain way. The most beautiful thing about music is people associate songs with memories and points in their life. Fitting a song with a trip, like “this was a song of the trip,” that’s an amazing thing. I love when people reach out to me like, “Your songs have been the soundtrack of our relationship.” Stuff like that means the most to me. I don’t think it’s necessarily about my story, it’s what people see as a reflection of themselves.

You just released your single “Vices.” Talk about your mindstate in creating this one.
I just wanted to make something a little more dance-y, a little hip. I did it as a co-write with 2 other people, and co-produced it with one of the guys I work with. There are a lot of times when you write a song about someone who doesn’t treat you right, and this is one of those songs that’s kind of a push and pull relationship. Tension and release.

What is your take on the music industry?
It’s tough. It’s really hard. You have to be your own jump starter. Especially as an artist, it’s super unforgiving. If you want to make it work, you need to do as much as you can by yourself. But at the same time, you can’t do it without the people around you wanting to see you succeed. The highs are worth the lows. You have to make people excited and want to work with you. Even when you’re so tired and things are not working how you want, as an artist, you have to motivate the people around you.

What’s been the best part of touring with Andy Grammer?
I played my first arena show with him. It was in Pullman, Washington. I’ve never played an arena-sized show, there was 4,500 people there. I’ve been doing this tour 100% solo, I usually play with a band. I’ve been on the bus, which has been a first. I’m very lucky that everyone in Andy’s camp is just so amazing. They’ve help me so much through everything.

What are some goals for yourself as an artist at this point in your career?
Just doing everything times 3. Doing a headlining tour with a band. The band I play with are my really good friends. They’re not hired hands. Doing a lot more video content, and travel to places I haven’t been to before.

How important is social media for your career?
Very important. It’s still something I’m trying to improve. I’m very thankful that I grew up without it. I grew up in the 90’s and it was just simpler times. Now, I feel bad for kids who have to do it. Like “what’s your brand Timmy?!” Of course, that goes along with the content of everything. Just doing more and engaging with people as much as possible. It’s an amazing tool obviously, but sometimes I get so into it and then I’m like, “I need to take a break.” And when I take a break, I’m like, “Alright, I got to get back into it.”

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Well on this tour, it’s been waking up in my cool air conditioned, pitch black coffin of a bunk, where I could sleep forever. At the start of the tour, I was so comfortable that I was waking up so late. I was embarrassed by it. [laughs] Everyone was like “is John still asleep?” I would try not to be seen as I was getting up like “oh yeah, I’ve been up for a long time.” The thing about this tour being an opener is you really do have a lot of time to yourself. It’s about how productive you are with your free time. Because you can always be doing something, which I guess is the difference between having a 9 to 5 and freelance or creative career paths. It’s just like I could always be working.

Usually I wake up and I go to the nearest cafe. Grab a coffee, get something to eat, sit down and just look at my laptop. I’ve had to produce things while on this tour. Email my manager, make creative decisions on some artwork, edit my videos for socials, etc. Load in, do a soundcheck, then there’s an hour or two before I go on. Food has been the challenge for me, because I don’t prioritize food and catering always happens right before I go on. I don’t want to go HAM on catering and then go on stage like… [sighs] I play, load up my stuff, and after Andy’s show, I go out to the merch booth and say hi to people, hang and sign pictures. I go on the bus, have a beer, talk to the band, grab something to eat real quick, go to sleep, then wake up in the next city.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
A lot of these shows, I’ve met people who have been following me for a long time. To see their reaction and hearing them say, “Your songs have been the soundtrack to our lives,” is just great. I’ve gotten a couple emails that have really gotten me choked up, about “my son is getting married. My son is my world and his wife and his favorite song is your song.” Just very nicely written things.

3 things you need in the studio?
You need coffee, time, and you can’t have stress in there. Going in with a poor mindset is the worst.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
Acting, also a super steady career path. [laughs]

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
These are my most played artists of 2018: D’angelo, Prince, Empire of the Sun, Frank Ocean, Tears for Fears, Beach Boys, Justin Timberlake, Radiohead, The Cure, Little Dragon.

Dream collab?
Pharrell, and I really like Calvin Harris. I think he’s a great musician.

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