John Lindahl is an incredible musician and dancer, with an even bigger heart. The 23-year-old hails from Mission Viejo, where his musical journey began. Ever since the age of 4 years old, he’s been pursuing the dream as someone who “wants to make it really bad and is trying his best every single day!”
Whether it’s singing, songwriting, producing, dancing or composing, the Def Jam signee is beyond grateful for all the opportunities he’s received. While the ride has been incredible thus far, he aims to continue to elevate at all hours of the day. For one, Lindahl plays every instrument he can, including piano, drums, guitar, bass and ukulele.
While performing at the 2015 Grammys was a huge moment for his career, it’s his collaborations and features with Logic that grew his fanbase even further. You may have heard him on the background vocals of “Flexicution,” but seeing his actual name featured on “100 Miles & Running” meant everything.
Last year, Logic returned the favor by hopping on Lindahl’s “The Feeling,” a feel-good record that puts you in the mood at any given moment. Fast forward to summer of this year, Lindahl unleashes an explosive new visual for “All Day,” capturing his dance moves in the most beautiful light.
Irvine Weekly caught up with John a few moments before his performance at The Basement series in Los Angeles to chat about his Orange Country upbringing, best piece of advice from Logic, and wanting to be the next Michael Jackson.
What does “making it” mean to you?
I’ve always said I want to sell out a worldwide arena tour. I want to be the biggest artist of all time. I want to be Michael Jackson. My parents said “okay how do you quantify that? Because then you’ll never be happy.” So I said OK, if I can sell out a worldwide arena tour, I’d be happy. Until then, I want a worldwide sold-out stadium tour. [chuckles] A worldwide arena tour is a great measure of where I want to be.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is highly eclectic. My album’s centered around the setting of musical theater and broadway. Sonically, it’s not necessarily that. Musical theater was my first avenue of performance. Sonically, the album’s soul music. I grew up listening to Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Del the Funky Homosapien, all the classic soul. It’s soul, R&B, pop music like Michael Jackson. Love MJ. It’s funky, it’s rock. I grew up on Queen and Led Zeppelin. I love hip-hop, so it’s a mixture of that.
I wrapped all my favorite genres into one album. How I’m going to approach albums from now on is you in the audience perceiving a musical. Think about it, when you go see a musical, no one song sounds the same. Sonically, it’s a very eclectic experience. Certain songs pertain to certain characters. Certain sounds, tempos, everything’s connected. I’ve always loved every style of music so much. Never been able to stick to one genre because I’m so excited about music. I decided to approach it as if I’m writing a musical and creating a storyline.
Talk about being from Maryland and relocating to the O.C.
To be fair, I was born in Maryland. I claim that because my best friends Logic and 6ix are from as well. But I only lived there until I was 3 months, I don’t remember. It’s just funny I was born in the same hospital as 6ix, he’s Logic’s producer. Really cool guy. I lived right next to him for a little while when I was a baby, so that’s a funny full-circle thing.
But I actually grew up in Mission Viejo. That was a good experience for me because I was actually one of the only people doing music. I wasn’t surrounded by a music scene so everything I found was either from my parents or I sought out myself. For example, my first hip-hop album I listened to front and back was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It was so inspiring because this is a girl who’s singing so soulfully, and soul music is the first thing I gravitated towards. She’s spitting right after and produced all the tracks, and I’m a producer. I always wanted to do that. Growing up in Mission Viejo, I had to seek out music for myself which is great.
How does being from Orange County play into your life and career?
I feel blessed to come from a family that’s so supportive of my dream. My family always believed in me and gave me confidence. The main part where I faced adversity was out in the world with other people. Sometimes being where I’m from played into it sometimes, I’d either get overlooked or people wouldn’t understand what I was trying to do. All my main hardships came from being dropped from a major record deal when I was 17. I had the familial and friend support but any time I’d go out in the world, I’d be sent back there. [claps] Had to go into my bedroom and learn how to produce and write all by myself.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I was on the first season of the X-Factor when I was 14. I was auditioning, literally they had us fill up an arena and pulled us out one by one. When I went through that, I’m like “OK, maybe I have a shot.” But I was super young.
What was it like singing background vocals for Ed Sheeran at the 2015 Grammys?
It was dope. Incredible experience, I’m surrounded by musicians I’ve looked up to my whole life. My manager at the time had a plug to Adam Blackstone who’s the musical director for that performance, so they linked me. Fun fact, they almost kicked me off because I was so nervous. I was 18. In rehearsal, I was missing notes. I was flat. I’m a singer first, so that normally doesn’t happen. They’re like “yo, get that kid on pitch or else we gotta kick him out.” The show went really well, I did fine. But I was surrounded by all these people: Herbie Hancock, John Mayer, Questlove, Ed of course. Musicians I’ve looked up to my whole life, I loved it.
What was the best memory from that?
Honestly, talking to John Mayer. He’s just the coolest guy. We’re talking about music, just a really funny, witty dude. Highly intelligent. Very thoughtful, very insightful. Talking to him, he was very personable. He made you feel like you were just talking as musicians equal.
How did you link with Logic?
When I was signed to my first record deal, I met with his engineer Bobby Campbell in a studio session. Bobby wanted to introduce me to Logic for years. Eventually met Logic a year later, he was working on his second album. We became friends, we started hanging out. A few months later, he invited me to sing on one of his tracks. I sang background on three to four of his tracks after that, then I got my first feature on his YSIV album (released last September). That was incredible, I’ve never been featured in that capacity.
What was your reaction when you first heard “Flexicution”?
Incredible. He wanted me to sing some high pitch stuff over the top and he actually had me sing on the intro of the Bobby Tarantino mixtape, those two go right into each other. It was the first time my voice was featured on a major scale. I’m so grateful for him always for giving me the opportunity, believing in me to set off his album. I’m the first voice you hear besides his voice.
Obviously, he went off! I met him at this incredible time — now he’s Logic and everyone knows that — where he was still trying to prove himself. Really was so hungry! Every track, he came with all the heat. All the fire, literally emotional fire. Watching him record that was amazing.
Best memory shared with Logic in the studio?
Probably when we did “100 Miles and Running,” that feature track. We were in Maui and had been in this little makeshift studio in the house. I remember it was me, him, 6ix, and Bobby Campbell in the room, and there were a lot of people on the trip. He was rapping and I just started singing “and it’s on now!” [sings] Then the hook came from there. It was an incredible moment, I’m like “I’m singing a hook!” It was my first hook. I wasn’t singing hooks before then, it was just background vocals.
Best piece of advice he’s given you?
To stick to my vision. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you believe in something (within reasonable vision), you gotta stick to it. I love that about him because that’s what he’s done since square one. From concept albums, Space Odyssey albums, skits, solving Rubik’s cubes, he was doing all these things from the jump. He was just himself and believed in his vision.
Talk about signing to Def Jam, where he is too.
I technically signed in December of 2018, which is crazy because that’s the same month I signed my first record deal to Epic Records in 2013.
That fell through?
Oh yeah I got dropped, I talk about it in my album. I met Justin Timberlake, he was going to executive produce my album. He got really busy, it fell through. The label didn’t believe in me, they thought I was corny. They thought I was wack, but it’s all good. I honestly needed that to push me to be greater. I respect them and give them honestly a lot of credit to who I am today. We kept Def Jam under wraps until May 2019, it was amazing.
So you’ve just been working.
Yeah. This album coming out, the writing of it was done by the time I was signed, then I presented it to them in May. They did not know I was working on anything, because I produced it in my bedroom!
Terrence was just telling me about your live band, talk about your live performances.
I grew up wanting to learn to play every instrument in the world. I was in jazz band in high school, so I met a lot of these dudes. I’d always been pursuing music as a solo artist, I’m like “when I get on, you guys should come be my band and play with me.” They’re like “hell yeah, of course.”
Is that them? [points to crew]
Yeah and two of my friends from Playground [dance studio] ‘cause I’ve been training there. Kenny Wormald is one of my best friends in the industry for sure. He believed in me and introduced me to all these guys, I started taking his class. My band is incredible musicians, we got a horn section, a bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, dancers. I really want to give people the greatest show they can possibly see.
Your dance moves in “All Day” are fire!
Thank you. Honestly, I have to credit it to the amazing dancers behind me. I look up to them so much. Kenny really coached me, I’ve been training with him for a year as a dancer. He didn’t know I was a singer, he let me take his class for free because he believed in me and we looked alike. I was training as a dancer, he found my music and was like “yo that’s insane.” He believed in me and wanted to work on my stuff, so I gotta credit it all to Kenny. All to the dancers around me. I credit everything about my live show and who I am as an artist and performer to everyone that I’ve learned from. I wouldn’t be anything without them.
Since music is your life, what do you do for fun?
My life consists of music, performing, dancing, video games and playing sports. Playing basketball. Honestly it’s 99 percent music, then video games and sports.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
I’ve been listening to Maynard Ferguson, this song called “Birdland.” He’s an old jazz singer. Obviously Michael Jackson, he’s a huge part of who I am as an artist. The influence he had on me learning how to sing and wanting to dance, he’s the reason I wanted to dance. I listen to Justin Timberlake, Queen a ton, Lauryn Hill.
Best encounter with a fan?
I’ve had a few fans tattoo my lyrics on their arms and body. One of the most incredible experiences the fact words that came from my brain meant something to someone enough to the point they put them on their body and use it as a reminder to feel something. That’s the most proud feeling as an artist, what else can you ask for? I’m so grateful to my fans, they don’t understand how much they mean to me. I wouldn’t be here without them.
Anything you want to let us know?
I’m so grateful to still be doing this. I’m a very competitive person but I’m also a very loving person. I want to succeed, but I also want to be surrounded by loving people at all times. That’s why I love my fans so much. I can’t wait to continue to elevate from here. Thank you for taking the time to interview me, seriously.