John Wakefield


To call Maryland and DC native John Wakefield an intriguing fellow is an understatement – the natural talent drove a Chevy van named “Buck”, is a master of sarcasm and writes children’s albums that aren’t meant for kids (more on that later). Before we talk about that album, we need to tell you a bit more about John’s credentials: The University of Maryland grad has been making music for decades, playing some of the biggest venues in California with the likes of the LA Philharmonic, the LA Opera, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the LA Chamber Orchestra…the list seriously goes on and on. He’s collaborated with Michael Crawford, Garth Brooks, Andrea Bocelli, Diane Reeves, and again; the list goes on and on.
Wakefield does indeed have a new children’s record out that isn’t meant for the ears of kids – he says “It’s different from other children’s albums because I didn’t write it for kids; I wrote it about them…with language and humor that’s for their parents.” Ahhhhh. Now we get it – the appropriately named A Curious Children’s Album has a lot for us adults to enjoy – Wakefield says it contains “some throw back, lyric based music that is performed very well…the sound is ‘live’…real horns, real strings, a rhythm section with opposable thumbs.” If your interest isn’t piqued, I’m not sure you understand the meaning of fun. Check out A Curious Children’s Album (at http://curiouschildrensalbum.com/) and read on. There’s much more to get into in the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: John Wakefield

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you different from others your genre?

John Wakefield (JW): I guess I’d describe the sound as “live”…real horns, real strings, a rhythm section with opposable thumbs. I like to give musicians the freedom to do their thing in the studio. I think it’s different from other children’s albums because I didn’t write it for kids, I wrote it about them…in language and humor it’s for their parents.

PEV: Hailing from Maryland, born in Washington, DC and growing up in Carroltown, what kind of music where you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

JW: I loved the local music scene in and around DC. Back in the 70’s and 80’s it was a big R&B/Soul and Jazz town. My Dad was a music teacher, director of bands at the University of Maryland for 40 yrs, and he always had classical music on at the house, so the influences ran the spectrum…EWF, Stevie Wonder, Maze(featuring Frankie Beverly) and Mahler, Strauss, and Beethoven. Oh and of course being a percussionist, I was drawn to DC’s own Go-Go music…EU, Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers…great stuff!

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started? What was your first show like?

JW: I guess I was sort of in two music scenes. When I came to LA I started playing with some of the local orchestras. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra was just being formed and I played with them for a few seasons. My first “band” was a Chili-Peppers knock-off named Groovestone. Playing with those guys was fun because I got to experience the iconic Sunset Strip clubs…The Whisky, The Roxy, Club Central(now Viper Room), Club Lingerie(gone), Coconut Teaser(gone)…loading congas into those places really sucked though.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live John Wakefield show?

JW: This album wasn’t really put together with any live show intention.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?

JW: Where’s the audience!? No, I really appreciate every time I get to step on stage…it’s a special thing and I don’t let it get routine.

PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?

JW: The anticipation…from both perspectives.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music?

JW: Humor and Joy…parenting can be tough but if you can laugh about it, you’re good to go.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived

where you are today?

JW: I usually only think about WHY I arrived where I am today. Sorry, sarcasm doesn’t always translate to print. I do look back from time to time and chuckle…I mean you have such plans when you’re younger…there have been some unexpected turns. I wouldn’t change a thing though.

PEV: What¹s one thing we¹d be surprised to hear about you?

JW: Along with a friend of mine who’s a boxing trainer, I’m developing a fitness class that combines drumming and boxing techniques. We’ve been using some in the training of an up and coming light heavyweight fighter and he loves it.

PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are you methods to get over it?

JW: I usually hit a wall when I’m forcing something…trying to make a song something that it isn’t. At that point I just walk away, the song tells me when to come back.

PEV: How do you think the industry has changed over the years, since you started out or at got involved in just enjoying your music?

JW: I think production is King right now and everything else is secondary. That’s a rather recent phenomenon. No judgement there, just an observation.

PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, “A Curious Children’s Album”?

JW: They can expect some throw back, lyric based music that is performed very well. I think they’ll have fun listening…nothing profound…just fun.

PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JW: The South…I’ve never been to New Orleans…I want to tour and eat my way through the South.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?

JW: I’m not sure they know I have one….they’ve been very supportive.

PEV: What can we you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JW: With three kids, one being two, there isn’t much spare time. I still squeeze in the occasional pick-up basketball game and can be found haunting my friends boxing gym.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

JW: I don’t know, maybe Dylan, Van Morrison or Joni Mitchell…someone who I have great respect for as a songwriter…but then again I’d probably just get self-conscious and wimp out.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JW: Savannah Van…The Savannah Van Band. She sang “You Light Up My World” on my album and the girl flat out rocks. Great band backing her up too…I hope they get a fair shot.

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what would be your career?

JW: Vagabond…or politician.

PEV: So, what is next for John Wakefield ?

JW: Dinner…there’s a great Cuban place in Encino.

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