Musician Interview: 12/15/2008  

John Meeks : Tradition Amongst the Traditionless

Country music doesn't have rules, but it does have traditions.  In early days, songs were kept simple so they cold be shared and remembered; passed around from town to town and handed down from father to son as a way of keeping traditions and remembering stories.  Despite the disregard for tradition in contemporary art and society, the peaceful, nostalgic songs of John Meeks stay true to his roots by sharing his wanderings from around the country and pulling musical influence from his family before him.  We had a chance to escape the Southern California bustle and get lost in John's stories and songs in a quiet living room for an evening.

Sezio: When did you start making music and how has it changed or stayed the same since then?

John Meeks: I started “learning” music in the sixth grade and I studied it through high school and college, but it wasn’t until after I left school that I started “making” my own. I would learn a chord or two on the guitar and then try and write a song over them. Horrible little songs, probably the worst in history. And mind numbingly simple. But through that process of really creating something for the first time I realized why I chose to do music in the first place. Fifteen years or so later my songs are still mind numbingly simple but hopefully a little less horrible. The main change is that now I’m not thinking so much when I write. It’s less a cerebral experience and more just trying to get in touch with the tone of the song and its emotional character and weight.

SZ: How have you shaped your everyday life around being able to make music?

JM: I’ve taken on a vow of poverty and dismissed any chance of having a successful and meaningful relationship with a woman.

SZ: What keeps you in it and what encourages you to keep working hard at it?
JM: The money and the chicks. Oh, and being part of a community of like minded souls. It’s so important to me to surround myself with people who understand the craft and who are trying create something unique and beautiful through art. That exchange of ideas and encouragement of each other is priceless. It’s like having your own little church. Or AA meeting.

SZ: What does your writing process look like?

JM: My good friend and drummer Jeff Hawthorne used to quote some Disney movie that said, “melody first my dear, then the lyrics” and since I spent most of my time studying in an instrumental music environment, that was my approach. But I always had trouble with words, and trying to get something vocally that fit melodies better suited for a trumpet or a violin. It always came out sounding contrived and stupid. Melody is still of utmost importance to me but I’m very aware of how the voice works now and what melodies lend themselves to good song.

SZ: Tell us about the studio environment and recording process

JM: There’s a big orange “Pharmacy” sign that was stolen from a rooftop somewhere and a stuffed penguin in the corner, taxidermy style. Ok, I’ve been working on my upcoming record for a little while now. Brad Lee of Loud And Clear Records is putting it out and recording me for free at he and Pall’s studio, and since they’re not wealthy men, I kind of have to slip in when there’s not already something booked that will help pay their rent. The songs were all written and performed live before I went in to record so they themselves haven’t changed. But there is a lot that’s come together in the studio with regards to sound and instrumentation. Interesting microphone and mixing techniques and what not. Both Brad and Pall are very good at using the studio as an instrument.

SZ: What are your hopes for 2009?
JM: I’d like to keep writing better and better songs, and be able to play those songs for as many people as possible. Of course ending world hunger and finding a pair of pants I like would be nice too.

John and his band play at Beauty Bar on December 23 and you can view more photographs from our night with John by clicking the Photo Gallery link below.

Tags: Band Interview, John Meeks, Musician Interview


Great set last night at Whistle Stop
Zack Nielsen made this post on 12/15/2008 at 12:56 pm
i think i'd like to see a feature about the robe
wes bruce made this post on 12/15/2008 at 6:28 pm
The dude abides, man.
Meeks made this post on 12/15/2008 at 8:38 pm
You made Moses a star.
Jared made this post on 12/15/2008 at 11:20 pm
Jimmy and Kate's hardwood floor sounds better than my kick drum!
The Hoth made this post on 12/17/2008 at 6:37 pm
Saw you at the Whistle Stop and thought you guys were awesome. It was great to actually understand what your songs say. I believe you appeal to all sorts of music lovers.
Kate Stonaker made this post on 12/19/2008 at 8:34 pm
Moses! We miss Moses....and you kinda.
Vast Atlantic made this post on 1/8/2009 at 6:21 pm
I agree with Kate! Need to hear what u r singing. So i'll come to San Diego this summer!!
John Meeks SR made this post on 4/7/2009 at 2:38 pm

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