An Interview with John Salvage

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John Salvage - Trade Coyote (Official Music Video) - YouTube

I will never get tired of supporting indie artists and today is one of those days. John Salvage is a Michigan based artist, who is about to release his debut record, Coyote Hasten through Org Music. Org has a long standing tradition of two things: putting out quality music and doing so on quality pressed vinyl. If you’re looking for a blind buy so to speak, then John Salvage’s new record is a safe bet. I have listened to the record however. The music speaks of John’s life in the Mid West and as a songwriter doing what he does best- playing the music he loves. If you would like to check out Coyote Hasten, you can head over to Org Music’s site here, or John’s Bandcamp here. That’s all for now. Enjoy getting to know John.

Andrew:
John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever raging dumpster fire?

John:
It has been absolutely bizarre. I have been incredibly fortunate as no one I’m close to has died from COVID, and I didn’t lose my job. I try to maintain perspective on that, but it did hit me yesterday that it’s been close to a year of living this weird limbo life. I’ve held up pretty well because of those fortunate things but more than ready for it to be done. 

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

John:
I’m originally from the Toledo, OH area. Grew up outside the city, went to college nearby and then moved to Detroit when I was 24, close to 10 years ago. I started playing in bands when I was 12 I think, first singing and bass, and then guitar and writing when I was about 14. I remember finding out what a band was when I was in elementary school and it was like a lightning rod to my head that I’ve never been able to shake, and music is all I have ever wanted to do since then. That was the reason for moving to Detroit was to be in a bigger pool of musicians, which definitely was and is the case. I knew almost no one when I moved here though, so it took those 10 years to get where I’m at of being friends with other musicians and artists, which if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have been able to make, or release, this record. It was a very wild, and very fun 10 years though.

Andrew:
What first sparked your interest in making music?

John:
Like I said, I remember being in I believe 6th grade when another kid said that he and some other guys were starting a band. And it was that classic, “You can do that?” moment for me. I spent a lot of time in the car with my family growing up and my dad would always have music playing, mostly early Rock ’N’ Roll and older Country, so there was always a love of listening to music. But when I first discovered that I could in fact obtain a guitar, it totally changed my life.

Andrew:
As an artist, which artists have been your biggest inspiration and why?

John:
I have a top three with that. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Replacements, and The Clash. Each of those acts have been very important at different stages in my life, and they’re the ones that I keep going back to.

Andrew:
What does your process look like? How do you go about creating your music?

John:
It’s really all over the place. Sometimes I’ll hear something in my head when I’m away from home, sing it into my voice memos on my phone, and then try and nail it down later. Other times I’ll just start playing until something clicks. Here and there I’ll try to write something that fits an archetype of a song. Every once in a great while, something will just appear right away when I start playing. It helps that I genuinely just enjoy playing music, no matter what it is, because wherever my songs come from, a lot of times I feel like I have no say in when I get to hear them before anyone else.

Andrew:
Let’s touch on your newest release, Coyote Hasten. Tell us about the recording of the record. What was your inspiration? Where can we get your album, and what formats will it be on?

John:
I started recording it the summer of 2019 at home. My partner Emily and I had been talking about moving out of Detroit but that spring we figured out that it wasn’t going to work. So I made a very distinct decision to start working on music more like a job, as in put in more effort on the career side of it. And the first thing was I needed to put out a record and I started going over everything I had written to see what would work together. I didn’t have a band at the time so it being an acoustic record was as much out of necessity as it was inspiration. Some of the songs on the record are over a decade old and some I wrote in the process; it was just important to me that it play like an album. I was able to get about 80% done at home, then finished recording at Outer Limits Lounge for the louder stuff and some additional musicians. After that it was mixed and mastered at Third Man Records here in Detroit. I can’t emphasize enough that I couldn’t have finished the album as it is if I lived anywhere else. It is now available both digitally and on vinyl as of 1/29/2021, and you can order from my Bandcamp (johnsalvage.bandcamp.com) as well as orgmusic.com.

SALVAGE,JOHN Coyote Hasten on PopMarket

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

John:
Mostly, that I just miss albums. They’re such a great artistic statement and I feel like they’ve started to disappear a bit (Kendrick Lamar’s Damn was a great album). I know everyone’s attention spans have shortened, mine has too. But the art of an album where each song plays to each other to make a bigger journey is just the best to me. That’s personal preference though. It’d be nice if solid musical equipment was a fair price. There is a very “have and have nots” situation going on when it comes to the price of quality musical instruments and equipment that I find really troubling. Have you ever heard a band with a bad drum set play with a good drum set? It changes everything. That’s obviously part of a bigger problem but it surely effects musicians, especially aspiring ones.   

Andrew:
Opinion question. In a world dominated by big business and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

John:
I have no idea. Social media is such a wild west concept and who the hell knows where it’s going to take us. As far as level, it seems like it is pretty level at the moment because everyone and anyone can post stuff for cheap or free. And that’s great, but it also dilutes because now it’s just constant output from everyone and people will probably start to ignore that constant output. But I’m sure there’s other stuff that I am fully unaware of as I’ve only just started trying to get into that side of things.

Andrew:
I’ve learned that royalties via Spotify and Apple Music are a huge issue that indie artists face. What are your thoughts on that? How do we close the gap and make things more fair?

John:
Again, I don’t have any concept on that stuff because I’ve never been paid like that for music before. I’m still at the level that if I play a solo show and get paid $100, it’s a giant payout for me. It doesn’t surprise me that those things are an issue though, just like royalties with record companies before them were an issue. I suppose one thing a person can do is make sure they own everything of theirs outright.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those interests inform your music, if at all?

John:
I’m very into pop culture, specifically movies, television and comic books (although with comic books I don’t have nearly vast a knowledge like others). All of those mediums inform my music because it’s all art. If I see or read anything making a statement that resonates me, it comes out in a feeling I’m trying to convey with music that I create. I would say I stay more up to date with film and television than I do music honestly. I wish I was a better reader. I have a hard time concentrating for the first section of any book. And like many other musicians, I’m obsessed with music gear, love researching it and dreaming about everything I would buy if I was a rich person.

Andrew:
Are you into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? How big is your collection these days?

John:
I used to be very much into the hunt of record collecting, and I have a pretty respectable collection. But nowadays, the biggest way for me to pay for new music is going to shows and seeing it live. That’s been the toughest part about COVID-19 to me is not seeing live music. You could go to a show almost every night in Detroit before it hit. It might be because of what I was saying earlier about albums and a set of songs that flow, if a band has a good set list it can put me right back to being 16 or 17 and having nothing to do but listen to records.

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

John:
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. They both tie for my favorite for completely different and completely similar reasons. Both of those records tap into a sound that’s unique and definitive, which is something I’m always striving to find.

Knower | John Salvage

Andrew:
Two-part question. Where do you see your music going in the future and how do you stay inspired creatively?

John:
I’m close to having the next record fully written and hopefully we’ll start recording it in the next month. It will be a little bit of a departure from Coyote Hasten as it won’t be acoustic based, and some of the songs will feature the new band I recently started. But it’s still me, still my viewpoint on songwriting so I don’t think it’s that different just moving forward. I have 2 or 3 more sets of songs to record as different albums after that. I have sort of a Russian roulette approach to trying to stay inspired in that I don’t try, hope that I continue to be, and am scared that one day I won’t be anymore. I don’t recommend it to anyone.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve maintained a strong DIY approach thus far in your career, which is never a bad thing. That being said, what advice would you have for artists just getting started?

John:
Play all the time. Learn other people’s songs to get started (I guess I lied earlier, that is one way I stay inspired) and just play, play, play. The only way to get better and more creative is to play to the point where you find those two things. And then after that, remember that you can be even better and more creative, so you better play some more.

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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