Rock The Vote is where music and politics meet. Original Retro Brand had the pleasure and good fortune to meet R&B singer-songwriter and rapper, John West, at the recent Rock The Vote-Original Retro Brand apparel launch. John was kind enough to answer a few questions for us...
Andy: Before you began your music career, you had other plans to make a living as a cartoonist. Do you still want to pursue this other art form professionally, or is it more of an enjoyable hobby on the side now?
John: Yeah, cartooning used to really be my thing; political cartoons, comic strips, caricatures – but once I started taking music seriously near the end of college, I haven't really looked back. That being said, there's a children's book concept I've been sitting on for years that I look forward to getting published once I've built up a name for myself.
Andy: I think you've achieved that goal John - Let's see the book (I have a 7 year old who loves to read)! Coincidentally you and I share the same birthday of May 11. I have 23 years on you so I was 11 in 1971 when one of your musical influences, Carole King, released her epic “Tapestry” album. Were there any songs specifically from that album that influenced your music and style?
John: Nice, same birthday! Carole King's entire album was so good, from the very first bars of "I Feel The Earth Move" .. My favorite track is probably "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." Such a great concept and melody, and then with a crossover ability that got Aretha Franklin wanting to cover the same song. Pretty dope (Speaking of "Pretty dope," check John's video below).
Andy: Is it also safe to assume that growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had a profound effect on your musical influence as well? If so, can you specify? Or maybe it had more affect on you being an LSU fan? Perhaps I’m assuming wrong on both? Please clarify.
John: Baton Rouge definitely had an impact musically. Some of my good friends in high school were jazz musicians so I used to catch my guys playing all the local spots every weekend. That taught me a lot about the groove of good live music. Plus there were a lot of jam bands playing around the LSU campus, so by the time I moved to Chicago at age 19, I had been influenced for sure. And let's not forget about gumbo. I'm just saying.
Andy: Even as a Georgia Bulldog fan, I can appreciate the best gumbo in the world... Ok, how did you get hooked up with the folks at Rock The Vote, and can you explain your role/what you do as a performer/music ambassador for the movement?
John: I met Kelly Fogel of RTV through our mutual friend Emile Kelman, who's a fantastic producer/songwriter that I've had the pleasure of working with a lot over the years. It's been great coming out to some of the RTV events like Rock the Vote and Original Retro Brand's t-shirt launch during Grammy week. I'm down to help spread the word however I can – voting means having a say in where the country is headed. That's important to me.
Andy: As you know, the Original Retro Brand has a line of Rock The Vote apparel that we’re very proud of. Can you tell us what you like about our shirts?
John: I particularly love the Rock the Vote sneaker t-shirt, it's just got a really fresh/retro vibe and meanwhile works as a great reminder to get to the polls come November.
Special thanks to John for his time, and especially for his Music and commitment to Rock The Vote!