Recording Artist in Residence

May 15, 2012

Recording Artist in Residence

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John Newlands is a recording artist who was born, raised and who lives in Sudbury. He has recorded over 135 songs which ultimately express his love for the natural environment, and yet very few people in our community know John's music.

So, what's a concerned citizen to do?

Recently, I read a critique of the concept of objectivity in the field of journalism. The author asserted that the industry's restriction on journalists not to speak in their own voice, as though journalists do not feel, perpetuates the myth of the neutral observer and the phenomenon of voyeurism. I love John's music and I thought people might enjoy getting to know his music through my particular insights, and this article convinced me to feel comfortable giving John's music a personal voice by showcasing one of his songs every week on Grassroots. 

John and I disagree about whether songwriters should discuss the meaning of their songs or not. John feels that the process of making music is inherently interactive, that songwriters and listeners build narrative together. If a songwriter discusses what a song is about, the listener’s creative input is sacrificed and the opportunity to propagate a culture of creativity is lost. Sharing the meaning of songs may, especially if the meaning is apolitical, or too micro-political, nurture a more passive experience of music for listeners, the kind of passivity that is conducive to a culture of consumption versus a culture of creativity. Indeed, John feels his own creativity developed as a result of this interaction with music. I accept these arguments, but I also believe some people are inspired, not suppressed, by the intention of art. I also feel that the state of art today is too dilapidated not to discuss its meaning.

There are plenty of artists who will volunteer to reminisce with you about the good old days, encourage you to lust, obsess and mourn what you don't have, and revisit the pain of lost love, but there are very few artists who have undertaken to study global warming, peak oil, food security, foreign and domestic policy and set it to poetry and music.

As more and more of us come to understand and accept our planet's natural limits, I feel John's art will become increasingly recognized for its leadership role. And what better way to participate in your community than to learn about the people in it? So, join me for the next 139 weeks for Recording Artist in Residence: John Newlands Song-of-the-Week Series.

WARNING:  John's music is bass-driven; for best results, listen on big speakers!


Repeat And Fade

Despite John having 139 songs to choose from, I found it relatively easy to pick Repeat And Fade as the first song for this series. Repeat And Fade is a song about obstacles, both serious and silly.  It's about asserting yourself in the face of these obstacles. Asserting your right to be creative. Asserting the space and freedom to do what you're good at and what you love to do, and how this represents a true symbiosis with nature when we're able to accomplish this as individuals. It is a constant challenge to assert this particular freedom in our culture, and the commitment it requires is precisely why I'm starting the series with this song.

This song is also about maintaining a conscious connection to your childhood knowledge and experiences that is self-directed: the childhood as muse, if you will. This can be a particular challenge in a culture that prepares its youth for lives of waged labour.

This song is also about the kinds of homes we build for ourselves, how much safety we build into them if we're privileged enough to do so, and how much joy we build into them if we're brave enough to do so.

This song has also evolved new meaning for John now. The process of coming to understand that his art form is not sustainable - none of the resources used in the recording process are sustainable - forces the question of what to do with this knowledge and the incredible pain of that illusion shattered. In this way, this song is also about our unshakeable beliefs, the places we're all naïve.

You are invited to visit John's website at