WILLIAM John Jr had thrown himself so completely into his music last year he felt “burnt out”.
Despite recording a self-titled debut album from material he’d been writing since 2014, he walked away, unsure if the tracks would ever reach a public audience.
Thankfully the break was temporary. Six months to be exact.
Because the blues and psych-rock songwriter had built a reputation as one of Newcastle’s most explosive young performers.
“I was playing every weekend and it just took its toll,” John said. “You’ve got to find a good balance of playing too much and not enough. I was playing too much and burnt myself out.
“I was just so excited about playing and I’d do it every weekend. Now that I’ve taken a step back, I’m just so eager to step back into the scene and hit the ground running and think about the shows that I’m playing.”
John’s debut album, released last Friday, is the embodiment of his live shows. There’s the loose free-form expression of The Doors, the raw garage rock of the White Stripes and the hazy psychedelia of early Tame Impala.
“We tracked it live all in one day,” he said. “I sat on it for a while and didn’t really feel like it was the right thing.
“I had bit of a break, and had another listen to it, and realised it was great.”
The album features Bodie Werleman (drums), James Hodgett (keys), Luke Hay (bass), plus jazz singer Georgie Jones lends her vocal talents to the album highlights Light Shines Through The Night and Fly On.
The band performed each track three times for producer Geoff Mullard at RTN Studios, before the best take was chosen to ensure the finished product breathed with live energy.
John also gave each member freedom to bring their own flavour to the music.
“I said that’s where you can express yourself and go for your life,” he said.
“I didn’t have anything written for them. I just gave them the chords or the beat. That’s what I wanted from the start because it just makes it so much easier for this style of music.”
The six-month break from music has also seen John – who uses his first and middle name as his alias to keep an element of anonymity – develop his songwriting in a different direction.
“I’ve actually started writing some more raw blues stuff because my bass player Luke is moving to Melbourne, so I’ve taken the opportunity to write stuff like The White Stripes where it’s more garage duo stuff,” he said.
“I’m going to be moving away from the jammy 10-minute songs with five solos and into short sharp garage rock songs.
“That’s what the next album is leaning towards - quick, loud, and crunchy.”
William John Jr launches his debut album at the Oriental Hotel on January 19.