John Meeks doesn’t just listen to classic country, he lives it. “That was the music on the radio in the car when I was a kid.” His dad performed country music in honky-tonks across New Mexico, and the family traveled as a unit. “As much as I was irritated that I had to be awake at three in the morning, I did get extra cherries in my Shirley Temples,” he says.
Meeks still spends a lot of time on the road. “I think every song on my album was started in the car.” He records his inspirations on an iPhone. “In the car is where I can sing without feeling self-conscious. It’s a good place to write. I think Dylan said the same thing — that he’s always got to be in motion to write music.” At the end of a day, Meeks says he makes a proper demo at home, which his bandmates — Brian Holwerda, Matt Resovich, Tom Peart, Brad Lee, and Kyle Zantos — flesh out later in the studio.
John Meeks writes all the music and heads up the band that bears his name, which performs at the Casbah on Friday, May 21.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NOW?
“Getting my new record Old Blood out and playing beyond the reaches of San Diego as much as possible.”
IS THERE A COMMON THREAD THAT RUNS THROUGH YOUR SONGS?
“Lost love, heartache, and murder. The normal stuff.”
WHAT INSPIRES AND INFORMS YOUR MUSIC?
“Other great music, whether it is a well-written song, a beautiful melody, an interesting use of rhythm, or a lyrical phrase that rips your heart open and makes you want to lie on the floor.”
IS WRITING A TORTUROUS PROCESS?
“Mostly it’s torturous. Lyrically, anyway. I’ve had a few songs that have written themselves, and those of course are my biggest-selling hits. Two people streamed them last year on Rhapsody, and I made 17 cents.”
IS SAN DIEGO A HARD PLACE TO LAUNCH A MUSIC CAREER?
“It’s my opinion that the planet Earth in general is a hard place to launch a career in music. But San Diego does have a lot of really good musicians making quite the range of sound, and everyone here is very supportive of each other.”
WAS THERE AN “AHA” MOMENT WHEN YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO BE A MUSICIAN?
“I was about seven, and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said without hesitation that I want to make a living playing music, like my dad. Kids are so stupid.”
FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT, WHICH IS BETTER: TO HUSTLE CDs AT A GIG OR SELL DOWNLOADS?
“Both. In fact, you can download my first single ‘Been Down by Love’ right now anywhere you buy music digitally, or you can come to our record-release party at the Casbah and I’ll hustle you for a hard copy.”
IF MUSIC DOESN’T MAKE IT, DO YOU HAVE A PLAN B?
BEST SONG TO HAVE SEX TO?
“I’m saving myself for Jesus, so maybe Handel’s Messiah?”
BEST PLACE TO SCORE MEXICAN FOOD?
“If you ask me this question in one hundred years, the answer will still be El Zarape in University Heights.”
TEN CLASSIC DISCS?
1) Lee Hazlewood, Cowboy in Sweden
2) Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain
3) Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
4) George Jones, Singing the Blues
5) Marty Robbins, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
6) Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks (New York sessions)
7) Flatt & Scruggs, The World of Flatt & Scruggs
8) The Louvin Brothers, Tragic Songs of Life
9) Sons of the Pioneers, Cool Water
10) Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic)