Course Studied: BTEC in Popular Music

Year of Graduation: 2010

Hailing from Settle in North Yorkshire, singer, songwriter and musician John Newman has gone on to achieve international recognition with hit songs including ‘Love Me Again’, ‘Come and Get It’ and Rudimental’s ‘Feel The Love’.

John first moved to Leeds in 2007 to study on our BTEC programme in Popular Music. He subsequently returned to Leeds Conservatoire in October 2015 as part of our 50th anniversary celebrations, participating in a live Q&A session ahead of the launch of – Revolve: The Book. The book details the creation process involved in writing his second album.   

After a brief hiatus from music, John has recently launched his latest single – ‘Fire In Me’. We spoke to John about his career highlights and time spent in Leeds, alongside some advice for songwriters starting out in the industry.

What have been your 3 top career highlights?

I think starting from the top... I'd just had my first song out with Rudimental and I went home to Settle in North Yorkshire where I'm from. I picked up the Craven Herald - the paper I used to deliver (well, I used to throw them in the river and pretend that I'd delivered them) and it said on the front page 'Settle born singer number one in the charts.' That was a pretty proud moment.

Number two - I was in New York and it was freezing. We were touring in the USA and we'd been on Good Morning America - I then got a call saying I'd been nominated for three Brit awards (British Male Solo Artist, British Single and British Video for ‘Love Me Again’) and on the same day I was told I was number two in the American album charts. 

I think my third biggest career highlight was performing 'Blame' at Coachella, I closed the festival because Calvin Harris headlined the last night. I went on after Rihanna, so that was a pretty special moment.

You grew up in Settle. Does Yorkshire hold a special place in your heart when you are touring internationally? 

I think when travelling, you've always got to remember the Northerner in you. There was an amazing thing when I first moved to London, I realised that nobody queued for buses and I got really upset. The other great thing about being on the road with another Northerner, is that you can speak in a language that nobody understands and just mumble at each other and that's the job done.

What first got you into songwriting?

I first got into songwriting so I could write songs about girls and sing them down the phone to them to impress them. However, there was a tragic accident while I was studying at Leeds Conservatoire and I lost one of my best friends at age 16. I went through a pretty hard time. I started listening to Otis Reading. I actually stole a copy of Otis Blue from the Leeds Conservatoire Library - I still owe you money for this and I apologise, but it has changed my entire life. That was the beginning of me writing songs for an emotive reason - I have to thank you and your library for that!

What drew you towards studying music and living in Leeds?

One of the main reasons was I grew up in a really small town not too far away in Settle and Leeds was the closest city. It has remarkable amounts of culture; I was drawn in time and time again into the music scene within Leeds and the talent that was already there. Leeds Conservatoire was of interest to me because it is one of the best conservatoires in the country. As soon as I became fully absorbed I started gigging.

What advice would you give to songwriters looking to break into the industry?

Never stop wanting to do better. I think there are many things; hype and pride, that people will fill you with. But don't ever let those be the things that you can relax on. It doesn't matter how much money you earn, how many headline shows you've done, hit songs you have - you can always do better. 

It's also important to always do what you think is right. You're the one that’s got to live with it if it goes wrong, you're the one that's got to see it through when everyone disappears. You are the one that's got to drive it all the way - so never go with a decision that you personally don't believe in.

Visit John Newman’s official website.

Learn more about our BA (Hons) in Music Songwriting.

Alternatively, check out some more information on our degree pathway in Popular Music.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

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