We had the good fortune of connecting with John McCloy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how do you think about risk?
Comedian Steve Harvey uses cliffs and parachutes as an analogy: those you see living the extraordinary life we envy often took the risk of jumping off the cliff, and their parachute opened. They rarely open at first; dues must be paid. Setbacks and doubts will creep up to sabotage along the way. But if you never jump—oh, you’ll be safe and comfortable—but your parachute will never ever open. Sure, there are exceptions of pure luck and effortlessness, but too rare to consider as a rule. I wish I had heard that years ago, I would have taken bigger risks. But life is a series of forks in the road we can’t predict when we first chart out our destiny, and we often end up living David Byrne’s “Once In a Lifetime” lyrics: “…and you may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here?” Honestly, I wasn’t ready way back then. I have blossomed in my later years. I’m ready now. I had to go through there to get to here. So my risk taking is ahead of me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I played the Sunset Strip clubs for years and years hoping for the Big Break. But many dominos have to fall in a delicate choreography of luck, timing, luck, musical climate, skill, luck, preparation, opportunity, and luck. 😀 The best don’t get their spotlight if no one with the power to change a career ever hears them. Heartbreak and bitter disappointment can eat you up. So among the laundry list of needed elements, luck has to be a healthy part of it.
But it wasn’t until I stopped pursuing the End Result and began focusing on the reward of the process: writing, recording, rehearsing and performing, taking out all of the expectation and being in the moment. THAT is when my music became the goal, the end result, and not what would happen after. Not coincidentally, that’s when my best writing began.
Like all songwriters, singers, guitar players, I evoke the ghosts of my influences. Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore, Burton Cummings, U2, Neil Diamond. Put them in a blender and sift it through my fingerprints and that’s me.
I aim for a memorable melody and, most challenging, universally relatable lyrics. I try and space lines of lyrics like stepping stones over a river of thought; close enough to walk across comfortably, but far enough apart to let the listener interpret the flow of their own experiences.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in North Hollywood and LA has so much to offer. Fish and Chips at Malibu Seafood, an outdoor shack on Pacific Coast Highway. Cross it and you’re on the sand. Nothing like the serenity of hearing the waves and breathing ocean air for the afternoon. Then dinner at Musso & Franks, where old school Hollywood stars dined. Then off to The Whisky a GoGo for Ultimate Jam Night where you see some great local talent (often supporting major artists on tour, studio musicians etc).
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents. My dad loved showing me off when they had company. He’d yell for me to come down and bring my guitar, then sit in the back of the room with a huge grin as I played. Support like that gives you huge momentum for later in life.
My days with Ten Inch Men were formative for sure. I witnessed Mark Templin’s and David Coutts’s collaborative songwriting with no regard to conventions or rules. They did what they wanted until they liked the end result. Trail blazing their own way. Before joining them, before we got signed, I was too rigid in my writing. Then, in the studio, Neil Dorfsman’s (Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms, Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun) producing philosophies soaked into me through osmosis. To this day, he is always spiritually in the room when I record, arrange, produce and mix.
And two bands I saw that gave me the compass to follow—ironically, ones I didn’t care to see—but concerts I was dragged to by enthusiastic friends: Queen 1980 and U2 1983. Freddie Mercury’s charisma and vocal range was so inspiring, made me realize I had to take my musical hobby to another level. And then Bono’s infectious ability to glue an entire arena into being one soul. I left there knowing I had to one day be able to recreate that feeling, to pass it on. That was the day—without knowing it at the time—that I knew I had to play music professionally.
Rose Guererrd, Amy Taylor, Myles Matsuno, Sal Gomez