A conversation with local musician John Patrick Halling

Written by Patrick Williams on . Posted in Patrick's Picks

Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Photo by Emily Kaelin

Junior anthropology major John Patrick Halling discusses his plans for his music and upcoming EP.

I first came across the sincere music of John Patrick Halling in early October. What stuck with me was the sound and sight of him singing, strumming his guitar and swaying in a field playing the medley “Ain’t No Reason/Let Her Go.” I met Halling, a junior anthropology major, in November, and we talked about his music and plans for an upcoming EP.

The History

Patrick Williams: How long have you been making music?

John Patrick Halling: I got my first guitar when I was in eighth grade. I guess ever since then. I haven’t been writing until about four years ago. That’s when I actually started putting music out.

PW: What kind of music do you play?

JPH: A lot of folk music, more like a contemporary style of folk music. I used to be in an alternative-rock band, so there’s a weird influence of that in there too. But it’s different. I like it.

PW: Which band were you in?

JPH: Ah, nobody’s ever heard of us, so that doesn’t matter. (laughing)

PW: All right. I saw on your YouTube channel you had covers of Bright Eyes and The Maine. Is that the kind of music you listen to primarily?

JPH: Yeah, I’m all over the place. The Maine, Bright Eyes, and older people like The Beatles — I listen to [them] all the time — and Bob Dylan — a little mix of old and new and in between.

PW: What do you like about the kind of music that you like?

JPH: I think, especially with folk music, it’s more honest than other kinds of music. I can talk about things that I feel and other people feel, and they can instantly relate to it more so than pop music or other genres.

PW: Which kinds of things do you mean?

JPH: Obviously, love is a big one. I guess a lot of singer-songwriters write about the women they’ve fallen for and have broken their hearts. I think everyone can relate to that. Probably a lot of songs about my family and friends and just things I think about and see every day.

PW: Have you been through heartbreak?

JPH: Too many times to care for, yeah, but it makes for good song material, I guess.

Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Photo by Emily Kaelin

Burr blogger Patrick Williams interviews Halling for behind-the-scenes perspectives on his music.

The Blue Barn Sessions

PW: Yeah, OK. More recently you had a video, The Blue Barn Sessions. I feel like that was a little different, more spare playing, quieter kind of vocals. Would you agree?

JPH: Yeah, I think that’s the direction I’m kind of going in now. I’ve been working on an EP the past couple weeks, and Passenger and Brett Dennen — it’s a mashup I did for that song (“Ain’t No Reason/Let Her Go”) — are two influences I have, and they both have really cool voices and really cool styles, and I try to put that into my own kind of style.

PW: Yeah. What is The Blue Barn Sessions exactly?

JPH: That’s actually a project me and my friend started. We live in a house — it’s really ugly — and it looks like a blue barn, and I live with a bunch of musicians. So we kind of wanted to start something where we could showcase local musicians in a medium that they normally wouldn’t be exposed to. It started with our friends, and we’re trying to branch out eventually, but school and stuff gets in the way too.

PW: What do you have coming up? Concerts? Or you said you’re working on an EP?

JPH: Working on it. Yeah, I play open mic night at Ohio Music Shop downtown every Thursday [at 7 p.m.], but right now I’m trying to focus on recording and getting this EP out, hopefully by the new year, depending on how the schedule works out. But I play at the Stone Tavern every now and then and [other places] around the Stow-Akron-Canton area, too.

PW: Do you have a name for the EP yet?

JPH: It’s going to be called “Two Strangers.”

PW: And is that all originals?

JPH: Yeah, all originals.

PW: All right. And what would readers expect — what should they expect — at one of your shows, say, if they came out on a Thursday to Ohio Music Shop?

JPH: Honest, heartfelt performance. For me, music is something to express yourself and get people to relate to you and understand and help people through certain things, so I try to put that into my performance, too, so it’s not just watching somebody play a song. You can actually experience the song as I understand it and have your own interpretation of it. I have some slower songs, so there’s that. Then I pick it up every now and then, too, and try to have some fun, get people drinking, too, and whatnot. (laughing)

Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Photo by Emily Kaelin

Halling talks with Burr blogger Patrick Williams.

The Future

PW: What do you think readers should know about your being a musician, your musicianship?

JPH: I don’t know; I guess that will come in time. I think what I’m trying to do is different than a lot of things that are out there right now. The feedback I got from a lot of the songs I’ve been recording is that it’s a really cool and unique style that kind of blends a bunch of things together. And I guess just to harken back to the honesty thing, it’s just who I am put into music, and I think hopefully people will be able to relate to that.