For Ohio State alumnus John Wayne, creating music has always been less about where it could take him and more about the people he can reach.
“I’m not worried about fame or fortune, but I want to think about how music touches people and I want to make music that means something,” Wayne said. “I want to give a big platform of people a chance to hear what I have to say.”
Wayne’s interest in music started young — something he said he believes is largely because his dad was in a rock band and would take him to shows. When Wayne was 13, he and some friends in Bellefontaine, Ohio, decided to start a band, one that lasted throughout high school and played over 100 shows across Ohio including at The Basement and Newport Music Hall in Columbus.
Wayne has been a solo artist for a few years now and said the shift happened pretty naturally.
“Shortly after the band broke up, I went to college and it was easier to focus on my own music,” he said.
Since it’s just him, Wayne said he prefers to produce his music on the computer because it allows him to fill all the parts and take a lot of creative liberty with his sound.
“I take a DIY approach to making my music because I’m focused on making something sound as professional as possible with as little cost as possible,” he said. “I use mostly free software so I can try to take the station out of the equation and just record something as authentic as possible.”
Wayne said he feels that the little steps he takes along the way result in music that can be best described as a mix of contemporary, modern and hip-hop elements.
Citing Kanye West, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar as lyrical influences, Wayne said there is an underlying vibe that alludes to older artists, such as Tom Petty, the Eagles and even Isaac Hayes.
“When I write, I start with an inspiration, like a feeling or a vibe,” he said. “Lately, for my most recent inspirations, I pull most of my stuff from the past. I like finding old songs that no one knows about because they can be really rich.”
While Wayne is a solo artist, he sought help from friends and other artists along the way.
“We recorded (Wayne’s) first song at my house, so I have seen where it all started,” said long-time friend Connor Kellogg.
Wayne said he prefers to bounce his ideas and rough copies off Kellogg for honest criticism, something Kellogg said he finds funny given Wayne’s independent drive.
“Somebody could tell (Wayne) how something isn’t going to work, and he would reply with how he’ll make it work, no matter what,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg said he admires Wayne’s drive and determination to do things his way.
“John lives and breathes through his music, and you can tell he wants people to know exactly who he is through it,” Kellogg said.
Part of Wayne doing things his own way comes into play when performing live, something he said he doesn’t want to do until his upcoming album has been digitally released and heard.
“I want to release (the album) and distribute it in the modern way that people are experiencing music,” he said. “The artists I aspire to be on the same level as release their stuff first and hope people will like it enough to buy a ticket later.”
Wayne is currently working on a currently untitled album. “Peaks+Valleys,” the album’s first single, will be released on his bandcamp page when he gets the determination, oddly enough, to stop.
“It’s a matter of me being stern with myself and putting a date on it,” he said. “I keep making more songs and I don’t know if I can stop yet.”
Regardless of how long it takes, Wayne said he believes the solo process has helped teach him how to be the most authentic version of himself and to never doubt his dreams.
“It’s really introspective because I’m kind of putting myself on a pedestal and presenting myself to people,” he said. “If you’re confident in yourself and your story, you can come from nothing like me and still get somewhere.”