Fading to Black with "Dark City": A conversation with musician John Henry

Musicians wear their hearts on their sleeves, and carry their souls on their shoulders when they walk out on the stage to play a live show.

For St. Louis based musician John Henry, the idea of playing music with a variety of musicians in a wide array of locations is the sweet spot. After releasing his new album 'Dark City, Dark Country' last year, and playing at LouFest, Henry wanted to take it a step further. He wanted to do a video for the single, Fade to Black.

This Saturday at Off Broadway, Henry and his band headline a video release party and it's going to be a special night of rock 'n' roll music, celebration with friends, and hopefully some memorable moments. In other words, a good night for a musician. 

I had the chance to speak with Henry about the show, the past year, and the road ahead this week. 

Buffa: Saturday night at Off Broadway, the video for Fade to Black is released. Tell me about the journey from song one on the first album to this special event.

Henry: We had released the record as a whole at Loufest and I wanted to create a visual element for the song Fade to Black in conjunction with a show to get some added attention to the album. Worked with a great filmmaker named Tim Maupin on a screenplay and dialed in the video. Looking forward to sharing it.

Buffa: How has the album been received in the past few months?

Henry: The rollout of the record has been nice and steady and things are looking good down the line, as well. Really focusing a lot of licensing tracks for the album for TV and Film and working through a few projects.

Buffa: Do the wife and kids call you a rock star? How is it being a family man who sings his heart out for a living?

Henry: Ha ha, no! My wife and I have been together since we were 19, so songwriting and playing shows and band lifestyle have been a part of our life together since we met. With the addition of our son and our second son due here in a few weeks, there’s just a lot of music around the house. Instruments in every room.

Buffa: Dark City, Dark Country was recorded at Native Sound and has many flavors. There's rock, blues, and country. Do you feel that switching up the sound keeps the music fresh?

Henry: I don’t  think of it in exactly those terms. I am always trying to write the best songs I can. I am a firm believer that everything you hear in some way can filter through into your writing, so there are a lot of different flavors that present themselves. David Beeman and I did a few days of preproduction where we sat down and discussed songs and I played him over 20. We narrowed it down and discussed thoughts for different tones, production and colors that we thought would work the best. But in the end, the songs show themselves and you have to follow that.

Buffa: Recently, you stripped down the name of your band from John Henry and The Engine to simply John Henry. Is it more of an adjustment for your career or a new direction for the music?

Henry: Basically, I just wanted more flexibility within the context of a band. I spent a lot of time writing in Nashville and saw the way that writers and bandleaders had the flexibility to use different folks for different songs at different times and I liked it. I also wanted the weight to completely rest on me, for better or worse. Right now I am lucky to have a great group of guys to play with who are inspiring and bring their unique talents to the songs and are comfortable within this framework. We enjoy being around each other but also give each other a lot space. So it was just natural movement as opposed to one crystallized moment.

Buffa: Are their plans and songs set in motion for the next album, or is it more about playing the heck out of this album?

Henry: Dark City Dark Country is my total creative focus at this point. But I do have a few new songs in the works.

Buffa: Five years from now, where is John Henry and what is he doing?

Henry: Doing what I am doing right now at a higher level. Striving to write better music and further my career.

Buffa: What can fans expect Saturday night? You have Letter to Memphis doing their final show and Brothers Lazaroff joining you on this show?

Henry: I think the band is playing very well and I am excited for the show. We have a few special surprises that I am really looking forward to.

I think the bill is great. Both Letter to Memphis and Brothers Lazaroff are great bands that work hard and they are good people as well. I think it is going to be a really great night of music and with everything that’s going on now; I think that’s a good thing.

Buffa: If you were to talk to a young aspiring musician and had to tell him one good thing and one bad thing about the business, what would those two things be?

Henry: I would say that are so many things in the business that you can’t control that you have to try and control what you can control. Your effort, your hard work, relationships that you make and foster and commitment to writing the best song you can.

I would also say that is important that once you’re working that being even keel is a key. Enjoy the good stuff, but never get too high or too low. I guess that really isn’t two things, but there you go!

It's easy for musicians to fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and over, but Henry mixes things up and keeps them fresh by distributing his talents into many genres of music. He's a true artist, and one who is ready to take on the full weight of his musical career. Saturday may just be another show on the calendar to most people, but for John Henry, it's a breakout party. I'll see you there. 

Connect with John Henry here with a variety of options:

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