Finding strength within vulnerability
London rapper John Glacier channels music into her own unique world, where words flow and the beat keeps going till there’s nothing left to say. Her debut project, SHILOH, released in 2021, captivated listeners with a stream-of-consciousness narrative set against hazy lo-fi beats, delicately weaving an honest and compelling web of thoughts. John now returns with new music marking the beginning of her next chapter filled with a celebration of life and a desire to cultivate dancing at her shows. In fact, she has just released her first single and music video of 2024, titled ‘Money Shows‘, today! The track features our cover star Eartheater, who lends her iconically ethereal vocals, while John unravels lyricis onto the gritty thud of the guitar-led instrumental.
In December, we met up at her studio in North-East London to discuss the upcoming releases and look back on the transformative last few years – which have turned the Hackney wordsmith into the artist on everyone’s radar. Building upon the delicacy of SHILOH, she spoke about her progression into a more upbeat sound whilst crucially remaining conscious and reflective. Read below as we explore the power of vulnerability, how to live more and opening a new chapter.
Hey John, how are you?
I’m good thanks!
Let’s start by talking about your journey that got you to where you are now?
First, I started making music in my living room, then using this space at Young Studios, and then putting stuff on SoundCloud… then I guess people liked it! I dunno it’s a linear story that doesn’t feel linear basically. If that makes sense?
I get that! When things feel sudden, it can warp your perception of time. Can you recall how music first entered your life?
Music has always been a consistent thing. Growing up in my household music was always playing… reggae, dancehall, pop, ballads. Everything was played at my house.
Nice. And lyrics are a big part of your music, have you always been drawn to writing?
Yeah! Ever since I was little, I’ve always loved just writing things down.
There’s this kind of stream-of-consciousness style to your delivery. How quickly do the words form when you’re writing?
Oh, very quickly and that’s why I think it seems that way. When I start to write, I don’t really have an intention for the song usually. So, anything its for myself, for my own projects, I just start writing, and wherever I end up is where I end up. It’s not with an intention to write about themes like love or hate.
How do those initial streams of thought come to you?
I think it’s all about my mood on that day or in that moment. Because I might write something quite sad then something happy in the same session. I also could be walking down the road, or in an Uber, then just start writing when random stuff comes into my head, I’m just like ahhhh. And I write it down haha.
How do you navigate or organise all these ideas in your head?
Umm I just go until I stop. If you notice with my previous project SHILOH, a lot of the songs are quite short, because I’ve written how I feel and that’s the end. It’s like no I’m finished that’s all I’ve got to say…let’s do another song now haha. When the train of thought ends, I don’t force it.
I feel like that’s what makes SHILOH such an authentic project, your thoughts don’t try to be anything then what they are. What are some big inspirations for your creative process?
I think my inspirations come from me… like my last project Shiloh was very downbeat, which made me want to then make this next project more upbeat. And then I thought like okay, I need to live more, because the more I live the more I have to write. It sounds silly but my current inspiration is to live more.
Can you give an example of what it means to live more?
Like going to a random house party, that I wasn’t invited to. Haha
I love that. Throw yourself into the deep-end. Once you have inspiration what does the music allow you to express?
For me it’s important to have an outlet, I’m not the most social person either. I have my own little world, where I can talk about whatever I want to talk about.
Whilst your music is cathartic for yourself, do you ever also feel like you’re trying to communicate something to the audience?
I think for this next project I wanted it more upbeat because it changes how I interact with the audience when I’m performing it live. With SHILOH, because it was such a delicate piece to me, it was like guys I’m giving you a lot right now can we all just be quiet or something haha. But when it’s more upbeat, it gives the audience room to dance. So that’s definitely one way in which I think about the audience. Not that I don’t think about the audience at all outside of that.
What can you tell us about the upcoming project?
It’s definitely more upbeat. I’d say there’s less words…well there’s still a lot of words but there’s less words haha. My delivery is slightly different. Expression wise, I think there’s more tones on my vocals, there’s more range and the production is brighter and more fast paced.
Lyrically is this also a departure from SHILOH, what are the topics on the record?
I feel like this one is a discovery into who I am, or who I am becoming now. When I put out music, I see it as a book. We’ve had the first book and now we have the second book. And for me this next book is about navigating where you’re going, and obviously after SHILOH life changed very drastically for me. So it’s like oh shit… I’m in this new space, how do I navigate this.
Was it in some ways difficult steering through this new space, when everything happened so immediately?
At first, I found it quite difficult because I am a very all in person. So, this year I’ve been very all in with work, whereas with general living stuff I haven’t done my best haha. And this next project is a reflection on this, how I’m navigating this new phase of life.
You mentioned your projects are like a ‘book’, how does it feel closing the book on SHILOH and releasing this next chapter?
It feels more positive. This is going to sound so backhanded, but whatever…if your offering vulnerability and you go into spaces to perform and people don’t understand that it’s a vulnerable thing, then my brain tells me to reel it in a bit. I feel like my vulnerability isn’t respected and vulnerability is such a precious thing. At the moment I wouldn’t feel comfortable being as vulnerable as I was back then. The whole point of SHILOH was to close that chapter and right now this next chapter is about life. Not to say SHILOH is about death but it’s about closure. I want to bring life into performance spaces, songs that people can dance and have a laugh too.
I guess it’s hard to juggle the weight of vulnerability when making an authentic and delicate album like SHILOH.
Yeah definitely. And I feel like this next project is more of a balance. It finds the strength within vulnerability. People need to find the strength within their vulnerability and realise how they’re going to deliver that.
That’s a really powerful thing. How are you feeling in the run up to the new releases?
Excited, yeah. I’ve directed my first video! Luckily enough the label, Young, trusted me haha and given me the space to actually do it. The first single is going to be the soundtrack to the video which explores the idea of dual realities, and starts with me not glammed up, just a regular day it then follows me when i’m preforming or going to a magazine shoot. But I want to show that there is no line of separation, I don’t switch on or off.
Congrats! That sounds really interesting. And what are you manifesting for 2024?
I wanna live more.
Amazing. Thank you so much for talking with me today and having me in your studio. I can’t wait for the new album!!