John Newman is shunning stadiums to hit the road in a campervan for a series of intimate surprise gigs. MARION McMULLEN finds out why the newlywed is keen to inject some fun back into touring
IF YOU spot a campervan on the motorway next month there is a chance you might see singer John Newman sitting happily behind the wheel. The owner of one of the most distinctive voices around is renowned for his ability to belt out anthems that can stop audiences in their tracks, and since bursting onto the music scene as co-writer and featured vocalist on Rudimental’s 2012 classic track Feel The Love, John has travelled the world, had three number one singles and headlined legendary venues.
But now the Yorkshireman has decided it is time for a change. He’s returning to his performing roots, playing a series of intimate dates across the country as part of The Out Of The Blue Tour.
And what better way of seeing the country than behind the wheel of your own mini tour ‘bus’?
“We’re still looking for the right campervan,” he admits with a laugh. “We might have to go out and buy one. I’m planning to film a documentary about the tour while we are actually doing it and I want it to be quite Top Gear-like.
“We are aiming to do things like film the guy who has caught the biggest fish in Whitby, and guide people around Sherwood Forest dressed as Robin Hood.
“It’s all about having a laugh in general and enjoying it. I think it’s going to be like an old roadshow and we’re going to share the driving. I’m a bit of a petrolhead, so I’m very happy when I’m driving.”
He chuckles: “I wanted to be a Formula One driver when I was growing up, but I ended up too tall and fat. I’m 6ft 3in... and still growing.”
The 28-year-old has twice come through surgery for brain tumours, but refuses to let his health issues define him. He tied the knot with his Danish fiancée Nana last year and declares: “This is such a positive time of my life. To have this bond is amazing.
“Marriage is big and it really is the most amazing and beautiful thing. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve married my best friend and we are so close. I’ve never had anything like this before – someone I can tell anything to and there is no judgement.”
So is John now fluent in Danish? “It’s getting there,” he laughs. “I can say sentences, or think I can. She’s probably just nodding and smiling at me when I speak, but I’ve been spending a lot of time in Denmark as well. That all helps.”
The Love Me Again singer is also looking forward to getting back to basics with the new tour. He says he
was getting depressed being told he needed to come up with the next hit record before he could do stadium tours.
“I’ll always sing, but sometimes it has felt like smashing my head against a wall. I was not enjoying it and I was treating it like an office job. That’s not me. I’m a feisty, strong Northerner, not a guy who lets people talk over them. I just wanted to do this job that I love and that I want to do for the rest of my life.”
John adds: “I want to connect with people. I want people to discover me again and feel something. My brother and I played for about 50 people in a pub the other day. Everyone in the room was silent listening to us and I loved it. They were not coming to see me because they had heard a song on the radio. They were just connecting with the music.
“I think it’s time now for me to go back to the start and build that again. I think it’s ego that stops some performers doing the small venues, but for me it is the best place to start.”
He says he will happily ignore any flak that comes his way for playing intimate concerts. “I’ve really missed being in smaller venues; real, honest, up-close gigs like the ones I used to play when I first started out.
“The thought of just turning up to venues in parts of the country off the beaten touring circuit, was very appealing to me. The big festival appearances and arena shows are amazing, but there’s something incredible about performing in a small room where you can look the audience in the eye and feel that energy.”
■ The Out Of The Blue Tour begins on June 30. Go to johnnewman.co.uk for tour details.
Sometimes it has felt like smashing my head against a wall. I was treating it like an office job. That’s not me...
John, far left, and his band will travel by campervan John Newman says he has missed playing in more intimate music venues