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Tomorrow's man: John Newman is back with a twist

The singer-songwriter turned DJ is preparing for a big summer with Tomorrowland and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike.

John Newman is well known for several chart hits, including number one UK single Love Me Again. The vocalist who shot to fame as the featured artist on Rudimental's Feel The Love is currently going through an evolutionary career process.

A health scare saw him undergo surgery and treatment for brain tumours on two separate occasions. Inevitably, it put music on hold. During his time away from the spotlight, he's got married, evaluated his mental health and made bold decisions on his future direction.

Having made a full recovery, John has now made an emphatic return to music but with a twist.

This summer, he has two marquee dates on Ibiza for Tomorrowland presents Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike at Ushuaïa. The first was back in June. Just before he was due on stage, we caught up with the award-winning singer-songwriter, turned hybrid-live DJ.

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

Hi John. Welcome to Ibiza. Have you flown in just for the show or are you staying a bit longer? 

"I'm actually staying right here at Ushuaïa, which is fun but also kind of mad to be staying in the venue that I'm also playing at. There's a great vibe about the place."

Away from performing, do you get to spend much time enjoying Ibiza outside of the parties?

"Yes! Earlier today we hired two little scooters and went driving all around Ibiza which was super nice. We went to some nice beaches on the quiet side of the island.

Last night we went out in Ibiza's Old Town which was amazing. We went to a rooftop bar and then down by the port.

I actually had my stag do here, not that I can remember much from that!"

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

You've just started to establish yourself as a DJ and producer, as well as a singer-songwriter. How are you finding the transition?

"It's definitely been challenging. People don't always adapt well to change, they like something fresh, but then want to stick to a format that's familiar and comfortable. For me, music is a continuous development, like how House music came from Disco and Soul.

I naturally reconnected with dance music after taking a career break. Of course, there's a risk to starting up in a new space. Some of my past fans might not take it as well to it, but I'm standing by it and believe in it.

This whole process has brought me closer to my younger self and shown me just how much I can push my own limits. I'm so glad that I did it."

What's the reception been like overall?

"When people come to see my live show, I think they really get it. The energy they bring is crazy."

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

You took a step back from music before returning with this new musical direction. What did you learn in that time?

"Artists are supposed to be emotionally vulnerable. Our job is completely emotionally exposing, and that can take a lot on your mental health. We go through ups and downs in life. It's a lot of pressure.

Some experiences are super positive and we feel happy to release our hearts to the world. Other times, you don't, but the pressure still exists. You still need records and I think, in today's climate, where it's single after single, there's no time for reinvention.

We're often viewed as just machines that are working so hard. We're now starting to see online or in documentaries that artists are breaking mentally and physically."

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

"I broke quite badly. My brain broke. For me, it was really important to feel the scary thoughts that I was having and reassess. Is it worth it? At the time, it wasn't.

So, I took the time to recover myself and put music aside for a minute. It was about a year and a half before I opened my laptop again. When I did, I opened it and immediately started producing dance music. So yeah, I think we should all take the time to stop."

Is it true that you still combine elements of singing in your DJ sets, making them hybrid-live? Does that mean that fans will still get to hear your own records being played?

"Very much so – those songs are like my babies!

There are three number-one singles in there that have had crazy success worldwide, so it would be stupid of me to turn up and not play them. So, when building my live show, that was priority number one. How do I make those songs fit perfectly in this new DJ format?"

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

"I DJ and sing live on stage.

Out of my set, about 90 per cent is all produced by me, even the drops. The other 10 per cent is music produced my other artists. I also sample my vocals and build loops with them, so that's where the challenge comes in. It's completely different to what anyone else does.

To me, it feels like a headline show and that's what's really exciting.

I feel like we've had a lot of the same headliners for ages on the big dance stages, so that's my vision and what I'm trying to achieve."

What are party hosts Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike like in person?

"I can't exactly remember the first time we met, but it could well have been here at Ushuaïa last summer. They're super chill and super nice. I admire their work ethic a lot. They've been doing this a long time and they continue to put their all into it."

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

Have you ever performed at the Tomorrowland festival?

"I performed at Tomorrowland Winter earlier this year. I learned a lot from it. Actually, I'm learning a lot from every gig at the moment.

I'm super excited about debuting on the Tomorrowland main stage.

Hopefully, that's the moment when everyone who's heard my music or saw me sing live starts to understand my new direction. It should all become a little clearer on what this new era is about and I can continue reaching more people."

Is it right that your single Hold On To My Love was written here on Ibiza? What is it about the island that inspires you? 

"There's a certain spiritual magic to Ibiza. I think it's the history that continues to build here. I find it a really exciting place to be. I remember when I was a kid, I had a friend whose parents used to go to Ibiza on holiday.

He'd come back with posters from the clubs, and I was like, 'wow that's so cool'.

I had posters of Space, Amnesia and Pacha on my wall and I used to listen to the likes of Paul van Dyk and early Tiësto - all of these sounds, Trance especially, that came over from Ibiza growing up. It's always been a hugely inspirational place."

"With Hold On To My Love, I wanted to feel that inspiration within the track as I produced it. To me, the key thing about Ibiza is the emotion and those feelings it gives you, which I think comes across in the single."

When you're back on 2 August, it's going to be peak summer. What have you got going on between now and then?

"I've got lots of gigs across Europe this summer and I'll continue to build and develop my live show. Tomorrowland's main stage is going to be the big one. I'm also performing on the Smash The House stage the weekend before.

Finally, I have a huge collab in the works, but that's still under wraps for now."

Sounds like an incredible summer ahead. We look forward to today's show and your return at the start of August.

Tomorrow's man: John Newman

After delighting the crowds at Tomorrowland in Belgium last weekend and next, John Newman is back on stage at Ushuaïa alongside Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike on Wednesday 2 August.

Tickets for that peak season date and the rest of the Tomorrowland schedule can be bought below.

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