John Puzan, interviewed by Steven Danner
If you’ve ever sat in the crowd watching an amazing musical performance and wished you could find a way to ask the band all the questions about how they got where they are today, well I had just the opportunity. I caught up with a 25 year old independent songwriter by the name of John Puzan. He’s was performing an acoustic set at a well known venue in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He’s a native of that area, but is now living in Pensacola, Florida where he’s performing four times a week or more. After his performance, I asked him how he does it.
John, how did you get your start?
Well, it all started with my sister. She was a guitar player, a songwriter, and a singer. My sister pretty much raised me. She started playing music and I idolized her, obviously. When I turned about 12 years old, I stole her guitar when she wasn't around and took it up on our roof so she couldn’t see me, and that’s when I started messing around with the guitar. In time, I learned chords. I didn’t really know what I was playing; I just knew that it sounded right, and eventually started writing songs from it. To this day I still look up to my sister because she's the best singer I’ve ever met. She’s still what I can only dream to be.
How did you take what you’ve learned and start applying it to writing songs for a living?
Well, you think about what writing songs is for a living, and you don’t really see that as something that’s real, you know? Like who can write songs for a living? Especially at that young of an age. Music is music. But when you're 14 years old and you see music as music, you don’t think about people trying to make a living by writing it. You see music as this awesome thing that you just want to do. So by the time I was 14, I was seriously, heavily involved in music. I just never stopped and then life essentially gave me the experience. You grow older, you understand music isn't just music. Unfortunately, it’s a way to profit, but more than that it’s a way to express yourself.
So you’ve been doing this for a few years?
Oh, 13 now, 13 years I’ve been writing music.
In your time as an independent artist what would you say about the importance of networking?
It’s the most IMPORTANT thing you could possibly do. You could be the best songwriter, best singer, best everything in the world, but if you don't talk to people, then they'll hear you. They’ll nod their heads and say “Oh that sound great!”, but they'll never remember you because you never made an impact through your personality. You only made it through music, and your personality comes out in your music. Your personality is not your music; it’s who you are.
How do you record your music today?
I have a recording studio of my own. I started recording when I started writing music, so at 12 years old. My first goal was to get a guitar, and my second goal was to get a recording program with all the things you needed to do it. From there, I’ve built it up to an actual home recording studio. I’ve recorded three albums of my own. At 24 years old I had three albums finished. I record through logic pro and I just use my ear essentially.
So with three albums, have you published any of the online?
That’s a solid question. (Laughs) Partially, yes I have. I haven’t put anything on Spotify or iTunes like I should. I play music actively, and when I play music actively, I advertise my albums. I’ve printed over 300 albums, and I’ve sold every single last bit of it in local shows. I only hope to grow and create more. The way I’ve approached making albums has been through individualization. So every album is different and is personalized for the listeners. And for that, I approach it in such a way that if someone chooses to buy my album, then they are getting an individualized copy. So for now, what I've wanted to do is simply sell it as a physical copy. Up until recently, I’ve chosen not utilize the online approach.
Whys that? A lot of musicians today seem to gravitate toward an online presence, especially as in independent musician.
Whose going to learn you if they only see you online? I mean, I get it. You have to be out and play. You can put your music online; and of course people are obsessed with the internet, but I’m an organic person. I approach the world in an organic way. To be honest the most unnatural thing is to try and make yourself famous online. Go play that music!
How do you view the publishing process with publishing companies distributing the artist’s music, or as an independent musician, to take and publish your own music through the different platforms, such as the ones online?
I fully support it. To be honest, I think online is a beautiful thing. I think it’s a huge potential for growth, but the problem with that is there are so many people writing music and wanting to do what people like Chris Stapleton do. He’s written who knows how many hits for other musicians, there are so many people who are wanting to do that. I believe you write music and present it to the populous, the people, and you play it in front of the right people. You get the opportunity to submit yourself to people in person if you really embrace that.
You can submit yourself online to different people as well, but it’s more important for me to submit myself to the people that are listening. And I’ve been fortunate enough to submit my sounds to well-known musicians, well known songwriters, and well known people who work for publishing companies. What I’ve done as a songwriter is that I’ve advertised less online and more in person. When it comes to the potential publishing aspects, I’ve had one person, for example, who's in the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame ask if he could put one of my songs on his record, because I played it in front of him. I didn't try to submit it. I didn't cross my fingers and hope that some person far away over the e-spectrum would listen to it. I played it to that person and that person asked for that. You never know whose going to be at your shows. You never know whose going to be around when you play, but as long as you’re playing people will hear what you have to present. If you do that, then you never know whose going to hear your stuff, and you might get lucky.
Awesome John, Thank you so much for your time.