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Jennifer John


Jennifer John is a singer/songwriter originally from London but now based in Liverpool, where she has lived since the early 1980s. From the age of around 6 until she left school at 18 she attended the Newham Academy of Music, were she studied among other things violin and piano, and where she was given the opportunity to sing in various choirs.


She is one of four artistic directors of Sense of Sound a training organisation that specialises in vocal coaching and which has been in operation since 1991. She holds the award for Business Woman of the Year for Arts and Culture given by the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners.


She has lectured at Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), performed on stage with George Michael and Elton John, and sung backing vocals for Ray Lamontagne. She is currently working with Damon Albarn on his new opera, Monkey; A Journey to the West.


She also manages a choir of 30 a cappella singers called Sense of Sound who were Grand Finalists in the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year competition in 2006. Most recently, they performed at the Barbican alongside Pink Floyd, Damon Albarn, Martha Wainwright and Chrissie Hynde in a Syd Barrett tribute concert.


Her musical tastes are hugely varied from Stevie to Chopin; Bulgarian traditional folk singing to Prince; Joan Armatrading to Penguin Cafe Orchestra and everything in between.




Q: Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?


A: I guess I don’t really think about it at the time of writing, but sometimes in retrospect when I look back and speak the words I think that they could actually stand up on their own as a spoken piece of work. So if that equates to poetry then I guess I do.

Q: Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?


A: No. The joy about freedom of expression in creativity is that you can say whatever you want, in whatever way you want. The pop genre probably requires a certain formula which is about rhyme and regularity, but lots of artists say what they want to say in a more free form way. Joni Mitchell, for me, is the queen of telling stories through song without rhyme, and has been one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our time.

Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can also be like free verse?


A: See question 2

Q: When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to the music you enjoyed?


A: No not really. Some poetry really touched me, though. I remember falling in love with William Wordsworth’s ‘To Daffodils’ because of the dreamy imagery. Come to think of it, I could relate to it more because the composer, Richard Rodney Bennett, put music to it and our school choir sang it at The Royal Festival Hall in London. So I guess that makes me a liar. I definitely enjoyed it more because I could relate it to music. Apart from that though, there was no other connection.

Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?


A: No, but I was really moved by Joni’s version of Corinthians take on Love from the Bible [on the album Wild Things Run Fast. Ed]. It is a beautiful piece of writing.

Q: Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?


A: Music is a universal language, and regardless of where in the world you may come from music has an energy that we all understand. Rhythm and tones send vibrations which muster up a feeling that the spoken word just doesn’t do in the same way. Let’s face it, you can’t dance to the spoken word now can you!