Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Art is Going to Save Us: My First House Show Tour Recap

Shared experiences; they are what life is really about.

I spent the past weekend with two of my band members performing house shows in Portland, Maine; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The purpose of our short tour was to test the waters and see if this whole house show thing is something that people would enjoy, to find out whether performing a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music would resonate the way my full productions do. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

But it was also to get back to a grassroots way of meeting people, making new friends, and connecting one-on-one with individuals.

The response was more than we could have asked for.

We learned quite a lot on our trip, and one of the things we learned is that people are yearning for a personal connection with their favorite artists.

In a time when the internet affords artists the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the fans of their work, we normally only hear from our favorite artists when they have something they want us to buy. And even then, that’s usually every two or three years when their new album comes out.

Albums. That’s another thing…

The album format has been exploded.

I recorded a podcast while in Portland at Gateway Mastering Studios with renowned mastering engineer Adam Ayan (Shakira, Luis Fonsi, Carrie Underwood, Queen, et al.), and he told me that he is mastering more singles and EPs than ever before, with albums sprinkled in here and there.

So, if you’re making an album, and you’re not being forced to do so because you’re signed to a record label, why are you doing it??

Unless you’re making an album of metal music—which studies show have the hands-down most loyal fanbase, a fanbase which still buys CDs and generally avoids streaming, clinging to the past—you’re swimming against the tide.

But I digress. Back to the matter at hand: connection.

In Portland, two of our Bullfighters (fan club members) are people who travel all over the country to see their favorite artists. They’ve been to countless shows and seen some of the most talented musicians perform in large and small venues. They told us they’d never experienced such an up-close-and-personal performance before, and they loved it.

The sentiment was shared by our new Portland friends, who took us out to dinner before the show. They enjoy treating bands (and their entire crew) to meals when they come through Portland, because they understand the struggle and the sacrifices being made to travel and get after a career in music. They, too, were blown away by the intimacy of the show, and said they had never been a part of something like that.

In Scranton, we visited with my good friend Phil, who is the program director at Alt 92.1 FM. He showed us around the station—which includes a 200-capacity theater with a 1932 Steinway grand piano. He said he is going to begin spinning my music on the radio, and will work with us to help put together an event when we return to the Scranton area.

And in Pittsburgh, as I was walking the streets, talking with locals and handing out flyers before our performance, I received many compliments and kudos on our “guerrilla marketing,” and that “your passion looks good on you; never stop doing what you’re doing.”

The people we connected with on this tour are incredibly supportive of our journey, and were kind enough to treat us to meals and allow us to stay the night in their homes.

We must have made a good impression, because they can’t wait for us to return so they can bring their family and friends and share the experience.

Which brings me to this article on the generosity of fans of music, and art in general:

That’s right, folks. Art is going to save us!

But it’s not going to come from Taylor Swift, or Drake, or Bieber, or Luke Bryan, or Future, or Adele, or Max Martin, or Migos, or Shellback, or Dr. Luke, or Mark Ronson, or any of the other major players in today’s music game.

No, it’s going to come from THE PEOPLE, those fans of talented artists and the work they produce!

Need proof? Here it is, straight from Spotify…

John Stein, an editor focused on indie, alternative, and electronic music for some of Spotify’s biggest mood playlists explained to The Verge that there’s a difference between a live hit and a Spotify hit.

From The Verge article: “[Stein] likes to find out what songs people are singing along to in the real world. ‘That’s something we don’t see in the data,’ he says. ‘They’re not always the catchy ones. They’re surprises. And over time, people come back to those more.’ He says he likes music that has substance, which you ‘can’t fake,’ not just perfectly crafted pop songs with the chorus at the front. ‘You can’t build real fans by following such a formula in that way.’”


Follow me on Spotify here:

There is no art in a factory; not even in an art factory. — Eric “Mixerman” Sarafin

P.S. The researchers concluded that one implication of their findings for policy-makers is the potential for “substantial social and economic gains” from investing in the arts. They argue that these may be achieved “effectively by policies or investments that make the arts more widely available and ensure that access is not restricted only to the wealthy.” … Arts Council England’s Director of Communication and Public Policy, Mags Patten, said: “This paper makes a significant contribution to growing evidence of a causal link between taking part in the arts, individual wellbeing, and the strength of communities. This valuable piece of research will be important reading for those already studying in this vital area, and it should encourage new studies of the social impact of the arts.”

P.P.S. Become a Bullfighter today, and my band and I will perform in your area within a calendar year of your enrollment, guaranteed, or your money back. 😀

Visit the archive:

Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.


Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

Sturgill Simpson Busking at the CMAs

I have a love/hate relationship with country music…

On the day I was born, my father was hired to work as a DJ at WWWW 106.7 FM in downtown Detroit.

He missed Howard Stern by a week, after Stern left when the station switched formats to country.

“W4 Country,” as the station was known, kept a roof over my family’s heads and put food on our plates for 14 years.

Willie Nelson held me in his arms as a toddler. In fact, so did the members of Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys, along with Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit, Roger Miller, George Strait, and countless other country stars of the early-to-mid-1980s and prior.

Accompanying my dad to all of the big gigs he’d work for the station, getting to meet so many amazing musicians and watching them perform night after night, seeing the audience’s reaction to the music and the production, and feeling the energy and the love in the arena…

These are the things that made me want to become a musician. And country music winds its way into many of my songs to this day.

Today’s country music just isn’t the same.

I can’t say that it’s bad, because music is like wine — if you like it, it’s good; and a lot of people like mainstream country music.

But I hate it.

Because mainstream country music, and Nashville itself, has been co-opted by Big Music and the pop machine. Hell, even Willie stopped recording in Nashville. He’s been making his more recent stuff down in Austin, Texas.

Many of today’s most popular country songs are being manufactured in “hit factories” in the same fashion as pop songs are, trying to make earworms.

But Chris Stapleton is the one winning the awards, by being authentic and doing things his way. (He took home this year’s CMAs for Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.)

And then you’ve got Sturgill Simpson, whose busking outside the CMAs prompted me to write this missive.

My future brother-in-law tried to turn me on to Simpson two years ago. It didn’t take. To be honest, most of the time, when people suggest music to me, I am reluctant to listen or check it out.

It’s not because I’m not interested, it’s because I don’t have time!

Between work and family, I don’t have any time alone to sit by myself and soak in new music, the way I did when I was still in school. If and when I discover new music, it’s because I intentionally make time to listen to Spotify in the studio as I write or do something else.

That’s another thing! Music has become background noise, instead of the medium which drives the culture and informs the public consciousness.

Which is why Sturgill Simpson busking outside the CMAs resonated with me…

Much like Chris Stapleton, Simpson doesn’t really fit with the country mainstream, and the CMAs are all about the mainstream, which is why Simpson was on the outside looking in.

But that’s not an issue for him.

He won this year’s Grammy for Best Country Album, and his Grammy was sitting in his guitar case as he performed on the sidewalk, answering questions as they came in from fans on Facebook Live, and any donations he received went to the ACLU; that’s the American Civil Liberties Union, for those who don’t know.

And after playing songs and waxing on his appreciation of Kanye West and bluegrass music, he was asked to give a would-be speech if he won a CMA.

Here’s what he said…

“Nobody needs a machine gun, coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns. Gay people should have the right to be happy and live their life any way they want to and get married if they want to without fear of getting drug down the road behind a pickup truck. Black people are probably tired of getting shot in the streets and being enslaved by the industrial prison complex. And hegemony and fascism is alive and well in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Thank you very much.”

Artists are supposed to speak truth to power, and that’s what Sturgill Simpson did, albeit outside the CMAs.

Before they became personal brands with fragrance and cosmetics deals, or their own clothing line, artists used their work to awaken consciousness in others, helping to shape and inform public opinion in a positive direction. Hip-hop has been doing this for decades.

And hip-hop dominates today, but the most popular song on the most popular streaming service (Spotify) is Post Malone’s “rockstar” which begins with the line “I’ve been fuckin’ hoes and poppin’ pillies” and continues with “fuckin’ with me, call up on a Uzi” — it has almost 2 million daily plays in the U.S. and over 5.3 million daily plays worldwide.

Do you sometimes wonder why we have a nationwide opioid epidemic and a rampant gun problem?? Yes, Big Pharma and the NRA are the major drivers, but when the most popular music in the United States (and the world) is glorifying getting high on pills and shooting up rivals, it doesn’t help.

At any rate, my point is this…

Instead of taking the easy route and using the formula that mainstream artists use, and/or pandering to the lowest common denominator, artists such as Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton create music that speaks to our better nature as humans.

And when they sing their songs, one can hear in their voices the pain, the heartache, the courage, the hope, the love about which they sing, because it comes from deep within themselves, from their experiences in life.

My music comes from that same place: of me and by me.

And I can’t wait to perform it for you. 🙂

11/16 Portland, ME — 8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport 04046
11/17 Scranton, PA — currently finalizing booking
11/18 Pittsburgh, PA — 1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh 15212

Tickets for these intimate, stories-behind-the-songs house shows are only $10 and will be available at the door.

Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out. Once again, only 30 tickets will be available for each performance, so plan to arrive early!

P.S. Every Bullfighter — fan club member — gets two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 😀

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV

Visit the archive:

Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

I’m a Believer

I’m a Believer

“I think that the thing that major labels have always done that is important in the business is provide highly sophisticated, robust, well-developed processes for artists to reach their highest potential,” VP of New Digital Business at Universal Music Group, Tuhin Roy said.

“At the end of the day, that’s why artists come to us, because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.”

One more time…

‘…because they believe we’re going to help them reach their highest potential.’


It’s what drives all working artists, the belief that someday, somehow, their dreams will come true, their creations will break into the mainstream consciousness, and their years and years of hard work and commitment will pay off in the end.

And the major record labels have preyed on that precious belief and exploited it to the benefit of their own bank accounts for decades.

Major labels know that artists are willing to do almost anything to reach their goals and live out their dreams, and so they are able to tilt contracts heavily in favor of the label, the artist becoming a sort of indentured servant.

Since many artists are desperate and/or uninformed, they willingly sign a lopsided contract, hoping that their success will solve everything in the end.

The chances of that are next to nil.

And once the contract is signed, the artist is legally obligated to produce music at the label’s discretion, for the duration of the contract. The artist must now make music of the label, by the label, and for the label.

In fact, artists on major record labels today tend to not write their own music. They have their songs crafted at writers’ camps, which author John Seabrook says in his book The Song Machine are “like a pop-up hit factory.”

Record labels and big-time artists put these camps together, and they can last up to two weeks, but usually less than a week. A few dozen beat- and track-makers and melody-makers (“topliners”) get mixed and matched in every way possible until all combinations have been exhausted.

And if the artist happens to be present, they are floating from combo to combo, checking out what each team has going on, working on ideas here and there, keeping and discarding what they like or don’t like. This is how the artist gets credit if and when the song is released — “change a word, get a third” is a well-known phrase in the business.

From The Song Machine: “The peer pressure is such that virtually every session produces a song, which means twelve or more songs a day, or sixty a week, depending on the size of the camp.”

This is all to say that the major record labels wield a great deal of power over their artists, and often end up controlling their entire careers, to the point where an artist no longer produces their own work from a place of authenticity, but instead defers to data, polls, and metrics while choosing a potential earworm from a smorgasbord of songs whipped up in haste by committee.

But things are shifting in a new direction…

People used to complain about streaming services. Now, they appear to be saving the music industry…

Artists are foregoing record labels and securing their own publishing, licensing, and distribution…

And they are growing their fan bases organically, through grassroots campaigns and tours, and connecting via social media and email…

Today it costs virtually nothing to distribute music on the internet, worldwide, or to connect with fans directly…

So why would an artist need a label???

Answer: Relationships and capital.

That’s what the majors offer — they are people who know people who know people who know people, and all of these people have deep pockets, in a world where many artists can’t even afford to buy new pants.

But are those the relationships that artists truly need? Or should artists be more concerned about their relationship with the fans of their music??

And should artists be focused on money first? Always worrying about the bottom line? Or should the artist be serving the Muse, allowing the Muse to flow through them, transmuting its whispers into their art, critics be damned??

The internet has granted artists and fans the opportunity to take the power back from the suits, and show the world that great music matters more than “hits.”

And now Tuhin Roy is hoping to find the next big thing in music…before it’s too late…

From Mashable (10/17): “Universal…announced the launch of its accelerator network in an effort to encourage the emergence of music startups— with the goal of getting Universal in on the ground floor of the next big thing.

“The deal puts Universal at the earliest stage possible with entrepreneurs looking for help in trying something new. The label is working with accelerators at that application process, then lending expertise and mentorship to founders with music-focused startups.

“Justin Hendrix, executive director of NYC Media Lab, said that corporate partners are important for entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have those relationships.

“The goal is to encourage more entrepreneurs and accelerators to focus their energy on music, which can be a daunting and byzantine industry to deal with.

“Universal isn’t taking equity for its efforts, which is the usual deal between startups and acceleartors. Roy said the label sees value in hearing about new ideas from entrepreneurs and having the chance to work with startups from early days.

“‘There’s a reverse learning process for us. We actually learn as we engage in these startups how they view the business which is maybe a view for where things are heading,’ Roy said.”

The labels are starting to see the writing on the wall. They are learning that in order to reach their highest potential, artists don’t necessarily need a major record label anymore.

Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer on 11/03: “I have huge admiration for everything Spotify has done to build their business. We have a complicated relationship with it now because we have to make sure that we’re represented properly and they don’t bypass us. There’s a temptation there, if they’re valued at what they’re supposed to be valued at, they could become larger than all the labels put together. It is my job to maintain the balance. We don’t control distribution and we are therefore not as much in control of our destinies as we were during the boom of CDs, of the explosion of vinyl in the ‘60s.”

Thanks to the internet, artists just need to make great art and connect with the people who love it.

For me, those people are the Bullfighters. The Bullfighters are the members of my fan club, and my band and I only perform in areas within 50 miles of each Bullfighter.

Because the Bullfighters believe in me.

On that note…

I’m excited to announce I’m getting back on the road, and will begin performing my music next week!

Me and two of my band members are hitting the highway to perform a stripped-down, stories-behind-the-songs collection of my music, and we can’t wait to connect with old friends and make new ones.

These will be intimate house shows, taking place in a spacious living room, on a backyard patio, or in a basement or garage; basically, somewhere that will comfortably accommodate 25-30 adults.

Tickets are only $10 and will be available exclusively at the door. There will only be 30 tickets available for each performance, so plan to arrive as early as possible! Doors will open at 8pm, and shows will start at 9pm, or once tickets are sold out.

  • 11/16: Portland, ME (8 Arundel Road, Kennebunkport, ME 04046)
  • 11/17: Scranton, PA (currently finalizing booking)
  • 11/18: Pittsburgh, PA (1111 Woodland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212)

I can’t wait to play my music for you, and connect with old and new friends. See you out there on the road! 😀

P.S. Every Bullfighter get two tickets per year to see me when I come to town, so they never have to worry about a show selling out!

P.P.S. Below is a comprehensive list of Bullfighter cities across the United States. Don’t see your city or state listed? Become a Bullfighter today and we’ll be performing there soon! 🙂

  • Montgomery, AL
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Gilbert, AZ
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bell, FL
  • Kissimmee, FL
  • Chicago, IL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Detroit, MI
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Houston, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Tacoma, WA
  • Beckley, WV
  • Huntington, WV
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite:
Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

Dear Spotify, Apple Music, et al.: I’m Not the Guy from Steppenwolf

I’ve had an ongoing battle for the last five years behind the scenes…

Out of nowhere, one of my fans will hit me up with something to the effect of “Hey, I just saw that you’re playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks at the casino! Me and the wife will be there, dude!”

My response? “Um, I’m not booked in Atlantic City. Where are you seeing this??”

“It was posted on your Facebook page.”

I check my Facebook page. Sure enough, there’s my picture along with an event link, advertising that I’m playing in Atlantic City in a couple of weeks.

I immediately delete it.

Why??? Because I’m not booked in Atlantic City. The other John Kay is! The other JK is best known as the singer, songwriter, guitarist, and frontman of Steppenwolf.

Does anyone under 35 even know who Steppenwolf is??

Either way, his social media team has been linking his events to my accounts for years. I’ve reached out to them to resolve the issue, and they can’t figure out why it continues to happen.

That is the reason I changed all my social media handles to @TheRealJohnKay. It’s not because I’m pretentious, there’s a serious confusion here!

In fact, just yesterday, I went to my local health foods store, and was checking out with my regular cashier when she and I got to talking about what’s going on with me music-wise. After a brief chat, I wrote down my website URL and gave it to her.

“, huh? Like the guy from Steppenwolf??” she remarked.

Anger, rising…

I smile, “Haha! Yeah, that’s an ongoing thing…”

I’ve been getting this my whole life from Boomers. “Oh, your name’s John Kay? Hey, like the guy from Steppenwolf!”

No. Not like the guy from Steppenwolf.

I’m tired of playing along with the “Oh, like the guy from Steppenwolf?” comments.

From now on, I’m going to say…“…Who?”

The guy from Steppenwolf is 73 years old, released “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” in 1968, had his last hit in 1972 (Boomers, can you name it without Googling??), and hasn’t released a studio album since 2001.

And, according to his Spotify analytics — which I was granted access to! — his fans also listen to Savoy Brown, Grand Funk Railroad, Leslie West, Robin Trower, Mountain, James Gang, Humble Pie, Johnny Winter, and Alvin Lee.

In other words…NOTHING NEW!!

This isn’t meant to derogate him or his fans. Hell, he’s essentially been touring since he first formed Steppenwolf in the ’60s. Good on him, and if people are coming to see him, all the better.

But the confusion and the cross-pollination has to end. As much as I appreciate his fans’ cursory exposure to my music by way of its misplacement on his pages, and welcome any of them who wish to enjoy my songs and see me perform, I’d much rather separate our catalogs.

I’ve been in touch with Spotify, who have been assisting me with this ridiculousness, and they have since gone ahead and created my own dedicated artist page.

And yet, my music distributor has been continuing to submit my songs to each of the streaming platforms as if I were the other John Kay, which means my new song “Hate U Back” was released under Mr. Steppenwolf’s artist page on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Google Play, and the lot this past Friday.

So, this is my public cry for help. Since the streaming platforms rely on the distributors to place their clients’ music correctly, and it’s not happening in my case despite repeated efforts…we need to take this fight to the streets.

To that point, I’m asking that you do these three simple things:

  1. Create a Spotify account if you don’t already have one; it’s free.
  2. Follow my actual artist page here:
  3. Finally (and most important!) set up this playlist to play on continuous repeat:

You can even mute and minimize Spotify in the background as you do your thing, just keep the playlist going.

The point is to rack up as many spins of MY music as possible in the next 24-48 hours to perhaps get the attention of Steppenwolf Guy’s team. (If you use another streaming platform, feel free to make your own playlist of my music, or humor me and sign up for Spotify just for this!) Maybe that will effect a change here.

Thanks in advance, everyone! 😀

Visit the archive:

Music: Spotify Artist Page
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Hate U Back

Hate U Back

Our culture right now is all about attention (as I wrote last week), and Eminem got everyone’s attention for a good 24 hours and more. Whether or not that was his intent, who’s to say? The point is, he succeeded.


First off, like it or not, Eminem is a thought leader. He has a gift for using the English language in a visceral, commanding fashion, and he uses this gift to express himself in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable, honest, succinct, and powerful. His fans appreciate his candor and his willingness to draw a line in the sand and take a position, especially at a time when most musicians are scared to take a position on anything.

Second, the quality of his content. He wasn’t rapping about getting laid, or being drunk in da club, he was speaking out on the current state of our country in a way most artists are afraid to do for fear of alienating fans or, more to the point, losing their corporate deals.

Finally, he was authentic! He straight up bodied a freestyle in a parking structure, in an age where most superstars use backing tracks and lavish productions. He didn’t need a beat. He didn’t even need a microphone. He simply looked down the barrel of the camera, at US, and spoke truth to power.

It was what we’ve all been waiting for — an undeniable musician willing to speak out against the current administration, and put their name on it!

Speaking truth to power…hey, that’s what real artists are supposed to do!!

And I’m probably going to have people give me the whole “he should stick to rapping” bullshit like they did when I wrote about Meryl Streep last year (“stick to acting”). But that just shines a spotlight on their ignorance…

Understand: rap and hip-hop began as a way to give a voice to the powerless, to reveal the injustices in the African-American community, to preach positivity in the face of hopelessness, and help the disadvantaged find the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and demand what’s right in the name of humanity.

Over time it morphed into a fluid art form which would come to be criticized for its derogatory lyrics about women, its glorification of violence, and its promotion of drug dealing/use. And yes, Eminem is guilty of including those subjects in his oeuvre.

But this past Tuesday night, his freestyle about Orange 45 was about giving the rest of America a voice, fulfilling hip-hop’s foundational intentions.

You see, Eminem may not be putting out music as often as he used to, but in America, hip-hop rules, and Eminem is rap royalty. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of rap with Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre, as far as I’m concerned. He can go away for 10 years, come back, and sound just as fresh.

Yet, CNN commentator Matt Lewis says “he’s an aging guy who is clinging to relevance.”

Hardly. Eminem isn’t worried about relevance.

Because Eminem knows he has INFLUENCE.

Plus, he’s white! And he champions black culture and has a deep appreciation for it, unlike our leader.

And now my inbox is gonna blow up with those of you who think race isn’t a large component of what’s going on in this country right now.

But notice how the president has yet to fire back at Eminem on Twitter??

If he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: As Touré wrote, Eminem has pitted “whiteness against itself,” and now a good portion of his fans have to go to the bathroom…because that’s where the mirror is…and take a long, hard look and decide in which tribe they truly want to be…

“And any fan of mine, who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.

“And if you can’t decide who you like more, and you’re split on who should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: FUCK you!”

I feel the same way about my fans. And friends. And family members.

It seems as though people think that at a certain point, depending on what type of career you have, how much money you do or don’t make, and how big or small of a celebrity you are, you don’t have the right to speak your mind on the politics and the goings-on of our country and culture.

Where is this sliding scale?? The truth is, it doesn’t exist — every one of us has the right to speak our mind.

We are living in a crazy time right now, and we need more people of true influence to speak out against injustice, racism, sexism, and the lot.

Influence is the key word here — anyone can be concerned about what’s going on, but if one doesn’t have the means or the resources to actually influence a change in what they’re upset about, they’re like Sisyphus and his boulder, forever exerting energy in an effort doomed to fail.

Focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern, as the late Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Find out what you can do to make a positive impact in the world, based on your particular circumstances, and do it. We need you!

Don’t just sit at the computer or peck at your phone with complaints on social media about they way things are or how they should, take real action in the real world and make them so.

I choose to make my impact through my art, regardless of medium.

To that point…

Back in April, I released “Don’t Mess With My Routine,” which was written from the perspective of the folks in the red hats.

“Hate U Back” is written from the opposite perspective, and I am happy to announce that it is streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services as of today!

If you’re like me, you’ll have a puff, put on your best headphones, and turn the volume up to 70% (protect your ears!).

I hope you dig it. 🙂

“Hate U Back”:

P.S. Since we’re living in an attention economy, I appreciate you taking time to listen to my music. Thank you in advance.

P.P.S. That said, I’d rather hear “I hate it” than nothing at all, so feel free to let me know what you think of “Hate U Back” by emailing me at jk [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. In order to make the most impact possible, I’m asking that everyone listen to “Hate U Back” on Spotify three times in a row in order to help get it included on some of Spotify’s playlists. Do this, and I’ll love you even more than I already do! 😀

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite:
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

The Email That Made My Day

The Email That Made My Day

Last week, I received an email from one of the Bullfighters (fan club members). Her name is Heather, and she lives in Houston, TX.

“Good morning!

“Haven’t seen a blog email in a bit, so I hope it’s because you’ve got just s***loads of irons in all kinds’a fires, and that 2017 has, so far, been kind to you. Had your music in the rotation more lately, if that means anything to you.  🙂

“Hope you and your queen are doing well, and still enjoying homeownership! 🙂 It’s not without its faults, when you realize that, when something breaks, no onsite maintenance crew is coming right away, but I think it still means more to have your very own place. 🙂

“Take care of yourself, mister, and have a great f***ing weekend! :D”

That email made my day!

First, she’s right, I hadn’t blogged in a bit. Since Inauguration Day, I haven’t been compelled to write until the shenanigans regarding the layoffs at 89X.

I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes grinding, but not every single thing I have been excited about came to pass. I’m tired of blogging and telling people what’s going to happen, and then having it not come to fruition, which erodes trust and credibility. I don’t want to be the king of empty promises — the world is already filled with talkers; we need more doers.

Instead of blogging about every small advancement, development, wrinkle or hurdle along my path, I’d rather wait and talk about what is actually happening.

Second, Heather in Houston must be clairvoyant, because I indeed have many irons in many fires . . .

When it comes to new music, I’ve got three songs, each in different stages of production, to share with the Bullfighters for feedback before deciding whether to release and perform them. Those will be sent out as they are finished.

Also, I’m excited to announce that band rehearsals will begin on April 13!

I spent much of the past year meeting with and interviewing potential members, and we had our first official band meeting last week, during which we clarified our long-term vision as a group. There are seven of us getting ready to rehearse, and we are all multi-instrumentalists. (It’s funny sometimes how things work out — I’ve known all but one member since they were teenagers.)

Here’s another special announcement: my podcast Get After It with John Kay is now on iTunes!

Three new episodes will be uploaded in April, including my conversations with:

– Danny Muggs — Guitarist and vocalist from acclaimed Detroit blues-rock band The Muggs
– Don Slater — Bassist of Battlecross, a fast-rising Detroit metal band on Metal Blade Records
– Rocco Ambrose — Founder of the Ambrose Academy of Wing Chun Do and Grandmaster of the Wing Chun Do system of martial arts, a system whose lineage descends straight from Bruce Lee

Available as of now are my conversations with entrepreneur and InkAddict founder Jim Doyon, and drummer Matt Puhy from Detroit hard rock band Wilson. I’ve received great responses from people about the wisdom shared on the podcast by these two gents. Please subscribe to Get After It, download the episodes, and let me know if you learned anything by listening to them talk about their journeys.

[iPhone users: open your podcasts app, select “My Podcasts”, and click the “+” at the top of the screen. Select “Add Podcast”, and enter the following URL:]

Speaking of journeys . . .

On January 21 my queen, mother, and sister-in-law traveled to Washington D.C. for the International Women’s March.

When my queen returned home, she expressed how much she wished I could have been there. I told her that if they have another march, I’ll go with her next time, to which she said that they will be having several different marches, including a march on April 29 for climate change.

SOLD. The queen and I will be traveling to D.C. at the end of April!

The thing is . . . I don’t wanna take a trip only to the nation’s capital.

There are Bullfighters in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Portland (ME), and I want to book an intimate house show in each area on the way to D.C.!***

And that’s not all! In addition to potential house shows, I have scheduled podcast interviews along the way with two people I have huge respect for — Adam Ayan, mastering engineer at Gateway Mastering Studios in Portland, and Patrick “Seton” O’Connor, Director of Operations for The Dan Patrick Show in Milford, CTI’m very excited to connect with these two, hear their stories, and share practical wisdom.

Like Heather said, irons in all kinds’a fires!

Finally, it means everything to me that my music is in rotation in people’s lives. Now that a group is ready to rehearse, we’re that much closer to getting out on the road. Consider this update to mean the wheels are in motion!

2017 has been kind to me so far, and I hope the same for you. As I look outside right now, gray skies are clearing, and the sun is peeking through the clouds.

The best is yet to come! 😀


John Kay

Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @TheRealJohnKay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay


***If you’re in any of these areas, and are interested in what hosting an “intimate house show” involves (it’s easy!), email me at so we can discuss the simple details. The plan is to be in the area of Pittsburgh on April 25, Boston on April 26, and Portland on April 27. I’ve reached out to all of the Bullfighters in these cities already, and they are stoked!***

P.S. As far as home ownership is concerned . . . we have water coming in the basement. We thought we fixed it by sloping the grading underneath our deck, but nope. We may put in a French drain(?) this year if it’s not too expensive a task. If so, yikes. Other than that, we love our home, and may be adding a dog to the family soon. We shall see. 🙂

P.P.S. Speaking of journeys again . . . I like the shoe store Journeys, because they stock Onitsuka Tiger, my favorite brand of sneakers. But I hate the band Journey because of what Steve Perry did to my mom back in the day. He’s a jerk. And there is no “South Detroit” — that’s Canada.

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

New Year, New Song, New Podcast

2016 is finally over.

For many, it was a particularly brutal year.  For me, it was one of the best years of my life.

Mind you, it still had its challenges, from being laid up with injuries to having my car in the shop nine times, and my laptop — the heart of my business! — dying in the summer.

But mostly, it was a great year.

I bought a nice house less than three miles from my mom and dad, got my hands dirty and did some pre-move construction and finishing with my best friend, and moved myself and my queen in in February.  We took out the above-ground pool, and installed a fire pit, around which we hosted two fun parties with many of the awesome people in our life.

I bought a great car and use it to drive for Uber and Lyft, which has proven to be both a viable source of income to cover my household overhead and a way to retain my agency as an entrepreneur.  I get to listen to podcasts — I like to learn while I earn — and meet cool people, some of whom have become fans of my music.  (Remember: Tip your Uber or Lyft driver!)

I’ve been reading anywhere from 20-80 pages of a book every day, and will include my recommended reading list below.

I got hired as a freelance writer and editor by my local newspaper, and conducted a 3-hour strategy session with them to help determine their core values as a business.

Because of the experience with my local paper, along with my blog, I ended up being hired by a candidate for Wayne County Circuit Court Judge to write a 14,000-word story of her life and career, which became the centerpiece for the grassroots social media movement I coordinated to maximize its impact.  She ultimately won the election, and the votes needed in order to secure her seat on the bench were a direct result of my efforts, according to her social media manager.

I also began training in Wing Chun Do, a self-defense-focused martial art developed by Grandmaster (“Sijo”, see-jo) James DeMile based on his years of practicing and learning with Bruce Lee in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I had the opportunity to meet and learn directly from Sijo this past August, when he travelled from his home in Hawaii to bequeath the Wing Chun Do system and Grandmaster title to my personal instructor, Rocco Ambrose.  I’m excited and fortunate to be learning from the Grandmaster of a martial art!

There wasn’t really a single thing that I would consider to be the best thing that happened to or for me in 2016, but I think overall, I’d have to say that I learned a lot about myself and my capacity to get things done, to become my best self.  And I learned a lot about others, too.

Every day, I effort to learn something new.  Whether it’s through reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or talking with a rider when I’m out driving, I’m constantly learning and applying the knowledge gained.

I think that having a student-like mindset is a great way to approach life, and I encourage others to ask tough questions, to seek deeper knowledge in all things.

But I always keep in mind something Sijo said during his visit: “If it doesn’t work for you, it’s pure entertainment.”

So this year, I encourage you to find what works for you, and use it to help you become better at whatever you’re doing and get closer to whatever it is you’re working toward.  (I’d love to hear your story!)

What works for me is operating from a place of authenticity, and creating the best content I can.

I’m happy to announce that starting in 2017, I am now delivering content in three forms:

My blog, which, now that I have a new laptop (yay!), I will endeavor to publish on a weekly basis…

My music, of which a new song was released yesterday (the general consensus among the feedback I’m getting is that it may be my best song to date)…

Finally, my new podcastGet After It! w/ John Kay, the first installment of which was published today at 5:00 AM!  I’ve already interviewed five guests for Get After It!, respectable mavericks each of them, and plan to release a new installment on Monday of each week.

The first installment features my interview with Emily Schaller, the CEO of a Detroit-based non-profit organization called RockCF, which raises funds and awareness for the fight against cystic fibrosis.  Emily’s story and life are inspiring, and every time I talk to her I feel the need to kick my butt a little more in my own efforts.  She truly is a ray of brilliant light, and everyone can learn something from listening to her.

I’m grateful to anyone reading this right now, and to anyone who listens to my music and my podcast.  If you like my music, please buy it.  If you like what you hear on my podcast, please subscribe to it.

2016 is over.  The best is yet to come!  🙂

New song, “We Know We’re Gonna Die”:

New podcast, interview with Emily Schaller:

John Kay

My 2016 recommended reading list:

Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman
I was raised on the Beatles, classical music, and country music.  Anyone who is a Beatles fan generally has a favorite Beatle, and mine was always Paul, although the songs that I loved the most and wanted to learn were usually George songs.  This 800+ page book, a birthday gift from my parents, grabbed me from page one and I read it voraciously, at one point over 125 pages in a day.  Paul was the meticulous one, the one who focused on the details, staying late into the night at the studio to get his bass parts just the way he wanted them, which is to say, perfect.  This book reached into my soul, and I found myself empathizing with Paul in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible if someone told me so.  The author had McCartney’s ‘tacit approval’ to interview anyone and everyone who knew Paul about anything and everything, so this truly is the definitive Paul McCartney biography.  A must-read for anyone interested in one of the biggest superstars in the world.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
I hear all the time about how new music is no good, the radio sucks these days, all the songs sound the same.  Well, this book explains why.  From ABBA to Ace of Base to Kelly Clarkson and Rhianna and more, the evolution of pop music’s dominance is thoroughly broken down.  You get the inside scoop on who really writes the music we hear everywhere — mostly white, middle-aged, Scandinavian men.  This book was fascinating from start to finish, and I recommend everyone reads it.  It’s full of delicious and salacious stories, from Ke$ha’s turbulent lawsuit against producer Dr. Luke, to the time Kelly Clarkson bawled her eyes out in Clive Davis’s office because he insisted on including “Since U Been Gone” on her sophomore record (it would go on to win the Grammy for Song Of The Year).  Treat yourself to this book.  You won’t regret it, even if it does disgust you.

Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
I need to read this book again, this time with a highlighter.  That’s something I have been doing more of, highlighting books as I read them.  This year I’m going to transcribe the highlighted passages from my books onto index cards and create what’s known as a ‘commonplace book’ for myself.  A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations, and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.  The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking, or whatever it is that you do.  Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books.  Marcus Aurelius kept one, which more or less became the Meditations.  Petrarch kept one.  Montaigne, who invented the essay kept a handwritten compilation of sayings, maxims and quotations from literature and history that he felt were important.  Thomas Jefferson kept one.  Napoleon kept one.  Bill Gates keeps one.  I first heard of the idea of a commonplace book from Holiday’s blog, and liked the idea so much I decided to apply it.  This book will be one of the first to get transcribed.  It’s relatively short, and one can likely read it in a day or over a weekend.  Beneficial to anyone.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
This one hits you where it hurts: your smartphone.  Everywhere we turn, most people seem to be looking down at a device.  It’s the reality of the culture in which we live.  But there are devastating side effects to our new habits that are only now being discovered.  This book sheds light on those side effects.  There’s a group of friends going out to dinner and mandating the creation of a ‘cell phone tower’ in the middle of the table, where everyone stacks their device on top of the others, and the first person to grab for theirs when it rings has to pay for the entire meal.  Or consider that many young professionals fresh out of college and beginning their careers would rather talk to their colleagues, bosses, and employees through text, email, or Gchat, than have an actual one-on-one, face-to-face conversation.  We are connecting with our devices more than we are with each other.  According to Turkle, based on her research, this is a growing epidemic, the results of which are a general lack of empathy toward others and an inability to tolerate natural lulls and awkwardness in conversation.  Sound like the world we live in?  Ever since reading this book, I have effort to ‘elevate the conversation’ whenever possible.  Instead of emailing, I’ll text.  Instead of texting, I’ll call.  Instead of calling, I’ll drop by.  By elevating our conversations, we can reclaim our empathy and our connection to one another.

The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time by Arianna Huffington
Believe me, no one was as shocked as I that I purchased something from Arianna Huffington.  Regardless of any opinion one may have about her, the information in the book is immediately applicable.  Since reading it, I do my best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every single night.  You should, too.