When he’s not writing, directing or producing for television and film, St John is a prolific composer, songwriter, producer and voting member of the Recording Academy. As a solo artist, he has produced music for animated series, web series and feature films, scored and produced 13 CDs for self-help publishing Hay House audiobooks, and released several new age instrumental CDs including his debut “Cloudwalking” and follow-up “Global Symphony”. After co-founding SFN RECORDS with partner Fisher and developing several artists, St John has returned to his musical roots this year with a series of avant-garde songs and dance remixes of those tracks. He’s also part of a music trio creating pop and EDM tracks artists and commercials.
This week SFN RECORDS premieres composer/director ST JOHN’s Enya-style remix EP called “DREAMING”, featuring vocals by Tayla and trance tempo by ROCCO. There’s an exclusive behind-the-scenes video of the making of “Dreaming” on the record label site, and the actual music video premieres Tuesday, June 24. We sat down with St John to talk about his music, inspirations and founding SFN RECORDS.
Entertwine: Where did your musical roots form? What kind of musical and or artistic background do you have that led you to so many creative outlets – composing, songwriting, producing and performing?
St. John: Growing up my mom was really into country and blue grass, so I was listening to guys like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie as a kid. Later we moved to the mountains for a spell and there was a piano in the ranch house — and I remember just sitting down at the piano and starting to play. Mom said I just took right to it. Then there was a musical group called the Music Farmers who would come up to the ranch and perform on Friday nights, and I sometimes played the spoons, the washboard, or the piano with them — wearing my Music Farmers overalls!! When we moved back to the city a few years later, I noticed I was hearing these incredible symphonies in my head (I didn’t call them “symphonies” at the time), so I just kept playing melodies and stuff on the piano. In junior high, I had a friend who could read music and so he helped me transcribe what I was hearing in my head — and I turned my composition into a philharmonic competition — and my composition won! So there I was, months later, shaking hands with the conductor as the orchestra played my song. It was the most exhilarating feeling in the world. And I still hadn’t had a lesson or learned to read a note. I also played for Liberace at his museum when I was pretty small… vague memory of doing that, but it was pretty wild! After the philharmonic award, I sort of put the music thing away after that (although I did compose my high school class song), and started focusing on my television writing career because I grew up writing stories and wanting to break into television. At 15 I was the host of a local cable kids news show, and then at 16 I created my own television drama series that aired around Northern California, and turned my high school into my own personal production studio, and produced weekly episodes! It was crazy. In between all that, I would spend my alone time writing and drawing comic books, creating characters and genuinely having fun with it all. And when I got my first video camera, I started shooting little videos and forcing my sisters and brother and mom and dad and aunts and uncles to star in my movies! So I guess you could say the creative blueprint was there from the beginning. My first real gig in Hollywood was writing animation at Hanna Barbera (Tom & Jerry Kids), and then I wrote and was story editor of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series… doing over 50 episodes including introducing the famous Green Ranger!! And then I wrote the movie Seventeen Again on Disney Channel. Now it’s all sort of coming together with the launch of my own production company (SFN STUDIOS) and record label (SFN RECORDS). I get to combine all those talents into one place, and I’m loving it!
ET: Who are some of your best influencers when it comes to writing and performing, why?
SJ: It’s interesting. Besides the bluegrass and country music influences, I was also in love with pop stuff, and Michael Jackson and Madonna… random, right? And I have been obsessed with movie and television scores since childhood — theme songs, sound effects, and John Williams! In fact, I have just about every single movie soundtrack that’s out there. I relish them; as a film director, I believe that music accounts for 50% of a movie’s success. People have no idea how much music affects a film… music, to me, is ALIVE. It is sentient. It is a form of communication. When I compose, I sit down at my keyboard and just “tune in” and let it come through… it’s a thrilling process that I simply can’t explain.!
ET: Where does the name, St. John stem from? Is there a larger meaning to the name?
SJ: St John is my last name, and for many years people have been calling me by St John, so one day I just decided to go with it! !
ET: What sparked your interest in producing and publishing audiobooks, such as the 13 CDs for Hay House?
SJ: After hearing some of my demo music, I was asked to score several audio books for Esther Hicks, the people behind “The Secret”, and I was so excited because I’d never done such a large project before! It exercised my passion for instrumental scoring, and they were thrilled with the results so I did several projects with them that were released by Hay House and Barnes & Noble.
ET: Tell us a bit about your history of producing music for animated and web series films. What kind of films were these, and what was the most rewarding about this experience?
SJ: I was still in college when I slipped a spec animation script under the door of an executive at Hanna Barbera on a Friday afternoon; and by Monday morning the staff had read it and called my agent to offer me a 2-year writing deal for an animated television series! I was in heaven, especially because I was a cartoon and comic book geek! The added bonus was that I got to work directly with the legendary Mr. Joseph Barbera, creator of the Flintstones and so many other American animation classics. He taught me everything I know about writing for animation, comic timing, and creating great stories. In fact, Joe and I co-created an animated short called “DINO” which you can find at the Television Academy museum. I also started doing Power Rangers at the same time and had a blast doing that crazy show, which turned into this unbelievable mega-hit that is still going on today! Remember, I was like 19 years old. Later, I got hired at the first online network (before YouTube and Facebook and social media), and I was the executive producer and head writer of an online soap opera — the very first of its kind. It was crazy, because the internet was brand new, and we were doing things with pictures! You couldn’t even use video online at the time. A few years later I co-created the first cell phone soap for Sprint, and cross-platformed the stories with its web counterpart. I guess what I love is to tell stories on whatever platform there is — I enjoy creating worlds. Whether its with words or music.
ET: Tell us a bit about your co-ownership of SFN Records – what kind of label is this, and what made you decide to start this venture?!
SJ: It was started out of passion. And love of music. Last year my producing partner Fisher (because we now only go by last names apparently! LOL) and I launched SFN RECORDS as a platform to create and distribute my music. We’re an artist-driven label, open to folk, EDM, trance, classical — and instrumental stuff. We’re mostly producing music that I’m creating, or collaborating on. Right now we’re working with an amazing DJ/Producer named Rocco who’s just relocated from Australia to the USA specifically to co-create some cool music and stuff.
But I love to find new artists and work with them, too. I discovered an artist named Kattail and wanted to get her out there, so I produced her album with a friend named Travis Marsh (currently touring with country singer Joel Crouse) and I’ve been building her as an artist for the past year, getting her to play at Whisky-A-Go-Go, The Mint, The Viper Room, etc. — along with focusing on my own music ambitions. It’s so cool to help others the way I’ve been supported in this industry. Fisher and I love to give back, and I personally love to see people reaching for — and becoming — Who They Really Are. Man, there is nothing better. I’m a huge motivator in that regard. I shot 4 videos for Kat, plus an 80-minute documentary that we were able to get streaming on Amazon — and it’s so gratifying just to see her progression as an artist and where she is now. And where we as a company are now. I love to see the growth! !
ET: What are your main goals for your label, SFN Records?
SJ: We really want to have fun and create some great music, find and work with talented new people, try to get songs licensed and placed, build our catalogue, create songs for commercials and write tracks for super hot artists to cover!
ET: What made you decide to take a break from producing and motivated you to get back into your musical performing roots?
SJ: I can’t sit still doing one thing; I need a lot of stimulation, LOL. I’ve got songs and lyrics and symphonies buzzing in my head all day long, as well as story lines and characters and visual concepts that need to come out on paper and film. So I do it all… and I feel so blessed to have been given these talents. My mom always believed in me, she never placed any expectations on me, and told me to just always try and have fun with whatever I wanted to do. So thanks, Mom!!
ET: Tell us about your music trio – when did you form, and what kind of EDM music do you create?!
SJ: The musical trio is called HOUSE OF PRYME, and consists of myself, Fisher and Rocco. We came together after remixing a few songs in our catalogue of music, and we had so much fun doing it that we decided to create all-new, original dance tracks that WE would enjoy hearing… and that’s exactly what we’re doing. In fact, we have a slate of new pop/dance/edm/trance songs coming out all summer long! !
ET: What is next for St. John in 2014?
SJ:More music, absolutely. I have several solo “ ST JOHN” songs coming out.
I’m also working on several television pilots; a musical feature film that I’m writing the script for and composing the music for — which I will direct!
I’m continuing to build the SFN companies (SFN STUDIOS and SFN RECORDS); finding and working with new artists on music; working with Rocco and Fisher on HOUSE OF PRYME tracks; licensing and scoring; and working on a sequel to my children’s book! And I’m sure I’ll think of something else… oh yeah, I just shot the music video for my song DREAMING, and and and…!! It’s a lot of hard work, but I enjoy every minute of being alive and being able to create… sometimes awesome stuff, sometimes not so awesome stuff, but I learn from everything that I do and try to do the best I can with what I’ve got.