Gig preview: John Newman, O2 Academy Leeds

John Newman
John Newman
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John Newman’s chart-topping debut album begins with a long list of names.

The 23-year-old Settle singer explains the roll call that starts with Nina Simone and ends with Beyonce is his homage to the many artists who have inspired him.

“When I was promoting Love Me Again [his Number One single from last year] one thing I was getting asked was ‘Who do you sound like?’” he says. “For me, it’s really hard. I draw influence from people I listen to but the list was so big it was hard to put across.

“The album is called Tribute as a thank you [to all these people] for making music what it is for me.”

Another key figure that the former Leeds College of Music student credits is his mother, Jackie, to whom he recently dedicated “at least 50 per cent” of what he does. She has been, he admits, his rock since his parents separated when he was just six years old.

“She’s my best friend,” he says. “Morally it’s such a big thing. Everything that has come with this job – fame, money or anything like that – I try to put to one side. It’s better to try to make people proud – my mum, my friends – it’s about keeping them happy and making sure they are part of it. My mum is one of the key people that has supported me all the way through. I want to repay her in any way possible.”

One thing he’s keen to clear up is any offence he may inadvertently have caused to his old friends in North Yorkshire. In a recent interview he described the town as “small in every way”, adding: “The lads were all the same person I didn’t want to be.”

“A lot of close friends have taken the comments towards themselves,” he says. “It was not like that. I did not want to offend anybody in the slightest. I was just saying, ‘This is where I’m coming from, this is me’. In terms of growing up, a Northern small town can be like that.”

Having scored two Number One singles – Love Me Again and Feel The Love (with Rudimental) – and topped the album charts, Newman has set his sights this year on cracking the USA. “I don’t want to be a hype-y artist,” he says. “If you want people to buy into you as a household name they do that by buying albums. [Being successful in the US] can take you to that next level. It’s important in that way.”

Tues, Feb 4th, O2 Academy Leeds, 7pm, sold out.

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