When and why did you start doing music? I started piano lessons when I was eight. My parents encouraged me, along with my brother and sister, to start learning, but my brother and sister both dropped out shortly after starting. I suppose one of us had to stay on to make all that investment worthwhile, but I really started to enjoy it and shortly progressed to playing guitar and drums too.
What was your first instrument? My parents surprised me with an upright piano bought from an auction when I was about ten. It still resides at their house, but was superceded by a Yamaha Clavinova with the all important headphone socket (to the relief of family and neighbours). When I started playing guitar I ended up using my sister's Stratocaster. I wasn't content with the sunburst finish so I painted a Union Jack on it using permanent marker pens and a couple of bottles of Tipex. It was a dreadful idea and thankfully I had the sense to get it sanded off. I still have the guitar, and I'm glad to say that the paint job is much more subtle these days. If we're talking about the very very first instrument... I actually have a memory of being about six or seven and being at Center Parcs shortly after Christmas. My parents had bought me some kind of toy electric guitar, which plugged in to this little amplifier with a jack lead. The only real memory I have of this guitar is plugging the lead in to a ROLO, to see if chocolate made a sound; it doesn't. I think I might have broken the amp actually...
Who inspires you? Such a tough question! Erm... M. Ward would probably be the forerunner in terms of musical inspiration. I love his style, voice and recording techniques. Jimmy Webb is a firm favourite of mine as a songwriter, along with Hank Williams, but if we're talking modern day then it would be someone like Josh Ritter. In terms of performance it has to be Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They've been gigging for over forty years, yet every gig is as fresh as the last and their passion for live music seems to radiate from the stage. Springsteen has to be one of the best performers I've ever seen; I would love to be part of his band! I find all sorts of inspiration from various people and quotes. My current favourite - "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going".
Do you have a particular favourite genre of music? Country! It gets such a bad wrap here in the UK, but there's so many different styles, and the musicianship is absolutely incredible. I personally think some of the best songwriters and musicians come from country music.
What do you think makes a great song? I personally love clever and thoughtful lyrics, however, catchy choruses, hooks and lyrical hooks always translate well in pop. So much chart music seems to be so production based, and relies on strong arrangements; I think a song that works well stripped back to one voice and a guitar or piano usually shows signs of a well written song. Great songs have a sort of 'mystery' about them. I suppose there are certain formulas you can follow, but every great song has a touch of unexplainable magic.
What sort of work do you do as a freelance musician? Well, I've done all sorts, from standing behind One Direction on X Factor to playing gigs in people's living rooms. The variety of being a musician is what makes it so fun! There's television work, live performance, studio recording, teaching, to name but a few. The smaller gigs are always a lot of fun, but there's no greater feeling than standing on a big stage in front of a few thousand people and soaking it in. I think most musicians have their bread and butter work - weddings, functions, parties, which can help pay the bills, but then once every so often something really special comes along.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a professional musician? Get out there and start playing with other musicians - it will expand your network and give you exposure to playing in bands. Sure, it's great to sit in the bedroom and get the technicalities of playing sorted out, but working with other people requires a different skill set and will contribute greatly to your success. Be punctual; be flexible; be a nice person. Remember, if you end up going on tour or recording you will likely be spending a lot of time in close confines with other people - it's a lot more fun when you can all get along.
What do you like about working in bands? The social element is great; I've made so many great friends through being a musician, and you all share a common passion, which is handy. It's always nice to share the experience of having a great gig where everyone is soaking up the vibes on stage. You get to spend your time playing music and having fun - when you're riding high, being a musician is the greatest job in the world!
What is your most memorable gig (good or bad!) and why? I have way too many memories to recall! I recently got back from a European tour with some great friends of mine, which was so much fun it should have come with a warning sticker. In 2012 I did a charity bike ride from London to Paris, got straight back on the Eurostar and did a gig when I got home... I was so tired that I fell asleep in between sets behind the guitar amps! There's tons of highs and tons of lows, but I think it beats sitting in an office! :-)
You can find out more about John by visiting www.johnbudding.co.uk