As I’ve been making my way through the Providence music scene over the last year, the name John Faraone keeps coming up, either in my conversations with other artists or at a show. Since releasing his debut EP Houses last November, John has quickly developed a reputation for his musicianship and powerful, personal lyrics, a fact made all the more impressive by the fact that before a couple of years ago, John wasn’t even a guitar player.
The story, as John tells it, is that he had been a drummer since he was eight, but out of necessity turned to the guitar a few years back.
“After college everybody moved away and I didn’t have any bands to play in so I sat down and taught myself how to play guitar,” he says.
For listeners, the results have paid off spectacularly. His music is transformative. "Home", the EP’s first track deals with the inability to get back that carefree innocence of being a kid. When he sings “You can’t go back home,” he’s not so much talking about a physical place as he is a state of being that we’re only ever entitled to for too short a time before the pressures and consequences of life start creeping in. But what kills me about this song is the lyric, “On a jungle gym, get my teeth knocked in, it’s okay though.” He croons it, sweetly and longingly over a beautiful slide guitar. And it’s horrific. Think of that scene, of the blood and the screaming. And then think of how quickly a kid bounces back. Our lives as children were fraught with danger and pain, but hindsight lets us look back at those moments almost fondly. No one sings wistfully about that time you wrecked your car on the way home from the office, but in the shadow of a swing set there was comfort to be had, even in our worst days.
This notion of home being an emotional state repeats itself throughout the EP, particularly in the exceptional closing track, “Houses,” which is John’s personal favorite and the song he almost exclusively closes his live performances with. It’s also a fascinating theme for an artist at this point in John’s career to start with.
“I had to get used to writing in my own voice,” he says. “The first few songs I wrote were very much in other people’s voices.” In the year since he’s become more comfortable in his own skin as a songwriter, in a sense narrowing down where exactly “home” is for him. “The songs I’m writing now feel a lot stronger than the others do,” he says.
The backstory of these new songs has more literal and unfortunately more sinister connection to home. In August, John’s East Side apartment was broken into, and while none of his guitars or recording equipment were touched, the computers he had been recording his new album on were stolen. He had no back ups of the recordings. “It took me three or four months to record that stuff and now it’s all gone,” he says. Performing all of the drums, vocals and guitar himself in a home studio he cobbled together in his in-laws’ barn, John had five finalized tracks before being robbed, but for him recording the songs again is hardly the issue. What’s lost are those happy accidents and unplanned deviations from the script that inevitably happen after pressing record.
Since the incident he’s started to regain some momentum. He’s started recording demo versions of his new material – roughly 30 songs in various stages of completion, including the five he had already recorded and lost – with the help of friends with home recording setups. A release date is still nowhere on the table. There really isn’t even a table to speak of at the moment. Right now, John’s just regrouping, playing as many shows as he can without giving his audience Faraone Fatigue, and keeping his options open. He’s considering recording a live album, a move that at this point in his career he laughs off as maybe being a bit presumptuous. “I’m no Neil Young,” he jokes. No, but who is?
This month will find John returning to Machines With Magnets, where he recently played what he believes to be the best show of his career so far. For him this gig will be something of a dream come true, as the bill includes Haunt the House, Dan Blakeslee and Ian Fitzgerald.“They’re my idols in the local music scene,” he geeks, adding “I don’t know what I’m more excited about, sharing the stage with them or being able to see all three of them perform in the same room.”
John Faraone plays Machines with Magnets on November 6th.