Chris St. John has been on a whirlwind journey. Having been a singer songwriter and guitar player for decades, he recently decided to share his music with the world, rattling off hit after hit on the International and United States independent charts. He began his formal music career by producing a song about wanting to leave suburban life to live a life in the country with a horse named Reagan. The song was written shortly after returning from a 650 head cattle roundup in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the beginning of the pandemic.
Encouraged by the response from family and friends for his spirited original version of “I Need a Horse” – the first tune he ever tracked in a studio – the multi-talented St John let loose and produced 15 new songs over the next few months on his first hit album I’m Dreaming. His quick Top Ten success on the Euro Indie Music Chart and World Indie Music Chart with “I Called You Rose”, “A Box for Jewels” and “I’d Send you my Heart”,paved the way for his breakthrough smash “Hey Siri,” which hit #1 on both charts in only three weeks – and remained in the pole position for five weeks. “Hey Siri” appears as powerful work on his new full-length album release, Fly Away.
With its playfull rolling African groove reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland vibe and clever, insightful lyrics about our crazy, unquestioning addictions to modern technology and devices, it’s easy to see why listeners can’t get enough of “Hey Siri.” Yet as catchy and dynamic as the tune is – and as delighted as he is that it cemented his status as an international indie artist – stylistically it’s an outlier of sorts, scratching only the surface of the deep, diverse, and impactful artistry St John showcases over the course of 13 tracks plus 2 bonus acoustic versions of songs on Fly Away.
The next single set for release is the title track, a soulful, poignant ballad he wrote reflecting on the birth of his son and their time together over the years as his son was heading off to college. All parents with children that reach that age can relate to St John’s heartfelt lyrics: “I just held you I cannot believe it/You’re heading off to live on your own/A Million hours, tears joy laughter/I treasured it all, the best years I’ve known…” The album also features a gentle acoustic version of the song.
Fly Away might be one of the few albums in music history to be produced by the same guy who helped create an artist’s earlier hits on the radio promotion end. The collection was helmed by industry legend Stephen Wrench, who has worked with everyone from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty, Don Henley,Bonnie Raitt and Ozzy Osbourne. The album was cut at Omnisound Studios in Nashville, with some of Music City’s most renowned session musicians. Wrench, also an influential radio promoter whose company Musik Radio Promotions caters to a network of over 250,000 stations in 180 countries, worked with St John’s earlier singles – and was so impressed by that latest batch of songs that he signed as his producer for the current project.
For St John, who has been writing songs since 14, the album is an opportunity to share his natural passions for everything from pop, rock and country to folk, soft rock, and Americana. St John’s voice is velvety and clear on the album’s ballads, and heartfelt and rocking on the up-tempo songs. His tenor voice has remarkable range his different way of attacking his vocal parts make it hard to believe it’s the same singer throughout the album. His voice has a uniqueness that pulls you in and makes you feel welcome, like he is your friend. His songs offer deep, thought-provoking timeless poetry. Though generally personal in nature, his material offers an ongoing, freewheeling celebration of the music he grew up on and which inspired him to work towards his goal, now coming to beautiful fruition, of becoming a recording artist himself. In addition to Simon, chief influences include The Beatles, Eagles, Cat Stevens and the Grateful Dead.
When asked about his success, St John said “I’m proud of this body of work. I worked hard to write and sing these songs. We worked as a band during the sessions, and the production value on this album is very high. I’ve always written songs for me, to express my joys and release my sorrows, and my songs are authentic. I didn’t write to make hits — I wrote to express myself — for the love of it. I am an optimist, despite life’s trials, and I pray my sense of hope speaks to people in a meaningful way. I want people who listen to enjoy the music, but also pay attention to the lyrics, since those are such a big part of who I am as an artist. I try to craft words like a sculptor, keeping at them until I get every word, line, and nuance right. One wrong word can ruin an entire song.”
He continued during the interview, “I think the timing of my emergence as an artist is just right, because the songs I’ve recently written have a level of experience, maturity and depth that I couldn’t have expressed in my 20s – just as songs I wrote back then would be impossible to write now,” he adds. “Whether the songs I write are happy, sad, whimsical, or deep, almost everything I write has comes back to hope. I am positive and grateful for everything I have. Perseverance and living life in the moment has always been a big part of my overall happiness and my music.
St John grew up in the era long before digital playlists, when full length albums were considered works of art and artists wanted their fans to listen to the album as a full statement even beyond the handful of radio singles. Starting with the romantic mid-tempo pop rock ballad “My Sunrise” all but one song was written by St John. The album ends with a duet on a song written by Stephen Wrench titled “I Just Knew” – with vocalist Leah Haley. “Stephen tried different vocalists and instrumentations and never felt satisfied with the outcome. Leah and I worked very hard to do the song justice. St John picked the song sequence to enhance the listening experience for people who listen to the album in its entirety.
While “Hey Siri” and “Fly Away” are earning the most buzz and traction at radio, St John has a has a handful of favorites he would like listeners to pay special attention to get a sense of his stylistic and thematic range. The blues-tinged ballad “Walk Between the White Lines” finds him reminiscing fondly about growing up working at the family beach at Watch Hill on Fire Island, located on the South Shore of Long Island. He wrote the haunting “The Disappear,” about appreciating people while they’re still with us. The song is told in alternating first person accounts of a lifelong friendship as one friend reaches the later years of his life. The song “I Still Love You” has a Beatle’s feel, and running for only two minutes, sums up his long-term marriage to his wife Elisabeth. “Never have I said so much in so few words,” said St John. Other gems include the dreamy and poetic spiritual meditation “Look for Me,” the longing, emotionally intense pop-rocker “Missing You” and the adventurous, blues, country, and Latin tinged adventure “Me and You.”
St John brings wealth of life experiences to his musical palette that could never have existed had he gone the proverbial starving artist route earlier on in his adult life. In addition to his many years practicing law, having been a judge and prosecutor along the way, he studied and taught Chinese in Beijing. He worked in the State Department for then Secretary of State George Schultz, participating in the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in 1986. He was later a trade delegate to a trade mission to China in 2007, in Xian, China. In addition, the singer is the co-founder of HALO Missions (Health and Learning for Orphans), which provides hands-on medical care and educational assistance to orphans in developing countries. He is also a volunteer professional firefighter.
“My favorite professor told our class you can lose your money, property, and liberty, but that no one can take away the things we learn,” St John says. “I feel that way about music. What we create today lives on well beyond our time on earth.”