The son of a bona fide stuntman – singer and songwriter, John Martin, was born and raised in the southern suburbs of Stockholm, Sweden in the mid eighties. He received his first guitar just as he turned thirteen and duly formed his first band, playing Nirvana covers in the absence of having any songs of their own..
We’ll let John set the scene. ”Around that time, MTV was peaking and I spent the whole summer in front of the TV listening to Nirvana and the Doors – that and Jim Morrison, they were the reason I decided to pick up a guitar.” It wasn’t until John was 15 or 16 that the original material started to flow. ”I was 16 when I started to write my own songs,” he says. ”We did cover songs for a year and then really soon I got into writing my own songs. The first songs were influenced by rock but with strong melodies.
Unbenownst to either of them, the next important step came in the Spring of 1999, when John performed with his rock band at a party in central Stockholm and Michel Zitron, an aspiring young songwriter, attended the same show. Afterwards they were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. It took ten years before John and Michel’s paths would cross again. Fast forward to a balmy summer night in 2009. By this point, Michel Zitron who by now was an established songwriter, spinning at a club in Stockholm. This time round, a fairly drunk John Martin was in the crowd. ”We’d met one time ten years before that (but it was a long gap) so when we met the second time, we didn’t know! We got introduced. I was drunk and still playing with my band but was sick of the whole hanging out at rock n roll clubs and got more kicks out of electronic music, which ended up with me at a rave – and that’s what happened this night. Michael was making a living out of DJing and writing for other Artists, but said he wanted to do something bigger.
They soon discovered their common passion for melancholic music, big melodies and club culture. They had a long conversation about the lack of sadness, messages and stories in contemporary dance music – and hatched a plan to work together. ”We spent the whole night talking about it!” smiles John. Needless to say, their first song sparked something big inside them both. ”The first song – what can I say? The first moment doesn’t happen often but it came together very quickly. We did the song in one hour and we both felt that we had found something the other was looking for. I remember thinking: this is the feeling I’ve been waiting for!” The first song was called ’How Does It Feel’ – the second was ’Silence, Please’ and the third was ’Don’t You Worry, Child’.
They continued writing together for a year – and then in December 2010, the next crucial step came into view. Swedish House Mafia lynchpin Sebastian Ingrosso came to Cosmos Studios – both camps had a room there – and the first day they played him a couple of songs. John says Seb was ”blown away” by the songs and his voice so by the end of the day, he asked us to write on one of his tracks, an embryo that soon would become ’Save The World’. ”And we did that whole song in one day, it was one of those songs that kind of writes itself!
”As anyone with a passing interest in Big Songs will tell you, ’Save The World’ would, alongside “One”, become one of THE signature records for Swedish House Mafia. ”To me, it’s always going to be an amazing record!” he smiles. ”It came together quickly and it was the reason for me to quit my daytime job – when it became a hit, I got the opportunity to start touring the world. It took me everywhere and together with the Swedes at Madison Square Garden, we did Ibiza and Ali Pali. At Madison Square Gardens, there was an audience of 17,000. I have a lot of great memories of that song.”
The equally epic “Don’t You Worry, Child” was the next single that John wrote and featured on with Swedish House Mafia. ”It’s a beautiful song, Don’t You Worry, Child means a lot. The lyrics and the music: it’s very personal, it’s about love and childhood memories” The success was global. On arrival in the USA in February 2012 John simultaneously got a text from his manager saying it was in the Top 10 on the Billboard Chart and he turned on the radio in his hire car from the airport and it was the first song he heard, was when he realised things had gotten big. ‘Everything changed what seemed like overnight. When travelling around we heard it constantly on repeat for the whole month. We had never performed the track live at that stage but shortly after I found myself playing in front of 100,000 in Stockholm over a three day period. That was a highlight.’
Penning another smash hit – next up was ‘Children of the Sun’ with Tinie Tempah that John also featured on. ‘We got introduced through a mutual friend. Michel and I wrote the melody and Tinie added the rap. It was a natural connection. Not many rappers could fit on that track but it was obvious that our worlds could mesh’.
The last couple of years have seen John achieve global success and recognition from the Grammys. Signing to Island Records was a lifelong dream come true. John reflects, ‘’I’ve always thought Island were a cool label because of the legacy – U2 and Bob Marley, it doesn’t get better than that!”. The very final piece in the puzzle – for now, at least – is The Debut Album. ”It’ll be about songs. It definitely has electronic influences but it’s a song-based album. It was written while on the road and meeting people. New cities, new people we met along the way. It’s about our lives and their lives’” by big songs and big artists – From Nirvana to Depeche Mode. Make no mistake: this is music for the people, and the people have been waiting.