Music Star John Lindahl Of CULT CLASSIQUÉ On The Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful…

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Music Star John Lindahl Of CULT CLASSIQUÉ On The Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Music Industry

…I think my work represents the wonder of achieving anything. I want it to make people believe that anything is possible and the human mind can create so many things we don’t even believe we’re capable of. Listening to my discography, if you put every melody I ever created into a symphonic experience, I want people to leave feeling every human emotion possible. But more importantly, I want them to know that this person created something from his own mind, and that means they can do anything. Anything truly is possible if you set your mind to believing and seeing yourself in the way you want to be seen.

I had the pleasure of talking with John Lindahl, a multifaceted talent in the music industry. John first gained recognition in 2011 during his appearance on the X Factor at the young age of 14. His journey since then has been marked by a series of impressive achievements, including sharing the stage with Ed Sheeran at the 2016 Grammys and signing with prominent record labels such as Epic Records at 16 and later with Def Jam Records through BobbyBoy Records (Logic’s label).

Known for his skills as a singer, songwriter, and producer, Lindahl’s music has been featured in various movies and TV shows, including “Free Guy” (starring Ryan Reynolds), “The Fast and the Furious” series, Fox and ESPN Sports TV, and Netflix’s “Inventing Ana.” Additionally, he has opened for Logic on two summer arena tours and was featured on the track “100 Miles and Running” from Logic’s album YSIV.

Lindahl’s discography includes two full albums with Def Jam, “John Lindahl’s Opening Night” and “A John Lindahl Holiday,” both of which he wrote and produced. His recent independent release, “John Lindahl’s Cult Classiqué,” showcases his broad range of talents as he took on the roles of producer, writer, performer, mixer, and master.

His latest project, “JohnLindahl’s CULT CLASSIQUÉ,” is not just an album but a creative endeavor that introduces a new character, JOHNNY, and an entire world created by Lindahl. The project, inspired by 80s Pop/R&B, is accompanied by a full-length feature film written, directed, and produced by Lindahl, who also stars in the leading role. This film acts as an allegory for Lindahl’s experiences in the music industry, facing rejection and struggling with feeling different since childhood. The project echoes the narrative style of projects like Melanie Martinez’s K12, blending JOHNNY’s story with Lindahl’s personal experiences.

Lindahl’s collaborations extend to industry giants such as Justin Timberlake, Tommee Profitt (NF), Danja, Pop and Oak, The Underdogs, Polow Da Don, Eric Hudson, Harmony Samuels, Jim Jonsin, The Movement, Rob Knox, and more, showcasing his versatility and acclaim in the music world.

His journey is a testament to his dedication and artistry, making him a notable figure in today’s music landscape.

Thank you so much for joining us John. Before we dive in deep, our readers would love to learn about your personal origin story. Can you share this story from your childhood and how you grew up?

John: Sure, the origin story. I was born in Maryland, just outside Baltimore in a city called Silver Spring, but I don’t really remember living there as I grew up in Southern California. Music has always been a big part of my life from a very young age. The first thing that inspired me to get into performing and creating was watching “Singing in the Rain” with my grandparents. I’ve had a solid professional career in music. I knew from a young age that this was my path. I was on the X Factor at 14 and signed my first record deal at 17. I’ve worked with artists like Justin Timberlake and Logic, and great producers like Timbaland. It’s been an amazing journey, working with so many talented people. Now, I’m focusing on my independent works, which I’m really excited about. The world I’m creating is a culmination of all the skills I’ve acquired throughout my career in the industry and entertainment. It’s thrilling to bring all of this experience into my personal independent space.

Yitzi: You mentioned that you’ve always been involved in music, but can you think about your earliest memories of when you decided this is going to be my path, like I’m going to be a musician for a living?

John: Literally, I think I was five. I was sitting on the couch at my grandparents’ old house in Utah, playing music, drumming, and tinkering with the piano. I remember seeing Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dancing, singing, playing music, and writing music in a film. It was all about making a movie. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. At that moment, around five years old, watching Singing in the Rain with my grandparents, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Yitzi: You probably have so many interesting stories. As you mentioned, being on X Factor and working with all these accomplished people, can you share with us one or two of the most interesting stories or favorite memories from your career as an artist?

John: Absolutely. My career so far has mostly been in the orbit of other artists, which has been fantastic for learning and skill development. One of the coolest moments was talking with Justin Timberlake backstage during his 2020 Experience Tour. He found me on YouTube, and just before his show, we had this casual conversation at the Honda Center. He talked about how great he thought my work was and the potential he saw in me, then went on to perform in front of thousands. That conversation was a huge affirmation for me, a confirmation that I’m on the right path. Another incredible experience was working with Logic. We wrote ‘100 Miles and Running,’ a song featured in movies like ‘Free Guy’ and ‘Hobbs and Shaw.’ We wrote it in Maui, in a little bungalow with Logic’s engineer and his producer, Six. The song came together really fast, and seeing it later in big blockbuster films was amazing. We wrote it back in 2017, but it wasn’t released until around 2021, which was a surreal experience.

Yitzi: It’s been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a humorous mistake that you made when you were first starting, and the lesson that you learned from that?

John: Yes, I’ve always been quite hard on myself, sometimes to a point where it’s been more of a hindrance than helpful. Learning from what I’ve considered mistakes, especially regarding punctuality and being fully present in situations, has been valuable. The biggest lesson for me is realizing that as long as I work hard, show up, and do everything I intend to in that moment, the rest is out of my hands, whether it’s in God’s hands or the universe’s, whatever you believe. Putting excessive pressure on myself for every failure was detrimental to my presence as an artist. I’ve learned to understand that everything happening to me is also happening for me, contributing to my growth and preparing me for the future. So, I try to internalize and learn from experiences without being too hard on myself, which I used to do a lot, and it held me back significantly.

Yitzi: Let’s pretend you were the king of the music industry, heading all the biggest music studios and labels. What changes are you happy about seeing in the industry over the past five years? And what would you do to make things different going forward if you could change them instantly?

John: The music industry is fascinating because there are always two sides to every coin, and people see things in their own way. Having been an artist signed to different labels, I’ve witnessed the traditional path to success. But recently, music distribution has become widely accessible. Anyone can now grab a microphone and release a song, which has been fantastic for musical output and for empowering people to create. If I were king of the music industry, I would draw inspiration from the greatest artists who have set standards in distributing and packaging their art. My approach would be to encourage artists to create tangible worlds with their music, much like what I’m doing through films and other mediums. World building is becoming vital, not just in music but in the entertainment industry as a whole. Artists are turning into auteurs and directors, crafting immersive experiences. Audiences around the globe are looking for more than just a song; they crave experiences they can touch, see, smell, hear, and feel. I believe this is where the industry should be heading, encouraging artists to fully embrace and convey the visions and worlds they conceive.

Yitzi: So John, you’re working on so many exciting projects. You’ve done so much great work before. Tell us about Cult Classique. What is your unique vision? How is it different from what’s been done before? Why should our readers care, and why should they buy it and support it?

John: One thing I love about art is its expansive nature. I often say artists are here to open doors for others, including visionaries and fellow artists. Sometimes, an artist will unknowingly open a door that inspires another to build an entire career and vision around that idea. With Cult Classique, my concept stemmed from a fascination with 80s music, arguably the greatest pop era ever. We’re talking about icons like Michael Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Gloria Estefan, and Madonna. Their level of stardom is something we don’t often see today. My idea was to blend this with the horror elements of indie films, particularly those written, directed, and scored by the same person, like John Carpenter. I wanted to replicate this in an album format, creating a character and a world around it, supported by a film. I chose 80s indie horror for its accessibility in terms of budget, aiming to make the visual aspects feasible.

I also have strong connections with industry dancers, like Marty Kadelka, who’s worked with Justin Timberlake. These friendships have helped me create a vibrant, dance-heavy, yet horror-themed musical world. It’s like a euphorically sinister nightmare, something you can see, smell, hear, touch, and feel. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an inspiration, a 15-minute short film. But I wondered, why not extend this concept to a full film? That’s what I’m doing with Cult Classique, planning to release it in six parts. The script is ready, and it will be a full-length feature film, combining music and story. I’m thrilled about bringing this vision to life.

Yitzi: I’ve never heard of something so ambitious. It’s really incredible. Where did the idea to think so big and broadly yet singularly come from?

John: I’ve always admired the greatest of all time in various fields, like sports, acting, and music. People often asked me about my favorite athlete, and I’d mention legends like Michael Jordan or Tom Brady. They are the best, and it’s natural to be drawn to them and to want to emulate what they do. These greats always push boundaries and exceed the limits others set for them. My interest spans across music, production, singing, dancing, acting, and film. I wanted to combine all these interests into one project. I’ve seen artists who limit their projects to showcase specific talents, but I believe in showcasing everything. Film is not just a movie; it’s a blend of numerous art forms like music, acting, costume and set design. After releasing my first album and a Christmas album around the start of COVID, I fell into a deep depression. My plans to tour and gain widespread recognition were shattered. This left me feeling discouraged, questioning my abilities in music, and even disliking my own voice. Johnny, the character in my film ‘Cult Classique’, represents these repressed feelings. He doesn’t speak in the film, reflecting my own sense of unworthiness. My career, from ‘X Factor’ to record deals, was often filled with people misunderstanding me and my capabilities. I was tired of fighting against these misconceptions and felt really sad. ‘Cult Classique’ is my attempt to try again, but from a place of pain and insecurity. It’s about not being confident yet still pushing forward. Athletes often ignore criticism, but for me, those words deeply affect me. ‘Cult Classique’ is about pursuing your dreams despite negative comments and how these experiences have influenced my art.

Yitzi: You mentioned that Johnny, the character, represents your feelings of self-doubt and not being able to share your voice. So you mentioned how you’re similar. How are you different from Johnny?

John: I’m different from Johnny in the sense that, while the character arc in the film shows only so much, everything you see isn’t always as it seems, which is something I’m really excited about. But the main difference is that I can still put on a face if I need to, be happy, and experience positive things. Johnny represents the lowest of the low, the point where I don’t know how to pull myself out. That’s literally me at my lowest, a picture image of Johnny. On average, I’m able to mask those feelings. I don’t feel that way all the time, but Johnny is a clear image of the lowest feeling I experience.

Yitzi: You mentioned a term that I never heard before, which really caught my ear. I think it was “euphorically sinister.” So on the surface that appears to be a contradiction there, can you explain what you mean?

John: For sure. Well, I used to be told when I was working with all these producers and stuff, they used to say, “Oh John, your melodies and your music, it’s too pretty. It sounds too pretty all the time. Your choices are way too pretty.” And I used to get kind of frustrated because I’m like, well, isn’t music supposed to be everything? But then I thought, why don’t I take the impacts and the undertones of 80s horror scores and mix them with the beauty of something like Stephen Sondheim’s work, where you have the most beautiful sounding thing immediately transitioning into something off-putting and unsettling. Essentially, I wanted to create music that was fun and exciting, but with an undertone and undercurrent of uncertainty, where it could take a dark turn at any moment. That was a way for me to offset the beauty of it all. If it’s too pretty all the time, I understand what they’re saying. You get used to that. But with my music and the film, I want you to always question what you’re seeing and hearing.

Think about when you’re in a horror film. Even in good moments, you can never fully accept them as happy or good. Like in the movie “Us,” one of the most beautiful musical cues is by Michael Abels, called “Femme Fatale.” It plays right after the blonde lady from “Handmaid’s Tale” murders her doppelgänger and does her makeup in the mirror. It’s this beautiful, lush string moment, like a gorgeous resolution. And then it shifts. Some of the horror scores have the most beautiful musical cues, but you can never fully accept them.

Yitzi: If you could take all of your music, all the songs, all the melodies, and put it into one bucket, what would the overall message be about your work?

John: I think my work represents the wonder of achieving anything. I want it to make people believe that anything is possible and the human mind can create so many things we don’t even believe we’re capable of. Listening to my discography, if you put every melody I ever created into a symphonic experience, I want people to leave feeling every human emotion possible. But more importantly, I want them to know that this person created something from his own mind, and that means they can do anything. Anything truly is possible if you set your mind to believing and seeing yourself in the way you want to be seen.

Yitzi: You’ve been blessed with a lot of success and accomplished so much. Looking back to when you first started, are there five things you wish someone had told you or that you knew at the start of your career as a music artist?

John: First, I wish I knew I’d be able to self-produce all my music. Self-producing was something I found really cool. Secondly, becoming a good dancer was a big surprise. I wasn’t naturally talented, but I practiced relentlessly in front of the mirror. Now, my best friends in the industry are dancers, and I’ve learned so much from them. Thirdly, learning to play the piano was a dream come true. I always wanted to be good at it. Fourth, creating my own film, which includes directing and writing, is something I’d have loved to know was in my future. Finally, I always had confidence in my singing abilities. Knowing my voice would take me all over the world is something I believed in, and being able to say that it happened is truly fulfilling.

Yitzi: Okay, this is our aspirational question. So John, because of your great work, you’re a person of enormous influence and a lot of people take your words very seriously. If you could spread an idea or inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

John: People might think this is a bit silly, but honestly, one thing I would love to do is create a world, like a theme park or a creative hub, inspired by my experiences going to Disneyland as a kid. Those visits significantly influenced my creativity and the belief that anything is possible. The whole message of Disney is about believing in yourself, that anything is possible, and not letting others define you. I’d like to build a place based on my music and films, a world that kids can access for free. I want them to feel the same joy and inspiration I felt at Disney. I aim to make enough money to fund this project myself so that people can enjoy it without any cost. This experience was integral to my mentality as a child, encouraging me to freely create and believe in myself. I understand how vital it is for humans, especially kids, to believe in themselves. I’d love to create this environment for kids and their families because I know it would positively shape their mental outlook, just as it did for me.

Yitzi: Today, the film industry is grappling with the challenge of drawing people into theaters when they can easily watch movies on their phones or computers. It seems you believe in creating a more immersive experience, where art isn’t just seen, but also felt, smelled, and tasted. How do you propose solving the issue of theaters struggling to sell seats?

John: Here’s what I think: I hope movie theaters never disappear because going to the movies, especially as a family tradition on Christmas, is one of my favorite activities. It’s such an incredible experience. I dream of adapting my work, Johnny and the Cult Classique Universe, to Broadway, but to address the current issue, we need to revisit the origins. Consider how films were once exclusively released in theaters without online access. I’m inspired by what happened with the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was shown in just one theater, creating a frenzy of fans dressing up and engaging actively. Imagine if a big name like Marvel released a new movie exclusively in a single city. That exclusivity could reignite the excitement for theater-going. Also, delaying streaming releases and ensuring an undistracted experience by checking phones at the door could help. For my film, Cult Classique, I want to rent out theaters for weekly showings to let people truly experience it in that setting. Going back to the roots and restoring exclusivity is key.

Yitzi: We’re very blessed that prominent leaders in entertainment read this column. This is what we call our matchmaker question. Is there a person in the world or the U.S. with whom you’d like to sit down and have a power lunch with? Because we could tag them and maybe we could connect you.

John: You know who would be amazing? Danny Elfman. I was just listening to him the other day, and it gives me chills thinking about it. I have Edward Scissorhands on in the corner. Someone like Danny Elfman or Tim Burton would be incredible. I think I could relate a lot to Danny Elfman. He’s an incredible musician, great singer, great performer, and he loves Halloween. I just found out he doesn’t celebrate Christmas because he’s Jewish. Like the Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s incredible that he wrote all that stuff. Sitting down and having a conversation with Danny Elfman would be amazing. Through his scores… I don’t even know what to say. I’d have to film that conversation because watching me fanboy over him for 30 minutes would be something. I think he would love what I’m trying to create right now. I could learn so much from him. His attitude towards composing was super cool. He wanted to make everyone mad, to show what he could do. I’ve felt that way so many times. But now, everyone loves Danny Elfman. Early on, he faced rejection and backlash, which is surprising because his work is so incredible, both harmonically and melodically. I could talk about it forever. It would mean a lot to me, and my dad, who’s a big fan, would be super stoked.

Yitzi: We’re going to try our best to tag him and get his attention. Hopefully, we can bring you two together.

John: Are you in New York right now? Baltimore? I would fly to Baltimore and shake your hand if that happened. Thank you so much for your time. This has been so fun.

Yitzi: How can our readers follow and support your work?

John: It’s been great talking with you; I appreciate these insightful questions. You can follow me on my website,, and on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram at John D Lindahl. My YouTube channel, John Lindahl, features part one of my film. Merchandise is available on my website, with new limited releases for each part of the film. My music can be found on all major platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. While I’m aiming for wide distribution, I’m also focusing on the exclusivity of my film projects.

Yitzi: It’s really my pleasure, John. I’m inspired by your work and wish you continued success. I hope we can do this again next year when you work on another even bigger project.

John: Of course. It’s only going to get bigger. I really appreciate your time.

Music Star John Lindahl Of CULT CLASSIQUÉ On The Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.