Social media is a strange beast. On the one hand it is said that the underlying algorithms act like an echo chamber, wherein our predilections are fed and reinforced. On the other hand, there is a real democratic potential to social media. As is often reported, a random post by a person with only a handful of followers can suddenly go viral.
These aspects are reinforcing, as it takes the algorithms picking up on interest in the random post to take it to broader attention. And we all know that algorithms not only work in strange and mysterious ways, but they are also tweaked and changed. So there is a lot of luck involved. Leighton John’s cover of Unchained Melody is a case in point.
Over the last seven years, John has posted cover songs to YouTube, to little success. His biggest hit is a cover of Ruelle’s, I Get To Love You Suddenly (67k views in one year). Thereafter he seems to have fallen out of favour with the algorithms once again. Most of his posts have views in the low hundreds. Suddenly his Unchained Melody has 1.3K views in four weeks, while his previous post has only 89 views in two months. It appears that Lady Luck is smiling on Leighton John once again.
John is a South Wales-based singer for hire. He performs at social functions and weddings. Blue Bird comments under Unchained Melody that he is a “Very pub singer”. While somewhat uncharitable, that is true of course. The thing is that many YouTube performers have gone from modest beginnings to substantial success; and even major artists get negative comments. Vixen 123’s comment bodes well for John “I just luv listening to you, and even looking at you with those eyes and captivating smile”.
As mentioned, I Get To Love You Suddenly is Leighton John’s biggest success. Ssicamon 1’s comment on the video confirms that John is an artist to watch. Ssicamon 1 wrote “You are incredible. My fiancé and I have been watching videos of this song for days and were just about to give up. Once the video loaded up, both of us paused in shock over how perfect your voice and this cover is. Can we pleeeease play this song at our wedding?” That’s a clear vote of confidence!
Social media is full of artists who have won acclaim after a single viral video, and there is clearly momentum behind John’s cover of The Righteous Brother’s Unchained Melody. Why else would we feature him on The Music Man!
Leighton John is based in Newport, Pembrokeshire. Newport is a compact town built around the ancient port of Parrog. Musically it is a backwater, except for the year (1969-1970) when the popular British psychedelic outfit The Incredible String Band lived on a communal farm in the area. This raises a further point regarding the democratic potential of social media. Countless artists from apparent backwaters have seen a massive surge in interest on the back of a single viral video. Sometimes it’s their first post, sometimes success comes after years of a person posting videos for their family and friends.
It’s possible that the interest in Leighton John’s Unchained Melody comes from algorithms reacting to Valentine’s Day’s interest in the song. Whatever the reason, anyone that is beguiled by John’s heartfelt cover of the Righteous Brothers’ classic will wish him well. With just a little push, Leighton John could put Newport back on the musical map. As they say, watch this space!
The Music Man caught up with Leighton John and had an online interview with the musician from Newport. Here is what we learned about Leighton John in our interview.
Hi Leighton John, can you tell us a little bit about your music and your background?
“I perform cover tracks live and record to post online which I have done for many years now. I’ve been in an original band which I wrote lyrics for and fronted. I’ve previously released solo original tracks and I plan to write and release original music in the near future.”
When talking about the video below, Leighton John said, “I recorded this myself in my bedroom on my bed whilst my partner was bathing our children. The vocals are live and in 1 take. With my newest covers, I’ve had to do what’s quickest as finding time with children is hard in itself. Usually, my sons sat next to me on the bed and my dog is lying on bits of my equipment.”.
Who are your main musical influences?
“I grew up listening to a bit of everything. Whitney in the bodyguard was I believe my first experience with being obsessed with music at around age 2/3. I replayed the movie so many times I wore the vhs out. I was always obsessed with the female voices like Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and Celine Dion and the big power ballads. The notes they would reach that I aspired to reach. There was always an eclectic range of music in my household growing up from my mum playing Ub40 to my sister playing all the boy bands. Beyonce is a massive influence on myself and I’m a massive fan. I love people like Adele and early Sam smith, Bruno Mars and recently Dermot Kennedy. I’m such a lover of music that there are too many people to name really who have all influenced me in different ways. These last few years I’ve felt the music scene has lacked the big ballads bar a few and the radio feels very repetitive with throw away songs rather than timeless classics so I’ve found myself diving into older music and voices of the 60s. Through the years I don’t really feel I had my own sound until turning 30 and figuring out who I am, what my voice is and instead of trying so hard to sing just enjoying the song. Through this process I feel I’ve found my unique sound.”
What was your most interesting or memorable moment as a musician?
“Nothing springs to mind. My Facebook seems to have exploded in January after over a decade of posting covers. I dealt with anxiety of performing and overcome that with the band then had to overcome it again going solo but I pushed through as music has always been the one constant in my life. If I’m not singing or listening to music I’m not me and I’m not happy. Every song I’m attached to holds a special memory or meaning for me. I’m a dad of 2 beautiful children Cooper 4 and Mila 2 and I’m engaged to a wonderful woman Emma. My household is filled with music. I feel after becoming a dad I pushed it to the side a little bit but then went full throttle as I want my children to grow up knowing they can be and do whatever their heart desires. I always thought when I got to my mid 20s I was too old but I feel you’re never too old to follow your dream. You’ll never regret what you did do only what you didn’t.”