A Brief Chat with Singer-Songwriter John Lensing

Photo credit: Zack Adamovic

John Lensing, a young singer-songwriter from Colorado, has recently made available a video for a previously unreleased original titled “Joanie.” Despite his youth, Lensing has a musical voice of an experienced and practiced folk artist, which suggests a natural talent. He has not released much material to date, just a handful of songs. And has he spent much of his brief career thus far as a street performer, which is why his name may be unfamiliar to more than a few of you. Be that as it may, Lensing is certainly an artist to watch.    

Recently I had the pleasure and opportunity to ask John some questions regarding himself and his newly released video. Here’s what he had to say.

Let's begin with an introduction to John Lensing. Would you tell us a little about yourself as an individual and an artist?

As a person, I've always wanted to impact others.  The first time I understood this force within myself is when I came across the term ‘wounded healer’.  We are all wounded in some way or another, and the best way to overcome that is through our shared experiences.  

 I have a memory of hearing “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin when I was younger and being blown away by it.  It’s about a Father who puts work before his child, always saying he’s too busy.  Eventually the father grows old and wants to spend time with his adult son.  The roles have reversed and the son is too busy. The father realizes ‘He’d grown up just like me’. Sounds a bit bleak, but I didn’t see it that way.  It was the first song I’d heard that wasn’t simply entertaining.  It made me feel like I learned some sort of truth about the world.  I hope to do that with my music.  

It takes a true and dedicated singer-songwriter to earn his or her living as street performer. What about being a street performer appeals to you most? And do you strictly work the street, or do you also embark on venue tours on occasion?

Thank you!  I love street performing because it teaches me how to connect with others.  When I street perform, people aren’t there to see me.  They have absolutely no investment in me.  No one is going to pretend to be moved by a song if they aren’t.  It makes me confront the question of whether my performance and song is actually worth a stranger’s time.  I think this is an amazing thing.  Every time I street perform, I’m learning the common ground between what others and I care deeply about.  

 When I tour I like to do a mix of venue shows and street performing.  I stay in a city for at least a few days before a show to street perform.  It feels natural to me, and gives me an opportunity to talk to people and actually look them in the eyes.  Eventually I’ll need to focus more on just venue shows, but for now I’m trying not to rush anything.  Making genuine connections with people takes time, and I think I’ll look back in the future and be happy I spent time on it.

What have been some of the highlights of your time as a working singer-songwriter thus far?

My West Coast tour last summer was definitely a highlight.  Funny how sleeping in my car completely reaffirmed my decision to pursue music.  Besides that, the friendships I’ve made.  I couldn’t ask for a better excuse to visit old friends, and meet new ones wherever I go.  

I noticed you have a five-song EP and the "Joanie" single up for digital purchase at Bandcamp. Are there any plans for a full-length in the not-too-distant future?

Hopefully!  “Joanie” was the first single off my second EP; due to be out in 

May.  That’ll be followed by lots of touring, street performing, and writing.  No promises, but I’d love to start working on a full length towards the end of this year.  

Speaking of "Joanie," would you share your inspiration in writing the song, as well as the meaning behind it and details regarding the video itself?

“Joanie” is about the parts of ourselves that people rarely see.  I wrote it about a young woman I saw when street performing in Seattle last summer.  She was doing a photoshoot across the street from me.  Whenever the camera was pointed at her, she was glowing.  But, whenever they put the camera down, she suddenly looked miserable.  I couldn’t stop thinking of the people who see those pictures and have absolutely no idea.   

 I wanted the music video to be very simple.  You are essentially staring into Joanie, or rather my friend Allie’s eyes, as she’s dragged through her life.  She was the only person I felt could do the role justice.  Her and videographer Zoë Keeler helped make the video something I’m extremely proud of.  I was joking With Allie once I sent the finished video to her, ‘Off no budget, and made by a bunch of people who aren’t even old enough to legally drink?  Not bad.’

Check out the video for "Joanie" by John Lensing.