Teen explores his musical style
Central High School student spent summer working with songwriters
WOODSTOCK – When 15-year-old John-Robert Rimel gets home from school, he usually grabs a snack before tackling his homework and then retreating to the basement – to do even more homework.
But in the basement, his homework is different. In the basement, he’s practicing breathing exercises, experimenting with new equipment and working on composition to further explore his sound and style as a musician. He’s going over techniques he learned over the summer while working with various songwriters in Los Angeles.
After his second appearance on “The Ellen Show” in January 2015, John-Robert and his father Bob Rimel met with a music industry producer who took note of John-Robert’s talent shown during performances on the show and asked him to come back to California to work on songs with various writers.
John-Robert and Bob Rimel left just after classes let out in June and spent two months out west before returning home to Edinburg in early August. John-Robert said the change in pace coming home was a welcome and easy adjustment after some of the oddities in LA.
“The one rule is ‘don’t walk at night,’ that’s what all the locals said,” he recounted. “Everybody, when they’re walking down the street, they’re in their own little world.”
First, he quickly learned to adjust to the fast-paced world of recording pop musicians. The studio would call him up at any time of day – sometimes with only two hours advance – to have him in and working with writers on their busy schedules.
John-Robert said he found himself astounded by the near-constant font of creativity the writers would draw from – they might come in from just a breath of fresh air with some crazy new idea. He said he learned to improvise by spontaneously scatting along with riffs and to recover from disappointment when writers would throw out a section he put a lot of effort into.
Much of his time was spent with writer Jamie Hartman, who works with many established and up-and-coming musicians like James Bay, Christina Aguilera and recent “The Voice” 2015 winner Sawyer Fredericks. After days of eight-hour writing sessions, lots of takeout food and some unexpectedly silly moments, John-Robert said it’s hard to stay intimidated by professionals with such impressive work history.
“Seeing that side of all these guys…I’m not even fazed by what they do or anything like that, just to see them clown around,” he said. “All in all, as serious as it was, it was also a lot of fun.”
He learned theory of pop song construction, the importance of multiple interpretations to lyrics and the vital ability to scratch everything and start all over again.
“At the end of the day, if you’re not humming it when you’re going home and its not giving you chills every time you listen to it, then it’s not the one,” he said.
Since returning from his writing sessions in LA, John-Robert was inspired by Ed Sheeran’s use of a loop pedal in live performances to accompany himself during songs. John-Robert knew the loop pedal would help him out exponentially during the composition process, and immediately decided he needed one.
John-Robert said he’ll probably take his next trip to work on new songs in California around early 2016 – Rimel said they’re working toward releasing some of his songs within the next year or two. Until then, John-Robert is continuing to experiment with composition and rehearse on several instruments while trying to keep his schedule open for opportunities that come on the fly.
One thing he admits needing a lot of practice on is his drum set, laughingly saying, “I play on the drums, but I don’t really play drums.”
Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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