John Bellows | Interview | New Album, ‘Certain Demise’

Uncategorized November 2, 2023

John Bellows | Interview | New Album, ‘Certain Demise’

San Juan Island, WA-based artist John Bellows, recently released his latest album, ‘Certain Demise’.

There is often a certain romanticism tied to leaving your current situation behind and returning to simpler times, a wistful – and often, temporary – yearning for what you enjoyed the most out of your upbringing before “adulting” happened and the world around you became so complicated. Of course, the real truth to those dreams reveals itself if you are so lucky enough to be able to go back to those simpler times, as the hard work of those before you reveals the comfort you initially had. What is most impressive is being able to go back and move forward at the same time by embracing the original labor and making it your own – paving a new path by retreading an old one. John Bellows may not be in his hometown anymore, but he has donned his old work boots and picked up where he left off so long ago by finding a new home in rural Washington state and embracing a rustic lifestyle with his partner, Glenn.

Hailing from a humble pig farm in western Kentucky, John eventually discovered punk and alternative rock music throughout his adolescence, leading him to the bustling and chaotic melting pot that is Chicago. After an exhaustive two decades spent toiling through the underground DIY scene and making all sorts of delightful noise, John found a much-needed break that turned into a new life altogether in San Juan Island, WA. What was intended as a brief sabbatical from the mayhem turned into farming, livestock, and roots living, a much more honest mayhem by comparison. With refreshed perspectives on life and new opportunities brewing, musical ideas embracing John’s personal melting pot of experiences began flourishing, ultimately leading to ‘Certain Demise,’ a collection of ten tracks about these phenomena and how they tie into the greater human condition.

Readers who enjoy lo-fi folk for more than just clever and poignant reflection will be pleased to find a well-arranged collection of tunes focusing as much on the instrumentation and flow as the deeply engaging words. No part of the music feels unloved or unbothered in the creative process with abundant moments of creative chord changes and connections. Things begin appropriately with the title track, starting as an acoustic and vocal number where both intertwine harmoniously and intricately before upright bass, electric guitar, and an additional voice join in occasionally. Not content to stay where it starts, the bass gets buzzier and a melancholic violin joins in on the next track, serving as the building block to my overall favorite track, ‘Only the Loneliest,’ bringing in overdriven guitar and drum kit to the mix. John clearly takes his time choosing how best to bring ideas together in the most effective way from track to track. Another stand-out includes ‘Epilogue,’ subverting expectations by both being placed in the middle of the tracklist and with its intentional use of a buzzy guitar (usually an undesired side effect of a poorly set-up instrument) to introduce the piece. Beautiful and dominant string playing and drums expertly round out this song. I could continue, but this experience should be a personal journey for you to get lost in. You will find your way back just as John did with time.

What lessons do you still value from your experiences in the DIY and underground scenes in Chicago?

John Bellows: DIY is engaging with the greater process, building relationships, and finding your personal expression/intent under the radar of the big homogeneous structures that rule the earth. There is a notable DIY community on San Juan Island as well! With artisan friends we just screen-printed and hand-painted a glut of four-color band T Shirts at the local Alchemy Art Center.

Was there a distinct moment when you realized you shouldn’t stay in Chicago anymore, or was it a more natural and gradual process for you?

I was in Chicago proper for over 13 years. I was a Montessori school teacher at the end of my time there, reading a lot of literature about human connectedness to nature. My partner and I wanted to move somewhere where there was more nature. Funny that Pittsburgh was our first inclination for “more nature.”

Why Washington state in particular over returning to Kentucky or any other state? What led you there?

My partner Glenn got an internship on a horse whisperer’s farm here on San Juan Island, WA. After she spent the summer here, I just decided to move out “temporarily” while we considered somewhere else to move. When I arrived we lived in the tack room of a barn and worked on an organic farm. She milked the cow, I raised meat birds, and we had a market garden.

How did your experiences as a kid on your parent’s farm impact what you did when you got out of the city and back into the countryside?

The farms in rural West Kentucky are much more industrialized. There are corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see. We did have a little garden around the house, but I don’t feel like much translated to our Washington lifestyle. Though when I would talk on the phone to my Dad our day-to-day would remind him of what Kentucky was like in his youth.

What artists have most helped influence you as an artist?

Man, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 were like my favorite band in high school. They were a band of five people, and only recently have I thought about how much they influenced me. In August 1997, my friends and I told all of our parents that we were staying the night at each other’s house and snuck off to Memphis to go see TFUL282 live at this bar called Green’s Lounge. We were only 17 years old, but we walked up to the venue and there was a patron outside grilling BBQ and asked, “Do y’all want something to drink?” It was like a rite of passage! Looks like Green’s Lounge burned down in November of that same year so very cool that we forged that experience.

John and Glenn | Photo by Chase Anderson

What’s the most recent thing you did in an act of self-care, whether for yourself or someone else?

I did a Vipassana retreat a few years ago. Sitting, breathing, and holding silence for 10 days straight. Highly recommended!

What piece of gear have you bought that significantly affected your creativity?

I kind of thrive off found instruments. I currently teach music at a middle/high school and there is a wall of guitars there and instruments always being donated. They are all pretty bad, but have various characteristics that I like to bring out in recordings. Maybe the B string is twangy, or it is a tiny nylon string guitar. I wrote the song ‘Epilogue’ with a guitar a student gave me to be re-strung and tuned up. When she handed it off it had only 4 strings on it and was in some random tuning. I started writing the song then and there at school, and just passed off some other guitar to her the following day.

What albums and/or bands have you been really digging recently?

I’m really digging Devin Champlin (Sons of Rainier) out of Bellingham, WA. He’s a true blue songwriter. I grew up in Kentucky with a lot of Country Music influence, so it’s near and dear to me. There is nothing re-hashed about Devin’s songwriting, and his lyrics are super earnest and witty.

What’s one piece of advice you have for other creatives out there?

If you are interested in the people, the world, and the well being of those around you, your work will be more interesting.

What’s next for you musically? Where can people see and/or hear you?

I’ve recorded three tracks for a little lathe cut 7 inch I’m gonna make with Listening Hat outta Montana. And I’ll be doing a little PNW tour this holiday season as well with my partner Glenn. We’ll have those new little 7inches available. Folks can generally hear all my stuff on whatever streaming platforms and buy vinyls, CDs, and cassettes via

Photo by Chase Anderson

Any closing musings?

Like Maria Montessori says, “follow your Cosmic Task, which will benefit not only you, but the universe as well”.

Klemen Breznikar

John and Glenn | Headline photo: Chase Anderson

John Bellows Instagram / Bandcamp / YouTube

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *