Boston’s John Minnock Brings his Jazz Styling to NYC
John Minnock, who recently completed a two-year run of Sundays at Boston’s Encore Lounge, will bring his act to New York’s famed Metropolitan Room on Sept. 15th.
The jazz singer, who grew up as the youngest of four boys outside of Albany, New York, and went on to study music at Boston University, also recently came out, although it has been a natural part of his act for some time.
"It’s what I believe is the state of the LGBT movement, we’re part of society at work, at home, and in the arts," he said. "Side by side and together. There is no reason to shy away from who we are."
EDGE recently interviewed Minnock about his music and his upcoming New York show.
From tuba player to jazz singer
EDGE: How did your early years influence who you are now?
John Minnock: This is going to sound like a stereotype, but I was never into sports. I became interested in music around 10 or 12, and listened to my parents’ collections of jazz, classical and Broadway. Remember ’Readers Digest Collections’? They had all of them. I used to listen for hours with headphones on. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to hear those again.
EDGE: I hear that you were a tuba player at Boston University. How did that experience inform your singing, if at all?
John Minnock: [Laughs] Yes, I tell people I used to play tuba, but changed to singing because it’s easier to carry around. Two things came from a strong music background and from instrumental performance: the ability to read and understand music, which is really helpful in interacting with all musicians, and probably more importantly, the ability to hear and even anticipate complex musical structures and relationships. Did that sound snobby? I wanted to seem like I got my money’s worth from a music education!
EDGE: Tell us about being part of the band Feed the Meter. What a great name!
John Minnock: We were a jazz/swing band of guys who all had day jobs, and played around the Boston area. We did private functions and occasional gigs at bars and even a VFW hall. I remember once I learned one of my most important lessons: I had messed up almost all the lyrics to a tune (’Georgia on my Mind’ - and it’s not that complicated). Someone at the break said ’Hey that was great.’ I said, ’Did you notice I messed up all the lyrics?,’ and the guy said ’no.’ That’s when I learned you can screw up, and if you just keep going, you can still ’sell it.’
EDGE: How would you characterize the Boston jazz scene?
John Minnock: Boston has wonderful jazz musicians and great venues. Of course, we have Berklee College, as well as the other great music schools (like my alma mater, BU). But lately, a few of these venues are closing or business is down.
EDGE: You had a 2-year run of Sundays at the Encore Lounge in Boston. That sounds like quite an accomplishment. How did that come about?
John Minnock: Encore Lounge was a place I used to go to pretty often. For years it was more of a show tune place, but they started doing jazz on certain nights. They would let people from the crowd get up and sing, and the manager knew what I did. They were looking for someone for Sunday night, and the manager asked me to do it. The gig became pretty popular, I think in part because I also try to make the show entertaining for everyone - adapting the material based on the audience, throwing out some jokes, and talking to people in the crowd.
EDGE: What attracts you to a song, lyric or melody? Any favorites?
John Minnock: Now that’s an interesting question. There are many different reasons for me being attracted to a tune. But one thing that is probably true, if it has a blues/R&B aspect, or the potential for it, I can use that. Favorites? I’ve sung many tunes and performed many gigs, and so far the only thing I can say with certainty is my favorite jazz ballad is ’Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most.’ And I’ll be doing it at the Metropolitan Room.
’a gay, white Lou Rawls’
EDGE: Who are your musical influences?
John Minnock: For the kind of material I’m doing, influences are Joe Williams, George Benson, Bill Withers, Ernestine Anderson, Carmen McCrae. And also in terms of show structure, I’ve seen both Ruth Brown and Linda Hopkins in small room settings and I try to emulate them.
EDGE: What kind of survival jobs have you had over the years while pursuing music?
John Minnock: Actually, I have a pretty good career in Financial Services, mainly in Information Tech. Been doing it for years. I prefer not to rely on music for income, or you wind up doing too many weddings and retirement parties. And, if you have any questions about retirement planning and investing, I’m your guy.
EDGE: Outside of music, what do you like to do in your spare time?
John Minnock: I’m into all things in the entertainment industry: shows, concerts, movies. And friends of mine and I are very much into weekend brunch. Can that be a hobby?
EDGE: Why was it important for you to come out publicly as a gay jazz singer? Are there any well-known gay jazz singers, to your knowledge?
John MInnock: You’ve got me there, I’m not aware of other openly gay jazz or blues singers. There are a lot of cabaret singers with a jazz side, but not really gay jazz/blues singers. I did an Internet search on my phone - nope, nothing. And I’m openly gay in all aspects of life, it just comes up naturally during the show. Ah, who am I kidding, I make sure it comes up....so I’m a little bit political. So what? Oh, and a friend of mine who is very big in classical music once said to me, ’You sound like a gay, white Lou Rawls’ - one of the best compliments I ever got.
EDGE: What would you like to be doing five years from now?
John MInnock: I’d like to be looking back on five years of pretty regular gigs. You know, there are a number of clubs around New York that would be great to perform in. There are some terrific jazz and blues clubs right around the entire East and West Villages - from stage settings to basement bars - but they are all great and the crowds are awesome.
EDGE: How do you feel about playing the Metropolitan Room?
John Minnock: The Metropolitan Room is an absolutely great venue: a wonderful space, beautiful sound system, grand piano up on a stage, theater lighting....everything. Hey, you know what’s funny, it’s three blocks from some of the Chelsea bars I hang around in when in New York-I was there for the closing of Splash! Yet I never realized how close it was to those bars until I was looking on Google maps. I think that’s the problem with taking cabs and not paying attention.
EDGE: Would you consider relocating?
John Minnock: Of course! But for now, Amtrak and Bolt Bus, and a lot of friends there, keep me active in New York.
Visit www.metropolitanroom.com to find more details about John Minnock’s Sept. 15 show. Go to www.johnminnock.com to learn more about the singer.