John Sloman, best known as vocalist with Lone Star, Uriah Heep, Gary Moore and many more, expands on his singing career and what the future holds with regard to new music and live gigs.
Who were your influences in the early days and have you always wanted to be a singer in a band?
I started singing when I was about five or six. My nan taught me various songs...a bluegrass song called ‘Are You From Dixie?’ and a Bing Crosby song called ‘True Love’.
I heard every kind of music early on... Beatles, Beach Boys, The Monkees, Little Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein.
When I got to Secondary School I really started yearning to be in a band. Some kids in my class played guitar but I was too shy to ask them if they needed a singer. Then one day one of those classmates asked me if I would join them. Life-changing moment.
My influences developed from there. Zeppelin...The Who... Stevie Wonder...Todd Rundgren...Steely Dan. Early on, Plant and Stevie were my main influences.
Apart from Lone Star, Uriah Heep and Gary Moore, have you ever auditioned for the vocal spot in any other notable bands?
I can't remember auditioning for any other notable bands. Although, there was the time I got the call from Queen Productions to go for a blow with Brian May. He was putting a band together to play his album Back to the Light. Initially I thought Brian wanted me as a vocalist, but no, he wanted a second guitar player and backing vocalist. Problem was, my guitar was out of action and I didn't have an amp. Times were hard. I went down there with a borrowed guitar. I played and I sang. All good. But showing up to an audition with a borrowed guitar and no amp wasn't going to cut it with someone like Brian May who is all about getting that nice fat sound. While I was there I had a quick go on his guitar. Had to.
You have appeared on a great number of albums. Do you have a favourite and why?
The album that's closest to my heart is 13 Storeys. It was the first time I'd written so personally. After that, I couldn't go back.
Do you have any plans to play some solo gigs?
I very much want to play live gigs. But for someone like me, they are not easy to come by. I need an agent, but I need an agent to get me an agent!
Do you still get the same buzz out of singing live as you did in the past?
I don't have the same buzz as I once had. For over 20 years I've played mostly acoustic gigs, with the odd band gig. I never have a crowd to play to. Don't get me wrong, I give my all regardless of the number of people in front of me. But I don't enjoy it like I did. How could I?
Your latest release “Two Rivers” sounds very eclectic. My favourite album you’ve been involved in is “Disappearances Can Be Deceptive”. Do you have any plans to release another album in that style?
Disappearances was a challenging experience. In recent years it's been referred to as 'progy'!
It made me go back and review it. An American band recently took the lyrics of ‘Parting Line’ and applied them to a completely different song. They asked me if they could release it. I said 'Sure, why not.'
Some vocalists are on strict dietary regimes or gargle with special liquids. How have you kept your voice in tip top shape all these years?
The voice? I don't smoke. Used to smoke a few in the pub, but no more. I eat healthily, drink rarely. Oh, what a boring sonofabitch! Sing a few scales. In my younger days that trend was reversed, but you get older and a little wiser and realise you have to get a grip.
Are there any musicians that you have not worked with, but would like to in the future?
I would love to work with John Paul Jones. Zeppelin were like the older brothers I never had. Also, the film composer, Thomas Newman. I would love to send him a track and hear what he would do with it. And of course, Joni Mitchell, Goddess.
Is there any unreleased recorded material from your early days with Lone Star or Uriah Heep that could be released?
I don't think there's much in the can that hasn't already been released. Whenever I hear of some old recording being released I brace myself because it's usually bloody awful. Labels go out of business, another label buys up their stock and then packages it up and sells it, regardless of the quality.
With the live circuit opening up again, is there a possibility that we could see you performing some live shows in the UK?
I fully intend to get on stage in the new year, with and without a band. The clock is ticking, I need to do it while I can.
Have you ever thought about doing any production work?
I would love to do some producing. Way back I produced some tracks for a member of The Runaways, Vicky Blue.
With your Welsh background, have you ever thought of recording or singing with a Welsh Choir?
The choir thing is in my blood. On one album I wrote a song about Aberfan. I didn't have the budget for a choir, so I did all the voices. But one day I would like to perform that song, ‘A Mountain Moved’, with a male voice choir.
Do you have anything in the pipeline at the moment that you would like to share?
I just completed a new album called ‘Vaudeville’, which will be released early in 2023. I'd like to put a band together to perform Vaudeville live.
Interview by Stuart Dryden