There are two sides to John Reuben. His music alternates between socially conscious and humorous, and so does he. "I think if you make music that's honest and vulnerableÖyou talk to people, and address human nature and the human condition, people will respond," he says.
It's from this perspective on the human condition that Reuben approaches his albums. "I like there to be a bit of a tension. I like to look at a song from a couple of different angles. There's nothing wrong with enjoying music for the sake of music," adding, "I think you get more out of it if you really listen to the lyrics, though."
His newest album, Word of Mouth, is a good example of this. "It's a pretty vulnerable record," he says. Compared to his previous records, "They all work together as a whole. Boy vs. Cynic was two albums put into one. This one takes that duality and blends it together. I did exactly what I wanted to do. While I was making it I thought, if I love this record, I think other people will love it too."
It's that love of music that has stuck with Reuben throughout his career. Growing up in Ohio, he got into the music at a young age. "I was just attracted to it," he says. "I was really into west coast underground groups like Hieroglyphics, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, anything that was creative and unique. I was always more attracted to the positive side of things: guys who were really good at painting pictures and storytelling instead of the more aggressive kind. It was a real quality ability to tell a story."
Basing his art around these early performers, he released his first album, 2000's Are We There Yet? "After I got signed I had to give up on jacking the loops. The hip-hop I liked came down to guys knowing how to chop up a hook," he says. Comparisons were inevitable, however. He is quick to point out, "I was compared early on to Eminem, and I like Eminem, but I'm not him."
He does have a sharp wit, though. It's one of the selling points of his lyrics, but he's brought that to the web, too. Reuben is currently producing a "mockumentary" about a rising star named John Reuben whose talent is often overshadowed by his own ego. "We're working on it right now," he says. Still building momentum with it. The character's oblivious, thinks big things are going to happen, every little good thing that happens in his life is a massive deal."
Good things are happening for John Reuben, though. Currently on tour to promote his newest album, he has found a devoted following across the country, mostly in the form of young Christians.
Speaking of artists who perform to similar groups, he says, "Some people will take a Christian deal, but feel like it's less of a deal, less of a contract. Some do feel more validated in mainstream circles, which I can understand. For me, I've been there. It's a question that's been lingering. Since I was a child, it'll continue to linger. I've just adjusted to whoever likes the music. I'm cool with that. I personally wish that certain aspects of the industry would go away and it would just be a whole, which would just integrate. But on the other side of things, it's great playing for youth groups and pastors and things like that. I really like showing up to a show and play because it does very good things for the community, and contributes to a healthy relationship with God."
Reuben is currently on tour promoting his newest album, Word of Mouth. His current tour schedule is available on his web site, www.johnreuben.com.
Writer: Wes Holing