Life Through A Lennon: Exposed Meets John Lennon McCullagh

Doncaster singer/songwriter John Lennon McCullagh is just 16 years old – but in that time he’s been signed by Alan McGee (Primal Scream/Oasis), supported the likes of Richard Hawley, released a debut album – and this week headlines Sheffield’s O2 Academy. Not too shabby. We caught up with the youngster seemingly destined for stardom to find out more.


With a name like yours, it sounds like you were destined for a career in music. Have you always wanted to be a singer/songwriter?


Not always, no – but from around the age of 11-12 I have. Before, I wanted to become a footballer or an author, of sorts. 


Your musical influences appear to be the classics (Bob Dylan, The Beatles…) – but where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics of your songs, especially given your tender years?


Good question – and I don't think it's something that can be answered with a straight answer. It's from everyday things. If you see a sign in the street you might get an idea for a title, or you read something in the papers and find a few lines for a song or an idea. 


Young acts seem to be causing something of a buzz at the moment – with the likes of Jake Bugg and The Strypes doing amazingly well. Have you been inspired by their success?


 I haven't been inspired in the sense of them making me want to make music, but I guess they've opened up the door for more young artists to come through. I know The Strypes well and they’re top guys.



Has your age ever held you back from doing anything so far?


Not so far, no. There was nearly one incident at a gig in London where you had to be 18 and there was about 10 minutes to the gig. I'd been out for something to eat and when I came back they wouldn't let me back in. That was hard (laughs).


What advice would you give to other young people wanting to break into the industry?


Don't listen to negative criticism – at all! All it is jealous people who sit behind keyboards wanting to put someone down because it makes them feel special in a way. Also, the good old practise makes perfect is an essential. And play wherever you can and whenever you can for free – money shouldn't come into it at the start.


You’ve achieved a lot in a short space of time. What do you put your success down to?


A lot of it is because of my dad. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be doing this. Also, I've travelled a lot, got some good exposure with certain acts and made good important friends.


You’ve already had a lot of acclaim, especially among industry greats such as Courtney Love and Richard Hawley, to name a couple. What’s it like getting that level of respect so early on in your career?


Yeah, it’s amazing. I've always been a fan of Richard Hawley – so, when I got the support slot for him, that was really strange. I actually couldn't get tickets for the gig – and I ended up supporting him at. It was special.


You must have some good backstage stories…


Richard is the nicest guy I've met in music, so down to earth and honest. I briefly met Pete Doherty, who seemed really nice, but I didn't get a proper chat because he was about 30 minutes late to the gig. And the Alabama 3 lot are just like Richard, so down to earth and nice, all of them are really funny. And we all share the same musical tastes.


How did it come about that your album has been released in Japan? Do you have a big fan base there?


Don't know really, to be honest, the interest over there seems big. 



You’re headlining the O2 in Sheffield on 27th Feb. Are you excited or do you get nervous before big stage appearances? What can we expect from the show?


I'm really looking forward to that one, been there loads of times for gigs, so can't wait. And yeah, everyone gets nervous to some degree – and it varies from show to show. Depends what mood you’re in – but it's different at every gig. I don't suffer from really bad nerves, though. I wouldn't want to do it if I got nervous before every gig. 


You’re a Donny boy, but I imagine you’ve got a lot of love for Sheffield?


Yes, Sheffield for me is like my second hometown, it has a special place in my heart and I'll always love the place. 


What do your mates think about your swift rise to fame?


They’re pleased, I think, but I don't see much of people anymore. 


What’s next for you? Any particular future plans?


I'm doing my UK and European tour which takes me up to April. Recording the new album in May – and doing some festivals in the summer. Then I tour the UK & Europe again around October/November time. Busy, busy.


Quick Fire Round:

Fave food: Steak!

Fave colour: Black

Fave song: Simple Twist of Fate/Bob Dylan

Fave TV show: Alan Partridge

Fave movie: Catch Me if You Can, even though the book’s better, the film is still outstanding. Leonardo Dicaprio is the Bob Dylan of actors. 



John’s debut album North South Divide is available now. Head to Catch John at the O2 Academy this Thursday. See for more.

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