Growing up, John Splithoff was always surrounded by music. Although none of his family members were official musicians, his dad taught him to play guitar and introduced him to The Beatles. “The first time I heard The Beatles, I felt like I needed to do this whole music thing,” he tells Billboard.
Meanwwhile his older brother made familiarized with Marvin Gaye, while the two were playing basketball and listening to one of the brother’s mixtapes. “I didn’t know the words or what was going on,” Splithoff recalls. “But I was just like, ‘This sounds amazing, and I’m going to slam-dunk to this song. This is my jam.’”
After initial aspirations to play baseball didn’t work out in his early high school years, Chicago native Splithoff listened to a friend’s suggestion to audition for a school singing group. After trying out with a rendition of Huey Lewis & The News’ “It’s Alright” and becoming the youngest member of the vocal group, his thoughts returned to music. “I kind of accidentally found out I could sing,” he remarks.
While The Beatles, Marvin Gaye and Huey Lewis & the News don’t exactly fall in the same musical category, they’re a perfect indication of the kind of diverse influences Splithoff cites in his music. Described as “a synthesis of old-school soul and contemporary pop,” Splithoff’s sound is still evolving as he’s creating.
“It’s a daunting task to narrow down all these different influences I have into making my own sound,” he admits. “Ultimately, the stuff that I’m putting out as singles feels good to me and just makes for a cohesive sound.”
An independent artist, Splithoff released his initial single “What If She Wants You” in 2014 — when he made the move to his now home of New York City — and put out what ended up being his breakout hit, “Sing to You,” in May 2016. The song has amassed nearly 20 million Spotify streams as of publishing, and allowed Splithoff to see firsthand how the music he’s creating is already impacting those who hear it.
“Recently someone messaged me they just wanted to let me know just how much ‘Sing To You’ meant to someone in their family that passed away,” he says. “‘Sing To You’ kind of captured memories for them, like a photograph — that meant the world to me. I was like, ‘Man, that’s what the point of doing all this is.’”
Now that he’s been able to relish in the success of “Sing To You,” Splithoff is ready to release another track to the world: “Show Me,” which incorporates more dance-friendly production but continues the upbeat vibe he introduced with “Sing To You.” The ironic thing is that the song is actually about a breakup.
“There’s something to be said about a relationship kind of slipping through your fingers without you even knowing it,” he suggests of the song’s story. “When I wrote, ‘I didn’t make it wrong, I didn’t make it right,’ it was kind of like I was missing somebody and that’s just the only way I could describe it.”
The song also features Nashville-based singer/songwriter Madison Ryann Ward, who Splithoff refers to as one of his favorite voices. Even before Ward jumped on the track, Splithoff envisioned the song as a duet so it was less about a one-sided breakup. “I wrote it as a duet just to kind of entertain the idea of them feeling the same way, a conversation that I know isn’t going to be had between two people,” he explains. “Two people who miss each other and seeing that they had a good thing, but it’s over now — but maybe it’s not too late.”
Check out the track below:
To follow up his latest release, Splithoff promises that it’s not going to be another year before you hear more from him — in fact, he has another track coming in a matter of weeks, and an EP not long after that. And when he’s not creating, he hopes to be performing all around the country.
“I’m making a catalog of music that I’m really proud of,” he says. “I’m a Gemini, so I write music that I wanna add to a playlist if I have people over hanging out, then I have music that you’re gonna listen to when you’re by yourself and feeling a certain way. I don’t want to be tied down to one sort of mood, because there is a time and a place for everything and every song.”
He did want to come out of the gate with some “good mood music,” though, which is plenty indicative from both of his bouncy singles — and in his eyes, promising for the future: “I feel like I’m going in a good direction of connecting people and making people feel things.”