Published Nov 02, 2015It's said that three years is all it takes to transition from a young boy to a man. The same could be said of the transition from a promising upstart to a mature artist. Both of these hold true for 21-year-old Mississauga native John River, who first appeared on the Toronto music landscape with his mixtape The Calm in 2012 and has now released his highly anticipated project The Storm.
A lot has happened since River started his musical journey, including an excursion to meet the president of Dreamville Records in New York City, performances at several North American festivals and, more recently, the unfortunate passing of fellow Sauga City artist Redway. But as the universe promises, moments of darkness always turn to light — and for John, after The Calm comes The Storm.
"When I dropped The Calm, I'd just returned from Europe. A lot of that stuff I'd written in Europe when I was 16," he tells Exclaim! "When you're 17, or much like 21 now, you don't really know what you stand for or who you want to be. You're still figuring all that out, and your music is going to sound very similar."
As a young artist in Toronto, there isn't always a blueprint to success. While River believes that "confidence and understanding" are the biggest lessons he's learned in the past three years, he also acknowledges that the notion of responsibilities have shaped his musical career too.
"Once you start making some distinct decisions in your life, it completely translates to your music and you become very confident, very sure, and very relentless."
Relentless is a word that could also describe the consistent talent coming out of his hometown. From WondaGirl and Nineteen85 to Rich Kidd and PARTYNEXTDOOR, Mississauga has become home to a bevy of talent.
"I think it feels very bourgeoning and blossoming, but still pretty hungry," John says. "I think there's a big chip on it's shoulder, like that feel that you get when you listen to my music and have a lot to prove. I think that, given where Mississauga stands, we have a lot to prove."
While his city is telling of a coming-of-age tale, similarly, John is also telling that tale through his music.
"It's really deep and beautiful, and it was definitely a standout moment on the project," he says of "Broken Down." "We [Mississauga] always had a lot to prove, but this is kinda like the year where I feel like, 'All right, I think I'm really ready to kinda prove that.'"