New original music matters. Writing, recording, playing guitar and singing have been the driving force in my life for over 40 years.
In 1967, gifted teenage singer-songwriter, John Batdorf, broke free from his Middle
American upbringing and ventured to Los Angeles, crammed in a Lincoln
Continental with six of his friends, to pursue his musical aspirations. Four decades
later, the dream machine is long gone, but John is still on the path, navigating the
curves of his musical journey with aplomb.
Along the way, John’s gotten to work with many of the cornerstone figures of the
music business as an artist, garnered cult status as a classic folk-rock singersongwriter,
and reinvented himself as a successful film and TV composer, session
vocalist, and inspirational musician in the substance recovery community.
In the last decade, he’s returned to being an artist: reinvigorated not only by
revisiting his canon classics, but by writing fresh, broadly resonate music on par
with his beloved back catalog.
“Music is just what I do, I don’t know anything else,” the Redmond, Oregon-based
artist says with a good-natured laugh. “There have been so many powerful moments
for me. I remember one time performing my contemporary song ‘All for You’ which
is about a soldier who in battle realizes he couldn’t win and just asks that his
country remembers him. After that show, an older couple hung around to say hello.
Their son had died in December of 1970, in Laos during the Vietnam War, and they
wanted me to have his government issued commemorative bracelet. That moment
reminded me: I’m never done with music because you never know who needs to
hear the next song you’re going to write.”
John’s breakthrough moment came as a part of the folk-rock duo, Batdorf & Rodney,
alongside acoustic guitar whiz and harmony partner Mark Rodney (son of the great
jazz trumpeter Red Rodney who played with Charlie Parker). John was the pair’s
primary songwriter and singer, and his balmy musicality and tenderly uplifting
lyrics fit right in alongside 1970s Laurel Canyon scene artists such as Crosby, Stills,
Nash & Young, Jackson Brown, the Eagles, and Joni Mitchell. Batdorf & Rodney had
the distinction of being recorded by visionaries such as Ahmet Ertegun, David
Geffen, and Clive Davis. The twosome played Carnegie Hall and toured extensively
throughout the U.S. and Canada, sharing the stages with such esteemed artists as
America, Seals and Crofts, Dan Fogelberg, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne,
Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, Bread, The Youngbloods, Hall and Oats,
Cheech and Chong, England Dan and John Ford Coley, Pure Prairie League, Harry
Chapin, John Prine, Dave Mason, and Kris Kristofferson, among many others. In its
four year run, Batdorf & Rodney released three albums. The group’s debut, Off The
Shelf (Atlantic), was released when Batdorf was barely 19 and features backing
courtesy of the legendary Muscle Shoals backing musician collective, recently
immortalized in 2013 with their own documentary. In May of 2011, Batdorf &
Rodney were elected into the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Unfortunately, after their third release, Life Is You, in late 1975, Batdorf & Rodney
buckled under personal and business strains of being a band “on the verge” but not
quite realizing its expected commercial potential. After the break up, John formed
the band Silver, composed of Brent Mydland (later a member of the Grateful Dead),
Harry Stinson, Tom Leadon and Greg Collier. The band released one album on Arista
Records which included the smash hit "Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang,” but broke up
after a year due to different philosophies in music direction with the label. Whereas
many musicians who faced similar fates jumped into an abyss of toxicity and
bitterness, John found his artistic intuition and his gift for melody highly valued in
the studio as a staff songwriter, a TV composer, and a session singer. He wrote songs
for such respected artists as Kim Carnes, America, and England Dan, among others.
John composed incidental music for many TV shows including the CBS drama
Promised Land starring Gerald McRaney, PAX TV's Book of Days, and the CBS
supernatural drama Touched By An Angel, among others. As a session vocalist, he
appears numerous of jingles, movies and TV shows, including main titles to TV
shows such as Tom and Jerry Kids, Garfield and Friends, Promised Land, and Doctor,
Doctor. He’s sessioned on albums by Rod Stewart, Dave Mason, Eric Anderson, The
Jefferson Starship, Berlin, Donna Summer, Dwight Yoakum, Boy Meets Girl, Mickey
Thomas, Stan Ridgeway, James Lee Stanley, David Lee Roth, and The London Choir
Boys, plus many others. In 1985, Mötley Crüe tapped him to sing backup alongside
Max Gronenthal (.38 Special, Grand Funk Railroad) for legendary Theatre of Pain
album. John and Max’s participation was an industry secret the only clue being a
shout-out in the album “thank you” credits. More recently, he lent his gorgeous voice
to Adele joining her select group of backup singers to perform her smash “Let The
Sky Fall” at the Oscars.
With the rise of broadband and satellite radio in the 2000s, Batdorf found his back
catalog gaining traction again as radio format shifted from big music business
demands towards the taste of music fans. From this, came something of a rebirth for
John. He recalls: “Close to thirty years after the break-up, I got an email from
someone who asked me if I would do a house concert for him and some of his
friends and family. Seems I played at his high school back in the seventies and must
have made quite an impression. I explained that I hadn't played those songs in close
to thirty years but if he gave me a month, I would do it. As nervous as I was, I did the
show and suddenly realized just how great it was to perform again. It was magical
and it made me get back to artist mode.”
Since then, John has been prolific as an artist, reconvening Batdorf & Rodney for a
pair of releases; releasing an epiphanic album of acoustic Rolling Stones music with
James Lee Stanley titled All Wood and Stones; and releasing five solo albums of new
music since 2004 on his own imprint, Batmac Music. His latest, Beep Beep, is a
joyous and uplifting album that harkens back to his early inspiration of discovering
music via The Beatles. One powerful entry in John’s modern era work is his four
releases with legendary Utah-based singer, composer, and filmmaker, Michael
McLean. The two first started working together in 1991, and officially formed
Batdorf & McLean in 1997. The duo launched a unique substance abuse survival
platform, and released the CD Soundtrax2Recovery. Batdorf & McLean have crafted
an empowering body of music to inspire and enlighten individuals making the
profound journey back from dependency. Their appearances combine heartfelt real
life storytelling sprinkled in between their impactful catalog of tunes.
“I grew up in drug culture, but there was always a voice in my head that said ‘don’t
go here’ with heavy drugs. My son didn’t have that voice, but now he’s eight years
sober, and sometimes sings with me. We were all lucky, and I want to help others.
There is enormous power with songs that penetrate the heart,” John confides.
One can only imagine what went through a young John Batdorf’s head in 1967 as he
raced down the highway with his buddies, chasing his dreams. He probably couldn’t
envision his many successful reinventions, and working with the industry’s finest
within each context. But when John surveys his legacy he says: “My whole life I’ve
strove to do the best I possibly could and help people along the way with the talent I
was blessed to be born with. That's all we can really ever ask of ourselves.”
I'm In Love With You - Next Stop, Willoughby
Don't It Make You Wonder Why - Next Stop, Willoughby
Sure Could Use Some Love - Next Stop, Willoughby
They Can't Have Everything - Next Stop, Willoughby
Unanswered Prayer - Next Stop, Willoughby
Take A Look At You Now - Next Stop, Willoughby
I Remember You - Next Stop, Willoughby
The One That Got Away - Next Stop, Willoughby
I Was The One - Next Stop, Willoughby
She Knows What I Like
Play With Fire
Where Are You Now
Can You See Him
That's What I'll Remeber
Let It Go
Old Man Dreamin'
Can You Hear Me (I'm The One Who Cares)
One Of The Lucky Ones
Don't Tell Me Goodbye
That Don't Seem Right To Me
See Us Shine
Still Burns Bright In My Heart
She's The Girl
Summer Of Love
I Don't Always Win
Mama's Comin' Home Tonight
Don't Give Up On Dreams
It's Not Love
Me And You
What D'ya Got
All For You
Won't Go Down That Road Again
Ain't Dead Yet
Feels Like Home
Where Does All The Money Go
1: What artist would you most love to work with?
I would have loved to have done something with either Paul McCarney and or Stephen Stills, both of which inspired me to be an artist.
2: What instrument brings you the most joy?
A killer voice!
3: What was the worst advice?
Never settle or think you have learned everything there is to know about your craft.
4: What was your first concert?
5: What/where is the best road food?
New York style pizza!
6: What’s the best music advice you ever got?
Write what you feel which was advise from Ahmet Ertegun when I was 18.
7: Who is your most surprising inspiration?
My wife of 43 years, Melanie.