On the wake of the release of A Seed Buried In The Ground (read review here) John Nielsen, singer, guitarist and founder of The Cloud Hymn, Has taken some time out to answer a few questions for The 405. Discover what inspires him as a person, their music and his hopes for the future. For those who have not had the delight to have heard of you and your music, would you tell us a little about yourself? Well I’m from around Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I moved up to Eau Claire to go to college. I’ve since expatriated to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I continue to go to school. There’s not a whole lot to say. A Seed Buried In The Ground has just been released. Religion, or more so God itself, seems to be a rather profound influence. What inspired such an album? I’ve been a Christian a long time and I always will be, but college seems to really put you in a place where you have to find God for yourself, and have to experience Him in a very real way. So, I wrote these songs during a difficult time spiritually. I spent a lot of time demanding big answers to my big questions, thinking I was on some sort of search. But I think I was really just afraid to address what was inside of me and just let my guard down, to really release myself from a lot of things, to release control and just be loved by Jesus. In the end what I thought was doubt was really just pride. When you listen back at your songs how do you feel and are they as good as you hoped that they would be in regard to how you held the thought of them in your mind. Or do you just write and feel how the next interlude should fall? Well I don’t listen to them much, but it’s an interesting experience to play them. This is all going to sound pretentious, but I don’t think much about them when I am writing them. They seem to mean a lot more to me later. The lyrics come out in a matter of minutes and I rarely have any topic in mind. I don’t sit down to write about anything specific. It just kind of spills out really quickly. So really I find that I attach the meaning to the words later and that’s when I sort of figure out what they are about. I more think of the feeling of the songs, which I still feel, and still figure out more about as time goes on. I think that sort of process has been a blessing to me because I really can’t take credit for coming up with anything. It just kind of happens. Tani Alyssa and Paul Brandt add such a wonderful depth to The Cloud Hymn, where did you guys meet and how was The Could Hymn formed? Well, Tani and I have known each other for a really long time and she has been singing with me for about as long as I have been writing songs. Paul and I met through a mutual friend. We both really liked each other’s songs (Paul and Tani are both great song writers) and Paul asked me to play in his band, Cranes & Crows. From there Paul put me in touch with his friend Eric Rykal, who recorded the album. Paul asked if he could play piano on a song or two and it went from there. The original idea was for it just to be my record but I think of the whole thing as much more of a band now. Who inspires you musically and who are your favourite artists? I really love Justin Vernon’s music. I have been more or less obsessed with Bon Iver for some time now. His old band DeYarmond Edison is also absolutely phenomenal. I’m listening to their album “Silent Signs” right now. Justin is from Eau Claire and so he has had a huge influence on so many people from there. Paul, Tani and I all really love Vernon’s stuff. Is there one song in the world that personifies your journey through this experience we call life? Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing How did you decide on the name ‘The Cloud Hymn’? Was it due to its uncanny metaphor to your music? Well the music project didn’t have a name until after we made the record so I had some of the themes of the songs in mind when I came up with a name. I’ve always liked the word “hymn” and it seemed to fit. “Cloud” seemed to represent the sort of dark circumstances that seem to bring out songs. What is your all time favourite lyric and why? That’s a hard one. I don’t know. I have lots of favourite lyrics. I really like the lyrics of a band called mewithoutYou. “Blind as I'd become, I used to wonder where You are- these days I can't find where you're not” “The truth belongs to God The mistakes were mine” I also really like the end of re:Stacks by Bon Iver “This is not the sound of a new man or a crispy realization It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away. You’re love will be safe with me.” What is the most incredible gig you have played and what made it so? I’m on a label called Amble Down Records and it’s really just a bunch of people who are friends and play music with each other. There is a lot of overlap in members of bands and the Eau Claire scene itself is a really tight-knit and supportive scene. It’s like a big musical family. We just had a two year anniversary show about a week ago and it was an incredible night. All the bands played really well and it just felt really, really special, just one of those times where you feel like “this is how things are supposed to be.” Do you have any bad gig experiences that you would be willing to share with us? One time I got really sick before a little show in the basement of my college dorm. I sounded terrible. Thankfully there were about 10 people there. I threw up right after the show ended. Also, the songs I wrote back then were pretty terrible. Another time I played outside in a kind of jam band funk group and it was freezing, way to cold to play guitar. Good music was not made that day. These are not good stories. As the fourohfive is also a film and art review site, what genre of film do you enjoy to view and what is your favourite film, director or actor? This is going to sound terrible but I don’t really watch movies. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. I just get way too emotionally involved when I watch movies and they have a big effect on me. I end up being in that headspace for a day or two and I don’t really like it. So I really only watch incredibly stupid movies that aren’t going to stay stuck in my head. I also don’t even have a DVD player or a T.V. antenna that actually works. I just have a VCR with about six VHS tapes. Three of them involve Steve Martin. If a film were to be made about you, what would be the title, what would be its narrative and who would play you? I have absolutely no idea. I wouldn’t really want the narrative to be about me as musician, or really about me at all, so I’m not too sure. Are there any particular artists, from painters to photographers, that you hold a keen interest in? Well I have never been really into visual art. I always really dig it when I take some time too look into it. Tani and I go to art museums pretty often but I really know nothing about art. However, lately I have been getting into other peoples’ photography. The photos for the album art for our record I just found on Flickr and asked the photographers if we could use them (their names are Heather Zibbel and Trevor Nerbas). Looking for pictures for the album art was my first real exposure to Flickr and now I tend to spend too much time on there. Many of us are privy to random events in our lives, what is the most random or incredible thing that has happened to you? I almost got in a bad car accident one night. I was headed back to Eau Claire from Appleton where I had just seen a B.B. King concert with my Dad. It was in the middle of a snowstorm and I swerved into the opposite lane where there were some oncoming cars. I just missed them and slid into a parking lot across the street. I had a really powerful moment there in that parking lot, a feeling of really deep gratitude and clarity. That was the night, in that lot and on the three hour drive back home, that I really felt like I was pulled out of that kind of dark time during which these songs were written. What are your hopes for the next five years musically and personally? I need to get some self discipline. I’m not very disciplined at all. Musically, we are looking to do a short tour this summer. We also want to record again. The songs are sounding a lot more dense and textured live than they do on the record. When we play live Tani and Paul both sing and both play banjo and piano. Paul also plays lap steel. The next record is going to have a lot more of those two on it. If you could be doing one thing, whatever it may be, at this very moment in time, what would that one thing be? Honestly, I am sitting here in my apartment overlooking downtown Minneapolis. It’s about midnight, and I’m listening to DeYarmond Edison with my window open a little bit and there’s a bit of a breeze. It’s been warm this week and it feels like spring is coming. This is a pretty good moment to be in. Could you leave us with a lingering, profound and contemplative thought? “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” John, we thank you so very kindly for your time, and for your answers. Find out more about The Cloud Hymn www.myspace.com/thecloudhymn www.ambledown.com/artists/thecloudhymn.html