Interview: John Barthelmass of Ten Two

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For many people, music is an escape from their day to day lives and a healing force.  Many artists use music to work through issues in their own lives or to talk about what they see going on around them.  Artist  Ten Two caught my attention in December with the release of the video “Raise Your Hand” that approaches the subject of domestic violence through music. It’s a topic that even today, many people do not feel comfortable talking about, but he decided to take a stand and put it in on the public eye.

Domestic violence touches most all of us whether directly or someone we know.  So I wanted to talk to John Barthelmass of  Ten Two about the new track, the new music and what we can expect in 2018.   Ten Two‘s newest album ‘Forth’ released on January 5th.  Check out the video for “Raise Your Hand” below then check out the interview that follows to get to know this artist. 


In December you released a new single and video called “Raise Your Hand” which shines the light on domestic violence. Why did you decide to write about domestic violence?

Hello, first off thank you for being kind enough to ask about the music, I appreciate that very much. In response to your first question regarding my song “Raise Your Hand”, I found that I have a very immediate intrinsic intense response to hearing any and all stories involving domestic violence. An anger, a sadness, a frustration, all of those negative emotions emanate immediately upon hearing about that pain. It really hit home a few years ago when I was dating one of the kindest women I have ever met and she had gone through some of the worst mental and physical abuse that I had ever heard. The worst part was that she somehow blamed herself for the abuse.

I could not wrap my mind around how any of that could be possible. My immediate thought was “I want to fight everyone who does that garbage”, but then a sense of rationality came across me and I felt that instead of focusing on the evil, why not shift that and fight for the positivity of one realizing that they are not alone in their strife, and worth far more than being treated like trash. To raise your hand in questioning why on Earth anyone who supposedly loved you would raise their hand in aggression. Domestic violence is far too prevalent, and my hope is that this song can raise a bit more awareness to the fact that it is never ok to treat anyone so poorly, that it actually is very prevalent so anyone experiencing such a travesty will know that they are not alone in their struggle, and also that everyone is worth being treated with love and respect.

Are you involved with any charities or are there any causes you stand behind?

I am not currently involved with any specific charities, but being that I have just released this song delving into the realm of domestic abuse I have been attempting to at least turn up one voice as loud as possible to stand behind those who have been and currently are victims of domestic violence.

When did you first start getting interested in music?

Music actually didn’t really hit me until around the time I was in 7th grade. I was extremely focused on soccer through my childhood; it was an every moment sort of craze that I felt toward playing soccer, so that really took all of my energy and focus. Then, my parents took me to a record store. To show my age a bit the first two albums I purchased were Oasis “What’s the Story, Morning Glory?” and Bush “Sixteen Stone”. I was absolutely obsessed with those two albums and that really sprung me into the positive addiction of music from that point forward.

What brought you to your style of music?

The style of music I write now is a really a function of my entire past of musical enjoyment. I began with the likes of Oasis and Bush, but quickly added in there bands like Goo Goo Dolls and all of those sort of easily accessible radio rock bands. I was very late to the party with the likes of Nirvana and wasn’t very into the grunge scene back in those days, but what then happened was the pop punk era hit, and it hit me hard. Blink 182 blew my mind at first, and then I became exceptionally stuck on New Found Glory. In fact, at the time they went by A New Found Glory. That was during my high school years.

After which during the college years I discovered easily the most influential band of my life: Taking Back Sunday. I saw them perform an acoustic set at California State University, Fullerton, and I was hooked for years. Dashboard Confessional, The Early November, Mae, and The Starting Line soon followed and I just kept searching for music of that sort and kept expanding my horizons from there. I’ve always been interested in more intricate guitar, yet still very catchy and accessible in feel, and that’s where the second most influential band came in: Saosin. I obsessed over their guitar prowess. That sent me into the likes of Memphis May Fire with their amazing guitar playing. Also, around that time is when I really began to sing.

I had previously just been a mixture of lead and rhythm guitar with very minor areas of very shaky background vocals. Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire fame really caught my ear with his amazing vocals over the top of those ridiculous guitar riffs. So, that became a very large influence on my own singing. I had always wanted to sing, but was far too shy to do so. The styling of Arthur Enders of The Early November also strongly influenced my singing style. So, all of that summed up really brings me to wherever I am today. The guitar riffs, the catchy feel, the acoustic singer/songwriter, and the ever-being-worked-on vocal possibilities. In recent years I’ve been very focused on the vocals of Brent from I The Mighty and Bradley from Emarosa. Those two guys inspire me more than I can even explain with their phenomenal deliveries. That really makes the music I write always expanding toward being a better version of myself.

What does 2018 look like for you, musically?

2018 has started off with a bang: I finally released my first true Ten Two album. I’m very proud of it. Little known fact, but I not only wrote the songs, I also engineered, mixed, and mastered the entire album myself. Something I have always wanted to have the ability to do so I took the time to learn as much as I possibly could in order to record an album that I would be proud of. For the rest of the year I plan on filming at least 3 music videos; which I have already begun working on. They are three intertwined songs telling a story from different perspectives.

They’re called “Windows”, “Whispers”, and “Behold”. I plan on performing as many shows as possible; both acoustic as well as full band. I may be technically a solo artist, but I have a lot of friends that have expressed interest in performing the songs with me, so we’ve begun practicing to make that possible. I have some darn good friends! I also plan on releasing more songs over the course of the year. I find that I can never stop writing, and I’m definitely ok with that.

How do you feel about the current music scene and industry today?

Over the course of my lifetime the music industry has changed so drastically. As an indie band/musician it’s definitely difficult to navigate the waters of what seems to be a very in flux industry. While at the same time, it has become far easier to technically get music out into the world. With a few simple clicks of a mouse one can have their music on almost every platform that provides access to music, so that is a very positive effect of this internet revolution. The question I always ask myself is “what choice is better? To sign to a record label or to stay independent?”

I really haven’t found that answer yet, but what I do know is putting the effort in within an intelligent concept and having at least some semblance of a plan is a great way to keep moving forward. As far as the current music scene itself, I’ve never really known where I fit into any sort of scene as it is. My musical tastes fly all over the board so really all I’ve ever felt about music scenes themselves is to keep an open mind to all styles and stay sort of on the fringe of whatever style I’m feeling at the time. I just love talking music to anyone that is up for the exploration into sounds and let it lend itself to learning as much as possible about any scene out in the music world. What is great is that music is universal. Styles and scenes intertwine. It’s very fun to just learn and share as much as possible.

What would you say that you’ve learned in your own music and writing style as you’ve moved forward with your music?

I’ve found that I always want to do better than myself with each subsequent song. Structurally, guitar riffs, progressions, lyrics, melodies, you name it, I want to out do myself every time. Granted, the very idea of progressing forward really depends on the style of the song itself and the feel I am going for. I believe what I have truly learned is that I love the process of writing songs. It can become so frustrating when I’m stuck in some sort of self-induced rut, yet when that moment of clarity hits and even a single piece of a song comes together it becomes the most satisfying feeling. I also used to simply write songs basically all in my head. I’d have an idea, I’d play it out on a guitar and know what the other parts of the song are based on what I had played previously and just put them together in that fashion. I now record everything. It typically begins as voice memos or small video clips, and then I’ll demo the song out in Logic and produce it from there. That alone has changed my songwriting drastically.

What do you want listeners to hear or experience in your music?

I want listeners to experience the knowledge that we all go through similar hardships in life. All of my songs are relationship based within their lyrical content. Whether that be romantic, friendship, or family relationships. Like most people, I’ve experienced some very interesting downs during my growing into adulthood, and those almost always spring me into musical action. I’ve also heard stories of close friends that have had similar situations befall unto them, and I can empathize and many of those hardships find their way into lyrics. I feel that my music is a hopeful exploration into the journey of growing. Selfishly, I also hope that whoever listens will be able to hear the intricacies that I attempt to include within each aspect of the music. I tend to really study music that I listen to down to every sound I can hear, and try to facilitate the same care and effort into my own music. 

What are you doing when you are not making music?

When I’m not making music I currently work at Disney World in Orlando, Florida as an entertainment manager for a 3rd party company. A very close friend of mine came to the United States many moons ago from Kenya; he was an acrobat. Once he understood the business side of that endeavor he began his own touring acrobat/African entertainment company called Cirque Zuma Zuma. He has made his company extremely successful, which is very inspiring, and about a year and a half ago he called me up and asked if I’d be available to help him out here in Orlando. I got the call on a Friday, and by Saturday I was on a red eye flight from LAX to MCO (Orlando). It has been quite an amazing experience being in Orlando and working with these amazing athletes, singers, and musicians that are part of this group here.

What do you think about the state of our nation today?

That is an interesting question. I feel our nation is in a period of growth and in many respects growing pains that it hasn’t seen in quite some time. A social and economic consciousness has really come to the forefront of these United States. I am a strong proponent for change in order to allow for everyone to live harmoniously and with respect, and this awareness with many very outspoken individuals and groups has been a great breath of fresh air in order to facilitate the  changes necessary to gain the proper respect for all of humanity. There are definitely certain things I don’t agree with; particular childish methods of attempting to get petty points across that I feel are both unnecessary and creates a focus toward the wrong aspects of where the United States should be focusing its efforts.

We all have the opportunity to make our communities better rather than tearing them all apart in hatred, and I believe the majority of this nation has open minds and hearts to be a part of the positive change. It’s all a process and while there is quite a bit of negativity that floats around these days, I love witnessing the United States united in working for better for everyone. If we all work at it in the micro level, it will grow to the macro level. I have always found that positivity breeds positivity; being friendly to everyone is the best way to make life worth living for everyone.

Is there anything you’d like to let your fans know about you that you haven’t had a chance tell them or anything you’d like to express to them?

I really just want to express my gratitude toward anyone that takes even a minute to listen to a part of a song that I have written. With so many great options to take a listen to, for someone to take a moment to lend an ear to something I have put my full self into is a kindness that I can’t say “thank you” enough to. I love music, the messages that can be portrayed within music, and the connection that can be made via music. It’s just such a satisfying opportunity to be able to share my own voice with anyone and everyone that is nice enough to take a listen.

Thank you kindly for taking time out to answer my questions!

Thank you for asking!

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About Diane Webb 676 Articles
I am music fanatic, writer, photographer, music publicist and artist manager who loves to travel and has severe wanderlust. Music, travel and enjoying life is key! Follow my photography Instagram: @yesterdazenews Facebook: @YesterdazeNewsPhotography. Follow my publicity on IG/FB @playloudagency