John Staedler’s raw emotion
Chico transplant goes for true social networking with his new double-album and tour
On stage John Staedler looks like the quintessential rastafied Cali hippie while he mesmerizes audiences with his flowing, hypnotic sax playing and New Age-y lyrics.
It would be easy to imagine that underneath the baggy, beige, knit cap that Staedler keeps pulled down close to his eyebrows (above his fair, almost-angelic face) lurks a head full of blonde dreadlocks. Not so.
Staedler showed up to a recent interview looking like a different person than the one seen performing. Gone was the hat, revealing a sticking-up brush of short, dark-brown hair. His white button-up shirt, khaki trousers and black Crocs gave him a clean, tidy look.
The almost-ladylike, oval, black-plastic-framed glasses that he wore rounded out his endearing geekish vibe, akin to the Clark Kent persona Staedler inhabits in the YouTube video for his song “Live Life Today.”
Staedler’s off-stage visage is the perfect complement to his super musical capabilities (he learned to play the alto sax in the second grade). The 27-year-old Bay Area transplant sings, writes songs, plays numerous instruments—bass, guitar, soprano sax, drums, keyboard—and did the production, editing and mastering for his new double CD, The Radical Love Frequency.
The album took three years to make and is a sonic mix of rock, folk and a sizable dose of world music, or “traditional tribal music” as Staedler refers to it. He sings in Spanish, for instance, on the opening to the Mexican-influenced “Fear Not the Darkness,” while “Good God Is Wit Cha” revolves around heavy tribal drumming and chanting.
It’s been mostly DIY for Staedler, who self-produced four albums prior to Radical Love Frequency and 2005’s A Conscious Alternative. The new album features an extended cast of local luminaries, including jazz vocalist Sarah “Laydibluez” Spencer, singer Sarah Nutting (The Saplings, MaMuse), DJ Ayrian Dilts, and artists Christine Fulton and Weston Thomson, the latter of whom designed the cover art.
The Radical Love Frequency may have taken three years to make, but for Staedler the final result is a culmination of his belief that people can make the world a better place: “It’s true to the vision I’ve had since I was 16.”
Before making music full time, Staedler studied jazz at Stanford and received his B.A. in psychology with a minor in holistic health from San Francisco State University.
He spent a year in British Columbia, where he was able to actually work as a musician and recorded A Conscious Alternative and much of what would become The Radical Love Frequency.
Staedler’s vision is no doubt steeped in New Age values such as love, spirituality and metaphysics. But he is quick to differentiate himself from being lumped into that category, which he says typically steers away from emotions of anger, fear and sadness.
“Avoiding certain types of emotions seen as bad doesn’t encompass the whole human experience,” observes Staedler.
He also endorses the raw power of rock ‘n’ roll, and has looked to bridge the gap by combining sensitive, consciousness-raising and sometimes politically provocative lyrics with rock music.
“All Is God” (from A Conscious Alternative), which Staedler describes as a Metallica march piece, exemplifies his unique approach with its piercing, anthemic electric guitar and relentlessly positive, spoken-word lyrics: “Healing light comes through the crown of my head and projects endlessly from my hands / I am releasing all thoughts and behaviors that create the illusion of illness and pain.”
Staedler shows his sense of humor with a catchy little swing ditty titled “Yeah, You’re a Slave to the System": “Well, you’re a slave to the system / And you’ve vowed to protect it to your death, yeah, hah!”
A self-designed social critic/healer, Staedler explains that he is a sort of “musical diplomat.” He will no doubt be getting his message out, kicking off a 14-date tour with his CD-release show Saturday at 1078 Gallery. The tour, including a spot at the Wild Mountain Faire Music Festival in Concow on Sunday, will take him through Northern California and into Oregon.
Staedler says he’s working to enlighten people through love, spirituality, positive thinking and the joy of living in a world of undeniably interconnected countries and cultures.
“To be alive in this world at this time is as historical as anything could ever be,” he says. “Embrace this new way of thinking and it will change your life. It will empower you.”