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John Splithoff’s been letting music take him places for most of his life now. Born and raised outside Chicago, he grew up obsessed with classic rock and guitar gods before developing a taste for jazz, which led him to study performance at the University of Miami. While the city’s electronic and Latin scenes opened up new horizons, it was the time spent listening to D’Angelo, Daft Punk and Prince that would have the biggest impact on Splithoff during this time.
After graduation, Splithoff moved to New York, where he lived on an old classmate’s couch in Harlem for three months while he put together a band and started playing gigs around the city. He released an independent EP in 2013 and then struck gold a few years later with his 2016 single, “Sing to You,” which racked up more than 50 million streams online and cracked the Top 10 at AC radio. The track’s meteoric rise, and the similar success of subsequent singles like 2017’s “Show Me,” helped fuel multiple national headline tours and land Splithoff festival slots everywhere from Bonnaroo to Lollapalooza. Along the way, a brief stint with a major label only confirmed his desire to chart his own destiny, and as soon as he was back on his own, Splithoff began cooking up plans for a full-length record. “For a long time, I felt kind of stuck in this cycle of releasing single after single,” he explains. “It’s what everyone was looking for from me, and I found myself writing in a certain way to meet that demand. After a while, though, I didn’t want to keep thinking about the world three minutes at a time.” So, for the first time in his career, Splithoff began writing a series of songs that could flow seamlessly one into the next, a cohesive collection meant to be consumed from top to bottom. He worked primarily out of his apartment in New York, building up tracks a layer at a time and playing most of the instruments himself. It was a rewarding process, but also a lonely one, and after months of recording in isolation, Splithoff decided he needed a change of scenery and some fresh ears.
“I found myself lacking perspective at a certain point, and I think that came from being cooped up on my own for too long,” he explains. “So, I flew out to LA and brought the songs to a couple different producers—a duo called Likeminds and an old friend and collaborator named Alias—and finished everything off out there.”
The LA sessions offered a fresh injection of energy for the music, infusing tracks with the kind of chemistry that can only come from human interaction and creative collaboration. On the day Splithoff flew back to New York, life changed dramatically with the announcement of COVID lockdowns, and suddenly the material he’d written while isolated at home took on new meaning.
“I think a lot of the feelings people have experienced over the past year in quarantine are things that I’d been experiencing in the year leading up to it,” says Splithoff. “When spending a lot of time creating by yourself, it leaves a lot of opportunity for you to be alone with your thoughts, to try and figure out who you are and what you really want out of life.”
‘All In’ embraces that kind of soul searching from the top, opening with the hypnotic “Note To Self,” which aims to balance drive and purpose with self-awareness and perspective. “Tell me, what are you gonna do with all that ambition?” Splithoff sings in a buttery smooth voice. “You can keep your up in the clouds ‘till the end of time / I think you’re trying too hard to put on an exhibition / And make something that everybody can get behind.” Tossing out expectations in favor of following your own arrow is a recurring theme on the album, and in Splithoff’s life. The dreamy “Thrive” learns to define success on its own terms in a comparison-driven, social media-obsessed society; the funky “Good To Go” insists on pushing forward no matter how difficult things get; the sultry “Fahrenheit” finds escape in pouring a drink and turning the music up loud; and the hazy
“Value” takes a step back to meditate on what really matters at the end of the day (hint: it’s not money or possessions).
My apartment was broken into while I was writing the record,” says Splithoff. “They took a bunch of stuff including my favorite guitar, which I grew up playing exclusively and used to record every record I’ve ever made. While it could’ve been much worse, I reminded myself that the most valuable things in my life aren’t physical objects, they’re the relationships I have with the people I care about.”
That revelation serves as a north star for Splithoff throughout the record, pointing him back towards the primacy of love every time he begins to lose sight of it. The buoyant “Holding On To Me” celebrates the joy of infatuation, while the airy “Inside Out” revels in the pleasures of emotional intimacy, and the tender title track surrenders fully and completely to the kind of relationship in which two truly become one. “If you’re in / I’m all in / Cause I’ve always been so all about you,” Splithoff sings. “If you’re down / I’m so down / I’d just be dying if I’m living without you.”
It takes years of work and devotion to build that kind of love and trust with a partner, but the sacrifice is more than worth the reward. Sometimes a slow burn yields the brightest fire.