Colin John: Multifaceted, internationally recognized musician calls Kona home

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You could call Colin John a blues guitarist, but you would just be scratching the surface of this multifaceted, internationally recognized musician who calls Kona home.


You could call Colin John a blues guitarist, but you would just be scratching the surface of this multifaceted, internationally recognized musician who calls Kona home.

John got his start in music as a kid playing trumpet, until he punctured his eardrum. That’s when his band teacher at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, talked him into playing the double bass fiddle, the only instrument available at the time. From there he moved to the electric bass, but really wanted to play guitar. John got a Harmony Stella acoustic and was hooked.

After graduating from Ohio University with majors in art history and interpersonal communications, he knew he wanted to play music professionally.

His influence came from English rock bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and, of course, the timeless Jimi Hendrix.

John headed to Chicago to hear the blues.

“I would read the album liner notes and research the writers of the music, going to the root source to find out where you came from,” he said. “It’s the basis of what I do.”

John moved to England in 1992, immersing himself in the music scene and lived there for 10 years.

Then, in 2002, John opened for John Mayo at the then-Kona Surf Hotel.

“I met so many great people on that first trip I started coming regularly” he said.

John decided to move to Kona in 2006, splitting his time between West Hawaii and Columbus, Ohio, his mainland base when not touring.

Moving to Kona felt like coming home to John.

The spirit of aloha and laid back vibe is what drew him to West Hawaii.

“I’ve made friends from all over the world here,” he said. “The beauty of music draws people together in a very positive way, and I’m all about that.”

He fell in love with Hawaiian music and learned slack key and steel guitar, infusing into his blues style.

“Hawaiian music and the blues are very similar.” he said. “It’s the blues from the Pacific.”

Then, in 2014, John toured Italy, France, India, Kathmandu and Nepal. That experience inspired yet another layer to his musical genre.

When asked to describe his music, John defines it as a fusion of blues, Hawaiian, surf and Indian. Although he frequently performs solo, he does play with others on occasion.

“I love to work with other musicians and see what I can lend to their projects, like Dagan Bernstein, a contemporary alternative country artist from Waimea,” he said.

With nine solo albums to his credit, his latest project is a collaboration with blues singer, “Long Tall Deb.” The pair have opened theater shows for B.B. King and Robert Cray, and played to standing ovations for enthusiastic club and festival audiences in India, Nepal and across the United States, Canada and Europe.

John likes to play “any venue where people come to listen to the music. It becomes an interplay of energy.”

“My favorite is house party concerts. It’s a fun thing to do. The music draws people together and any place where people like the music is OK with me,” he said. “I love to develop relationships with people who like my music. They become friends, not fans.”

John says that as a performer you have a responsibility, whether it’s 30 or 3,000 people, it’s the same and he appreciates the energy generated by the crowd and the interplay he develops with them .

He frequently has audience members tell him that he really looks like he is enjoying himself.

“And I really am,” he said. “I was not born with an amazing talent. I work hard at it every day.”

Friends concur, saying that he even sleeps with his guitar across his chest and has been known to compose and play music in his sleep.

“My credo is ‘Try Wait.’ Take everything into consideration and do what you do.”

It appears to be working for him.

John has left for a mainland and European tour. But he will be back in October.


“I’ve traveled all over the world, but Hawaii is home for me,” he said. “It’s the one place in the world that when I leave I feel like a kid being sent to the principal’s office. I’m just immersed in everything here.”