BIO by Andrew Leahey (Baby Robot Media/Rolling Stone)
Frontman. Acclaimed Grammy considered songwriter. Sideman. Nationally-endorsed multi-instrumentalist. Producer. Since moving to Nashville in the early 2000s, John Salaway has become one of the city's most accomplished musicians, holding down a weekly residency at the world-class BB King's Blues Club while also playing shows with acts like Peter Frampton, Ben Folds, Anderson East, Zach Williams, and Denny Laine from the Moody Blues and Paul McCartney's Wings. He's a drummer. A guitarist. A pianist. And with albums like 2019's Americana Dreams, he shows the full range of his abilities, mixing a lifelong appreciation for the Beatles' classic pop melodies with the southern-fried sounds of his adopted hometown.
"With every album I make, you'll always hear a touch of the Beatles," says Salaway, who got to work with the Fab Four's iconic sound engineer, Geoff Emerick, during the last year of the studio legend's life. "With Americana Dreams, though, I wanted to show off my Americana influences, which come mostly from Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, The Band, and Tom Petty."
Those influences are all on full display throughout Americana Dreams, whose 10 self-produced songs bounce between heartland rock & roll epics, pensive ballads, and rootsy rave-ups. While Salaway's earlier records found the songwriter playing nearly every instrument himself, Americana Dreams is a work of collaboration, featuring tracks co-written with India Ramey, Kyle Daniel, Scott Gerow, and other Nashville staples, as well as blistering slide guitar solos by Joey Fletcher and sweeping fiddle from Bri Murphy. On an album filled with some of Music City's brightest lights, though, it's Salaway who shines the brightest, whether he's channeling Simon & Garfunkel's softly harmonized folk-rock with "It's All In Your Mind," cranking up some bluesy soul with "You Better Believe," or taking a moment to appreciate the smaller things in life with acoustic highlights like "The Beauty That Surrounds Us."
Salaway has every reason to sound appreciative. A Florida native who grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other records from his parents' vinyl collection, he has sharpened his diverse sound and expanded his international reputation throughout a two-decade career, earning accolades from outlets like American Songwriter along the way. His debut solo album, 2013's The Song in the Air, was named the year's best independent pop/rock record by Yahoo and The Examiner, while his 2015 follow-up, Down the Road of Life, explored a heavier, grungier sound. Americana Dreams finds him chasing down new milestones, with "A Little Bit Broken" — the album's kickoff single, full of rock & roll stomp and gritty guitar — climbing to Number One on the worldwide indie radio charts several months before the album's release.
Appropriately, Americana Dreams is a sunny record, stocked with reminders to seize the moment, savor the good times, and let go of life's unnecessary burdens. These songs preach the importance of focusing on the things that really matter: love, good people, even better music, and the times we share together.
"I want to inspire people and make them feel uplifted," says Salaway, who echoes similar sentiments during tracks like "Inspire You," a quietly anthemic song laced with violin and acoustic guitar. "That's my goal in life: to be a positive force for somebody else."
In Nashville, much has changed since Salaway moved to town more than 15 years ago. The skyline looks different. The music scene has exploded. But Salaway, with his recurring Friday afternoon gigs at BB King's — sometimes performed as a one-man show with loops and effects, and sometimes performed with Salaway on the drums, leading his full band like a younger Don Henley — has become a citywide staple. His music is rooted in the best parts of the past and filled with contemporary finishes — a reminder that Nashville, despite its modern makeover, has always been a place anchored by classic songwriting. With Americana Dreams, he begins a new chapter in a story that's still unfolding, excitedly showcasing new angles of his sound while still taking a moment to enjoy the ride.
"If you hold on to too much regret or negativity, you usually wind up seeing more problems in your life," he explains. "It's like a chain reaction because negativity attracts more negativity. These songs are about letting that bad stuff go and saying, 'Look, life is beautiful. Let's be thankful for what we have and enjoy our time together.'"