John Kono Rushlander: Newest Artist Signed To Pioneer Records

It’s no secret that one of the hottest new commodities on Point Park’s campus has become Pioneer Records, the university-operated record label that utilizes resources from the SAEM department and Red Caiman Studios to turn student musicians into well-developed artists. John Kono Rushlander, a former military veteran and non-traditional student, is the 2nd artist to join the Pioneer Records roster, and Her Campus couldn’t wait to chat with him about his newfound campus stardom:

Photo by Lexie Mikula

HC: You’re a self-taught guitarist; tell us about how you started playing and building up your skills.

JKR: “I had some friends in high school and in the Army who got me interested in playing guitar and taught me a few things. It just kind of went from there; I got to a point where I could play and sing, then I felt like writing was a good idea, and eventually felt like I should perform.”

HC: Who are some musicians you admire, and why?

JKR: “Since I entered a few amateur circuits of performing in different cities, I started really admiring the working musician- people with a normal life, no glamour, who were doing their craft that weren’t necessarily in the limelight. They have a total love for doing it, and when you see someone with that exceptional talent it’s just humbling, and I feel like I can relate to that. I’ll drop a name- nobody probably knows her- but Anna Morgan is a blues singer I met in Chicago, and she is such an amazing talent.”

HC: Where do you get inspiration from when songwriting?

JKR: “I compose on a very mechanical level… If I’m playing a riff on the guitar, it gives me a feeling, and that feeling sparks words or an idea that I want to incorporate. It’s like breeding, you know? And the song is the baby!”  

HC: Describe your favorite past performance.

JKR: “I had a few really good experiences in a club in Chicago called The Gallery Cabaret, that’s where I started to understand the realities of performing. I had a small gig there, and the booking agent knew I didn’t have a huge following and that I wasn’t going to make him much money, but he booked me anyway. There was this homeless man I met by the name of Charlie Q., and he’s actually the one who recommended I go to New Orleans since that’s what my style reminded him of! He was kind of a cavalier or a supporter to me; I admired him because he was like this free bird, a madman with long hair that looked like this crazy angel. He played keys, so I asked him if he wanted to show up and play with me, and sure enough he did! We did a small set together, and it was one of those scenarios where you’re performing but no one seems to care, but afterwards I drove Charlie Q. back to wherever he was staying, and I realized he walked about a solid three miles in the dead of winter in Chicago just to play with me. It was a ‘wow’ experience.”

Photo by Lexie Mikula

HC: Do you ever get nervous or insecure about playing in front of crowds? If so, how do you deal with it?

JKR: “I do prior to the performance, but once I start playing, this thing takes over that’s never nervous or insecure. It’s just something you have to get over by just pushing through.”

HC: How do you balance your music and new commitment to Pioneer Records with your classes?

JKR: “In the first few weeks, not well at all, but it’s coming along! It’s cool that the label demands me at the very least to stay in school and do well; people working on Pioneer Records are doing so much hard work that involves me, so when they’re taking time out of their day, I have to make sure I’m here so that can happen!”

HC: What exciting things do you have in the works with the label?

JKR: “The recording of my EP is definitely exciting. I’ve yet to do any performances, I think we’re going to wait until the New Year to do that. I have a music video happening with he cinema department too!”

HC: You’re majoring in Sports, Arts & Entertainment Management; did you choose this to learn how to develop yourself further as an artist, or is there another area in the industry you have career interests in?

JKR: “I initially wanted to understand the business aspects of the industry and what it really takes, not really caring to go in any particular direction with it. I wanted to educate myself on those things [in SAEM]. But I’m actually switching to psychology!”

HC: Last but not least, what is your go-to karaoke song?

JKR: “I run away from karaoke! But if I’m forced, I would do ‘The Rose’ by Bette Midler.”

Keep tabs on John's journey with Pioneer Records next semester on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!