Jackson Heights resident John Henry Olthoff, who started writing and performing in his 30s, will mark the release of his upcoming CD “Living in Me” with a party at Waltz-Astoria on Friday, January 21.
Born in Astoria, the 37-year-old Olthoff has been living in Jackson Heights since 2006. He said that, although he has played the guitar for many years, he never had the idea to begin writing his own songs until a few years ago. He added that writing music was something he always wanted to do but had never gotten around to it.
“There comes kind of a time when you outgrow your own influences or things that you listen to that really spoke to you at one point,” said Olthoff, who sings and plays the guitar.
When the songs already out there stopped speaking to him, Olthoff explained that writing music himself was the only way to find tunes that would once again have messages he wanted to hear.
Noting that many songwriters write through anger, depression and misery, Olthoff said he also became better able to produce music once he had worked through those emotions.
Olthoff said that his sound has been described as country music, although “not like the Nashville machine.” He said it has folk and blues influences.
Olthoff, who also teaches at LaGuardia Community College, said he hears many musicians taking themselves too seriously. However, he said that’s not the case with him.
“Part [of what sets me apart] is I’m not taking myself too damn seriously,” he said. “I’m supposed to entertain and make people laugh.”
If someone doesn’t laugh at the songs, Olthoff said they might be offended or shocked. And, although his songs have punch lines, he said there is also something deeper, which is why he hopes that, after his songs are listened to, they will be possibly appreciated on more than one level.
Olthoff said he writes his music from the points of view of different characters and said that the whole point of the songs is to “push some narrative.” Even though his subject matter may be the same as others, he tries to present a different take on things.
Currently, Olthoff is working on the full-length album “Selfish Portraits.” Leading up to that, he will release “Living in Me,” which will include solo-acoustic songs and outtakes from the full-length album.
The release party for “Living in Me” at Waltz-Astoria, which is located at 23-14 Ditmars Boulevard, will begin at 9 p.m. Olthoff will perform about an hour-long set during the party and will be joined by some guests, including a harmonica player and fiddler.
Olthoff, who performs mostly in the New York City area, said at some point he will probably do more touring and that he is trying to coordinate a trip to Europe and down south to perform.
“I think my songs come across best live,” he said.
For more information on Olthoff and his music, visit www.facebook.com/johnhenrymusic.