December 8th, 2015

Song for Indianapolis, John Isaac Watters

by Kipp Normand

Listen to “Song for Indianapolis” here.


The 48 Hour Residency draws songwriters to Indianapolis where they learn as much as they can about our fair city, then write and record a song celebrating it – all within the short span of two days. It’s a tough job and it takes a special sort of artist to meet the requirements.  

Los Angeles based John Isaac Watters drove into town last Thursday to undertake the difficult challenge of the 48 Hour Residency.  He stopped in Indianapolis in the midst of a cross country tour.  John Isaac Watters is a straightforward sort of guy. He goes by his middle name – Isaac. He doesn’t talk a lot at first and he doesn’t carry much with him, just a guitar, an amplifier and a battered suitcase. However his mental toolbox is impressive.  His command of imagery and metaphor offers a glimpse into the substantial storage space of his imagination. To quote the reviewer from “I’d wager he reads a bit.”

I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Isaac. I gave him a tour of downtown Indianapolis with special emphasis on architectural style.  Isaac is a trained architect who worked for years in the world famous studio of Frank Gehry. He has a sincere interest in people and he loves buildings and cities and all the stories they contain. Isaac is an astute observer and through his questions and comments I could see that he was moving ideas around in his imagination as we poked through the warehouses, railroad stations, grand hotels and memorials. Indianapolis was soaking in.  Our quick tour turned into an evening of anecdotes and surprises when we ventured into Fountain Square to visit the venerable Arthur’s Music Store. The next morning students from Herron High School took Isaac on a frosty bicycle tour before he set to the task of writing his song. By Friday evening he had most of the words and melody in his head before he was swept into the whirlwind abundance of a First Friday opening at the Harrison Center for the Arts. Isaac gave two concerts that night before he returned to the tiny studio at the back of Gallery No. 2 to finish writing and recording his song.

A modern day troubadour, Isaac is tall and wild haired.  His music seesaws between dusty folk tunes and demented carnival rants. His Indianapolis song is a bit of both.