Apparently, Things Do Change
It may have started with musicals like Jesus Christ Super Star, summers spent at Choral Camp at the University of Maine in Orono, or that favorite teacher who guided his interests around the art department. However, it ended as the lead singer in a rock band and finally, the owner of a successful gallery. That’s right, being the front man is nothing new for John Spain. Even though it is now more common to find the owner of Maine Art Paintings and Sculpture in jeans and a dress shirt, not black leather pants and a tank top, his love of music and the arts has never wavered.
“Bands like Kings X, Yes and Pink Floyd influenced me musically,” says Spain. “However, my vocal inspirations came from singers like Chris Cornell and Geoff Tate. I also love the jazz greats of the 50’s and 60’s: Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis. It’s usually a surprise when I put my iTunes on shuffle. I never know who will come up – Yo Yo Ma, Ella Fitzgerald or Sound Garden.”
By the time high school was over, John did find another calling. Sales. Car sales in particular. His love of everything with four wheels quickly led him to discover his knack for marketing and sales. He was good. Of course, having a nice, steady paycheck in his pocket was pretty good, too. However, he couldn’t give up the pursuit of his musical dreams.
“When the opportunity to move to New York to pursue a rock and roll career arose, I couldn’t turn it down. Things didn’t work out, but I wasn’t ready to go back to New Hampshire. I loved the city. Instead, I hit the street for a job. I still had to pay rent,” says Spain. “It wasn’t long before I found a small gallery on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I started on the floor, but soon moved into management.”
It was a conscious decision to hang up his microphone and leather and begin his career in the gallery business. He spent three years in New York, and has fond memories of the city and his time there. Yet, after a short trip to the Maine coast in 1991, it was time for a change. Click here to read the story about how Maine Art began. As busy as he was starting up a new business, there was still a part of him that missed the adrenaline that performing gave him. What is an ex-rocker turned gallery owner to do? Not willing to slip back into the leather pants, John chose a different suit; a fire retardant one.
“I have been racing sports cars for almost twenty years, now. I compete all over the U.S. and Canada. I also have the privilege of teaching other drivers how to race. It’s rewarding and makes me a better racer. Overall, I win some. I lose some. And yes, I even crash some. It’s all part of the experience,” says Spain. “I love driving a new racetrack. In fact, you could say I collect them. The only thing I love more than the tracks are the drivers I compete against. We are a tight-knit group. Actually, one of my Bucket List items is to perfect my skills and speed to the point where I can regularly beat the drivers I most respect and admire,” he pauses and laughs. “They know who they are.”
When John is not driving around the track, he is driving around the country. His love of the outdoors, coupled with his wandering soul, makes cross-country RVing a perfect scenario. Thanks to his amazing year-round managers, Amy and Natalie, he is able to work remotely during the off season and cruise the United States in search of adventures. (Considering this interview was done from the passenger seat of the 40 ft diesel pusher coach, I’m not complaining.) It may have started with mountain biking and hiking, but more recently he has added canyoneering, kayaking and backpacking, sometimes all in one day.
“National Parks might be the only thing I have collected more of than racetracks. I have visited 48 of the fifty states, leaving North Dakota and Alaska for that ever growing Bucket List,” says Spain. “I love Maine and am lucky to have all my family living in New England, but this country is just too beautiful not to experience first-hand.”
Though Spain himself has brought many changes to his world over the course of his life, regrets are few and rewards, many. He has a woman who loves him and puts up with his crazy, a wonderful supportive and encouraging family, and an incredible group of friends he would do anything for. On top of it all, he owns a charming home and a thriving business in the beautiful town of Kennebunk, Maine.
“I have no future dream job. I love my life. Maybe in my next life I’ll manage a professional racing team,” Spain says thoughtfully, “or maybe a National Park Ranger, or I could drive a tourist town trolley for tips. Now that would be fun. Seriously though, I am lucky. I am happy. And if today is my last day on Earth, I leave with a smile on my face.”
* Interested in seeing this ex-rockstar, race car driving, gallery owner perform live? Watch around town for Lisa Mills and her amazing musical partners. She occasionally shares her mic with John.
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