John was born in Japan, and adopted at a young age. He grew up in Michigan and was involved in the high school band, where he played trumpet, baritone, and euphonium.
In his early twenties John started studying and reading the Bible and gave his heart to the Lord. As he pursued God, doors of opportunity opened for him.
John ended up going to Mott College in Flint, Michigan, studying electronics in an extensive study program. After completing the coarse and getting an international electronics certification he went back to school in music majoring in classical and jazz piano. He also studied music theory and composition. He was the first recipient of the John R. Nelson Jazz Scholarship Fund at Mott College. During his time at Mott Community College he played in a 26 piece Jazz big band and also a small jazz septet. He gives Mott Community College the credit for helping him get the tools he needed to survive in the music industry.
During this same time he also played professionally and started doing minor work recording on radio commercials and small recording projects. One of these projects ended up bringing him to Nashville, Tennessee where a record label contacted him to record on their project.
John went to Nashville to record for the label and the first person he met was Joe English (former drummer for Paul McCartney and Wings.). In 1980, he joined the Joe English Band and recorded several albums with them, which included writing and co-producing projects. He also recorded with the band Forerunner where he shared credits as a songwriter, lead singer and producer along with keyboard player.
He met Petra founder and guitarist Bob Hartman and Greg Volz during the beginning of the Joe English Band. He officially joined Petra during the recording on the “Beat the System” project.
In 2010, John joined up with Greg X Volz and Bob Hartman, Mark Kelly and Louie Weaver to record and produce the Classic Petra project for the band. He continued to produce mix master and engineer projects in his own studio, John Lawry Productions.
In November of 2016 , John agreed to produce a new Classic Petra album CPR: Back to The Rock II, with Greg X Volz and Louie Weaver.
John is a Spirit filled, Christ centered music minister that gives God all the glory and praise for any successes he has had in his life.