SPECIAL INTERVIEW: Jeremy Johnson

THEAUSSIEWORD.COM catches up with international artist Jeremy Johnson.

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How and where did it all begin for you? What drew your interest to the music industry?

It began really early for me, falling in love with acoustic songwriters as a teenager, but I never imagined I would become one myself at that time.  In my 20s I followed a career in geoscience whilst carry on with music in my spare time. I travelled a lot and that intrigue for the world eventually led to writing songs that weren’t totally awful! It wasn’t until my early 30s that I decided to commit to music as a profession and I have never looked back. It took me a while to have the confidence to take the plunge into my passion, but I have loved every second since.

What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?

The funny thing is that I never really think about making ‘great’ music.  I just love sitting down with a guitar or at a piano and trying to unclutter my mind into a song.  I find the process very therapeutic, almost like an un-jumbling process of my thoughts and fears, and that was always enough for me.  The fact people like my songs if a bit of a happy accident really.

What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?

I might sound cliché, but just feeling the appreciation from the an audience when I stand on stage and play a song is such a profound and humbling experience, that my ambition for fame and fortune is fairly minimal.  As long as I can keep being creative, produce the art and music that flows naturally and get the odd meal and shower, I’m a happy man!

What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour?

Early 2019 has been really busy with festivals and gigging.  I’m now knee deep in releasing tracks from my new album ‘Insecuriosity’ with the full album release set for early October.  I will be going on tour in the Netherlands in August and heading round the UK in October for an album release tour.

Tell us a bit about your latest release and how would you best describe your music?

My latest release is a song called ‘Runaway Train’. It’s the first single from my new album and is a big atmospheric slice of indie-folk.  The song is about submitting to the uncontrollable nature of the adventures of the heart and features backing vocals from Dutch singer-songwriter Marije De Vries.

Give us an insight into your creative process. What gets you writing songs?

The writing process for me is a fairly natural one. I get a thrill out of creating sound and fusing melody, structure and harmony, but then there is this process of overlaying  a narrative and a storyboard that complements the sound which leads to a resting point for the track.  The whole thing can be an exciting and rewarding journey.

Is there a hidden meaning in any of your music?

Not really.  I write some songs which are a little more veiled than others, but generally I am a fairly open book.  That can be problematic of course… It’s a little like publishing a personal diary online! Honesty can get you in trouble!

Success, what is the secret to it?

Success is of course, subjective.  I personally think that music is a form of communication that speaks to a deeper level than language.  If you write, perform and live with honestly, authenticity and from the heart, other people will feel a connection to you and that tends to lead to a fanbase and demand for your art and music.  For me, success is exactly that, observing a positive emotional response from something that has come from inside my head and heart.  Outside of that, everything is a bonus!

What has been your biggest career highlight so far?

I’ve played some pretty big festival stages this year to a few thousand people.  Those are always thrilling.  I’ve also had some great experiences playing live on BBC Introducing in the UK, but the things that always stick with me are the quiet moments of connection with people. I was busking not long ago and a lady sat to listen for a while.  After an hour or so, she came up to me and told me that she had been given a terminal diagnosis, didn’t have long to live, but my music had made her day.  That totally floored me.  It sounds totally cliché, but for me, that’s what it’s all about.

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Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?

I get a lot of inspiration from musicians who do their own thing, keep their business independent and keep their head in the right place.  Frank Turner is a great example of someone who has just kept going and really deserves the success he now has.  I’ve got a lot of respect for the way Ben Howard has evolved in recent years away from the temptation to write music for the masses and I have a lot of love for artists like Bruno Major who are pushing forward without big budget label backed deals.

Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

I’m really excited to kick off the next big creative project, but that won’t happen until this recent album is released and toured. I’m currently making a video for the next single, The King and The Thief, which is an awesome creative challenge!

The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?

I’d like to keep growing as a musician.  Find the time and funding to keep making music that is true to me and keep playing gigs for appreciative audiences.  Simple things really.  No need to take over the world.

What is your favourite and least favourite part about this line of work and why?

At the moment there is a lot of admin to try and generate opportunities.  That’s a bit of a drag.  It does get easier as you progress, but it’s my least favourite bit.  Too much laptop time!

Name a few of your favourite Australian artists.

I’ve always been a big fan of Matt Corby and saw him play in the UK not long ago.  More recently I’ve been drawn towards the Hollow Coves boys, they’re doing great things.  Musically I’d love to get insider Chet Faker’s brain and figure out how he does it. The guy has such an ease for great tunes.

The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out into the public eye?

I actually think the industry is in a pretty good place, but then again, I’ve never know anything different.  I have been able to make progress with a little bit of funding and a whole load of elbow grease, so I haven’t felt there are too many barriers that can’t be overcome.  Social media is a tricky one.  You just have to keep your feet on the ground and not get too obsessive with it, but that can be a challenge.  The trick really is grass roots music.  Get out there and play.  The social media side should never be the bigger element of the two if you want to keep things healthy.

How do you plan on cracking the international market?

I try to tour in Europe as much as I can and like to work with passionate people from all over.  I have a Dutch singer-songwriter who has collaborated on my recent album for example.  The internet is incredible for getting music out there, but it has to be backed up with a human element for people to really connect with what you’re doing.

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Do you collaborate with others? Who is on your wish-list?

I do collaborate with lots of people, but to be honest, when you scratch the surface, there are so many talented people around.  Belief in people whether they are unknown can bring incredible things out of them.  I love seeing that process evolve.

What advice do you give for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Start simple, be kind, remain humble and do your best to enjoy every step of the journey.  Don’t try and ‘make it’ quickly.  No-one joins a company expecting to be CEO in the first two years. You shouldn’t go into music expecting to the next Ed Sheeran.  Do it as a life purpose, not a flash in the pan.

A message for your fans. How do you best interact and respond with your fans?

I love connecting with people in person.  I always have time for people who come to gigs and want to chat so I’d encourage people to do that.  I also have a mailing list that can be accessed on my website who are an Insiders Group.  Those guys get all the special treatment so I always recommend that fans jump on that to get the latest news and best opportunities!

Any last words?

Thanks to Brian!  Without guys like you, the industry would be a lot less rich and diverse. Keep up the good fight J

Website: www.jeremyjohnson.co.uk

Facebook: facebook.com/jeremyjohnsonsongwriter

Twitter: @jeremyjohnsonuk

Instagram: @jeremyjohnsonmusic

Apple Music: Jeremy Johnson

Spotify: Jeremy Johnson

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