WHYJOHNNY has built a name for himself in the NYC music scene, playing regularly at the downtown clubs like The Bitter End, The Standard, The Cutting Room, and Arlene’s Grocery. He’s currently a student at Berklee and will be releasing his debut EP, Because on July 31.
What was the writing and recording process like behind the new EP?The songs were all written in different stages of my life. I wrote “Still I Wish You The Best” when I had just turned 17. The chorus melody popped into my head during an English class. I ran to the bathroom and sang the melody into my phone. After school, I finished the song in 10 minutes. I didn’t have a clear theme when writing the lyrics; I just kept singing the lyric “Still I Wish You The Best My Little Dear” and followed that theme.
I think the rawness from the original demo is reflected in the final record. “Face Like A Ghost” is an oddball. I wrote it in about two hours after I woke up from a dream. Instead of recapping the dream through notes, I wrote a song to remember it. “Nothing Left” is a song born out of frustration. There was a lot going through my head at the time. I wrote the lyrics first, which was a new way of writing for me.
The recording process was simply one of the best experiences of my life. Daniel Schlett is nothing short of a genius. Our energy and work ethic really synced up during those long, 12-to-14-hour days. However, it did not feel like long days because every day was a learning experience for me, with Daniel showing me new ways to think about a song or the sound of a song. I am very grateful for that experience and cannot wait to do it all again.
What are some of the lyrical themes on the EP?
There is definitely the theme of emptiness in all three songs, particularly “Nothing Left” and “Still I Wish You The Best,” the idea of leaving something behind and the difficulties of letting go. There’s also a theme of frustration and fear which is shown in “Face Like A Ghost.” This EP isn’t just about letting go of one thing; it’s about letting go of the life you’ve been living so you can start living in the next chapter.
How does it differ from previous music and projects?
There’s a sophistication to this EP. The vision is much clearer than any other of my previous projects. This is obviously due to the top-notch production, but it’s also due to the mature songwriting style I feel I’ve developed in the last five years. After receiving the final mastered version of the EP, I felt I was successful in bringing what I heard in my head to life.
How much has COVID impacted things for you? Did it set you back, or did it give you time to work on this new EP?
The EP was done right before COVID, so I got the final mix a couple days before my school sent us all home. Did it set me back? Yes. Not as far as the EP, but creatively, yes. It took a toll on my motivation and my drive. I think the reason why it did so much damage is because I mostly listen to music when I’m walking, when I have somewhere to go.
When I would listen, I pictured myself singing those songs on the stage. If I really like a song, it motivates me to write a song that’s just as good. It pushes me, and I didn’t have that push because there was nowhere to go. I don’t know, I didn’t lose it; I just briefly lost the satisfaction that I usually get when finishing a song. It felt like I was working towards nothing. It’s starting to come back now that things are beginning to open up and I’m back in the city.
Can we expect any live streams, future tours, etc. to promote the EP?
There’s going to be a live show some time in August on Annie Ohayon’s Instagram (@annieomusiclive). I also have a few online live, shows, and sessions with magazines and venues in the works. As far as gigging, with COVID, not sure when, but as soon as things open up, I’ll be there.
Do you have anything else in the works you want to promote?
This EP came right as the world paused. So, as of now, my main focus is the Because EP.
What’s next after this? Do you plan to release more solo stuff?
With all this time, I was able to put together some old songs and some new ones. My next project will be a full length album and possibly a tour.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want my listeners to hear the depth in this EP. In my writing. I’m not just writing to write, even though sometimes it kind of feels like it. It’s a necessity. It’s something I have to do. I hope this music helps them through the types of experiences I’ve dealt with or things that they are going through. I hope my music gets people to think and feel.