Rob Johnson is a musician from England. While most songwriters focus on writing lyrics, Johnson works on his compositions. Here’s a small interview I did a few days ago with him.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town in England called Salisbury. Out in the English countryside a little bit.
Whats your first memory concerning music? When did you start making music?
Not really too sure – I have a distinctive memory of hearing ‘Layla’ by Eric Clapton / Derek and The Dominoes as a kid and just having the urge to play it on the guitar. My early experiences with music all pretty much came from hearing songs in my Dad’s car when he was taking us anywhere. Looking back these bands and songs are still the biggest influences on me today – stuff like Mike Oldfield which really influenced the last album, but now it’s all Peter Gabriel and the Police, and that all came from hearing these sounds at a very impressionable age I think. I started playing guitar aged 9 or 10 at school. Just chords and stuff and then when I started high school my parents told me I had to take up an instrument – so by then Guitar was a no brainer. For better or worse that decision influenced pretty much the next 20 years of my life!
Have you playing in any bands? If so what were they?
I have played in a few different bands and projects over the years. You can probably Google the band I was in the longest ‘Forward Is The Farewell’ and see what turns up. We had a couple of EPs and worked pretty hard on it from 2004-2007.
Do you have a method to writing/recording your music?
I’ve got to a point with it now where I am quite comfortable in my song writing – in that I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I have basically spent the last 10 years writing songs on and off so I am at a stage now when I know when is a good time to write and when isn’t. Although when I have deadlines or whatever I will just plough through it. But in terms of what actually happens, I try and play/practice for at least an hour a day and normally ideas will just come when I play. (But if they don’t, they don’t) Usually I’ll hear something that triggers something in my brain that says ‘that’s different’ or intrigues me in some way. So then I record it straight away just into my iPhone so I don’t forget it. When I know I have that I’ll either stop playing or play another song or whatever. That way I know if that part was any good when I next pick up the guitar by whether I want to play it or not. Normally if you come up with a new idea that you think is cool you just want to play it over and over. This is one little way in which I can tell if a new idea holds any weight. Then it’s just a case of working on it, chipping away, trying out new ideas and seeing if they work. It can be a very long or a very short process depending on the song. But it’s become something that I am much more comfortable with and understand much more than I did a few years ago.
What bands and/or artists inspire you? Are there people outside of music that inspire you?
I am inspired by just about a million different things! Music, art and the world in general. Bands and musicians than inspire me right now are people like I’ve mentioned before – Peter Gabriel, in terms of musical output but also everything else that he does – his studio, the film soundtracks etc. I’ve had an idea for a while about an interactive album, (I am always thinking of new ways to engage an audience with the music, mainly I think because I am an instrumental so don’t have the benefit of words to get a point across) and anyway I just found out the other day that in ’97 Peter Gabriel released this interactive cd-rom album called ‘eve’. I watched it on Youtube and it was pretty cool, kind of out there but so forward thinking. That’s what inspires me. And incidentally I have a new song called ‘EVE’ as well! So I guess I am inspired by forward thinkers – people / artists who do things that are so far ahead of what is expected and so therefore become a massive influence on everybody else. Bands like Brand New, filmmakers like Christopher Nolan – they basically have the whole world holding it’s breath waiting to see what comes out of their heads. I find that inspiring and exciting to me.
If you had to pick something about your music that defines it, what would it be?
Hopefully the fact that the listener doesn’t necessarily know what is coming next. Or the fact that it comes from my head. Other than that I can’t really answer that – tough question!
What’s your favourite part of being a musician?
Even though it can at times be exhausting I think I’d have to say the recording process – when one idea spirals into another and before you know it something has been created that you could never have possible imagined initially. That happened for instance with the intro to EVE on the new album. When we put that sound at the start I was bouncing off the walls. But I also love playing the guitar, it is always there for me you know, rain or shine. And with my music now and the film I’ve made for this album it’s sort of becoming this outlet for a whole host of ideas that I have, which opens it up in terms of possibilities of what I might do in the future.
What do you do in your spare time?
Play guitar, watch movies, the usual. But I haven’t really had much spare time in the last 7 months, this has been an all consuming project!
What kind of TV shows/Movies do you like?
I loved LOST, The Wire, Dexter, 24, the addictive TV boxsets, I haven’t actually watched one in a while. Need to get back into it! My favourite movies are Jaws, Jurassic Park, The Dark Knight, Fight Club, Transformers….
What do you hope to accomplish with your newest release?
I am just trying to get it out to as big an audience as possible. Ultimately I’d love to score movies or something like that. We’ll see…