Interviewer: Jennifer Smith
Follow Jenn on Twitter at @Lovinlyrics
Ok, so y'all are gonna LOVE this guy. If you are looking for genuine, authentic and an artist who sincerely appreciates everything about being a country music artist, R.T. Johnson is your guy. He's lived his music, he lives it every day. He's a true storyteller who tells his story through song and he connects in a place that seems to sadly be disappearing in country music these days and that is relatability. The best thing about R.T.? He's exactly who you see and who he is is exactly who you get. He's humble, he's kind, he's a bit shy (yes you are R.T.) and he never takes a minute of being on a stage or the relationships he's made for granted. He's a much needed breath of fresh country air. Yep, you're really gonna like this fella. His debut single, video and EP are on the way soon so we'll let ya know as soon as we get the word! Meanwhile, keep R.T. Johnson on your radar. This is gonna be one hell of a ride! Huge thank you to R.T. for being gracious with his time.
Lovin' Lyrics: For those who might not be familiar with you, let’s talk a little bit about who you are, your background and where you started with music.
R.T. Johnson: My name is R.T. Johnson Jr. I grew up on a tobacco farm where I worked with my daddy and granddaddy, Thurman Johnson. Grandaddy passed away in 2008 and daddy and I took over the farm and worked it until 2015. The tobacco company cut us out of our contract, which put us out of business, so I went to work at the Research Station in Lewiston, NC where I worked for about 2 years, after which I got my insurance license and started selling P&C and crop insurance with a very good friend of mine and a sponsor Jamie Harmon, with Pittman insurance Agency. I worked there about a year and had an opportunity to get a job just selling crop insurance and then moved on to Phil Coggin Agency in Ahoskie, NC, which also happens to be a very good sponsor of ours. I got my start is music when I was a kid, probably 10 years old, singing in church with my granddaddy, Roy C. Bazemore ,who was a well known Gospel singer in our area. As I got older, as happens in life, my voice started to change and during that process, it was difficult to stay on pitch so I quit singing for about 6 or 7 years. In 2003, I started my first band, Backdraft, and slowly started to begin singing again, even though I was technically just the lead guitar player and backup vocals. Then in 2010, I started my next band Moonshine and we became rather popular in our area. When I started Moonshine, I knew I was gonna have to be the lead vocalist and by doing that, it helped me get my courage up to start back singing again. I have had so much support from my friends in family, and that's what has help lead me to be an all around better musician and singer and has lead me to where I am today.
Lovin' Lyrics: Do you write any of your own music or do you prefer to get your music from outside writers?
R.T. Johnson: I do write a lot of my own music, and I also co write with a good friend of mine, Zack Boyd, That guy is a lyrical genius and is very easy to write with. I did get some of the songs off of my upcoming album pitched to me by songwriters out in Nashville, which I think are excellent songs and I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to record them.
Lovin' Lyrics: Who were your early influences and what have they instilled in you that you want to reflect in your music?
R.T. Johnson: My early influences were AC/DC, Waylon Jennings, and Hank Jr. I think Angus Young is one of the most talented and gifted guitar players I've ever heard. His guitar licks are so tasteful and musical. He can express so much with just one note and one bend of a string. On the country side, my influences were and still very much are Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon. Waylon Jennings had got a style you just have to love and his songs reflect a life that I have lived through music. Hank Jr has to be one of the best vocalists ever. He can hit the highest notes and then can go right on to hit notes that Johnny Cash could hit. I strive to be that kind of singer with that kind of range and I have tried to teach myself to be able to do that.
Lovin' Lyrics: What advice would you give someone trying to get their music heard? Is there a piece of advice that was given to you that you always keep in mind?
R.T. Johnson: My advice to someone that wants to get their music heard is don't ever give up, and you have got to learn not to take "no" for an answer. When someone tells you no, try to be better, try to write that better song, strive to be a better musician. Let it make you push yourself harder. Another thing I had to learn is that not everybody has the same goals as you. If you have a band and everyone is not on the same page as you and what you want, get on the ball and find somebody that is, life is short and a mistake I made was not chasing my dream harder earlier on in my career. I finally realized what I wanted and what I needed to do and I did it. Yes, it has caused a few hard feelings along the way, but my choices and all my hard work has started to pay off and I'm totally happy and content with the decisions I had to make. This business will make you want to just give up at times, but you can't do that.
Lovin' Lyrics: You just signed with Cash Creek Records, an indie label out of Nashville. Congratulations! How did you connect with Kimo Forrest and tell us a little about what’s going on since the signing, I know your debut album is coming up for release soon. Talk about the album and and what else we can expect to see in the near future.
R.T. Johnson: Yes, I just got a deal with CCB Nashville and I am so thankful for those guys believing in me like they do. Kimo Forrest and Monty Devita are great people, really fun and just enjoyable to be around. How I got to know Kimo? We played a show with John Michael Montgomery in January of 2018. His sound engineer, Mr. Kirk Willie, liked what he heard from us and got us out to his studio in Kentucky and we started recording the album with him. I asked him when we were there who played guitar on the album and he told me Kimo Forrest and that he played guitar for Alabama. A little while after that, I went and watched an Alabama concert and I heard that guitar sound that I had heard on my cd, so I took a picture of Kimo and sent it to Kirk and asked him, "Hey is this the guy that played on my record?" and he said "Yes sir". So I'.m sitting there watching a legendary band and am now knowing their guitar player played on my album. I can't explain the feeling that come over me. LOL. It was like "This is really happening! Holy Hell!" LOL. A couple of weeks later, Kimo got my number, messaged me and we have become good friends. He, Monty and Jim have come out here and played with me when I first went out on my own and didn't have a band behind me and helped me cover some shows. I will forever be grateful for that. They are some of the best people you will ever meet and I can't praise them enough. I am very thankful and lucky to be associated with those guys.
My 5 song EP is titled "Man I Made". We will be having a CD release party on August 24th at Drifters Bar and Grill in Ahoskie, NC. My single, "Thirsty Weather" will make it's way to country radio on August 26th. We teamed up with a radio promoter, Jennifer Blair. I'm excited to get to work with her. I met her in Nashville when I and played at the first Cash Creek Club Live show with T. Graham Brown. She's great people. We also shot a video for "Thirsty Weather" which will be released very soon. I am really excited to see where it is all gonna take me. I will be going to Nashville and playing the Cash Creek Club and we are hopefully gonna put a tour together in 2020 and hit the road. We are working with a few agents all over the country and we are gonna take this dream of mine of wanting to be a full time musician and make it happen.
Lovin' Lyrics: What have you learned about yourself as an independent artist? What are your biggest struggles in the industry?
R.T. Johnson: I have learned that since being an independent artist is just that, you're not depending on someone else. It's up to you what you want to make of yourself and it will make you go out there and bust your butt to get where you want to be. Nothing comes easy in this business. I have missed birthdays, weddings, and a lot of important things over the years chasing this dream of mine. I have had a few failed relationships and a lot of different things, but if you really want this, you can't let things like that stop you. I had to come to realization that when you are a musician, a relationship can be hard, but it can also work. You just have to work extra hard at it and if you have the right one you will have the support you need. Thankfully, I have found that, as hard as it may get for us sometimes, and what I mean by that, is me not being around, Before I get on that stage every night, she tells me good luck and that I got this. I am so thankful for that. Ali Peaks has been a blessing to me. I was going down a bad road and her coming in my life saved my life. One of the hardest thing about being a musician is being away from she and her kids, who I love like my own.
Lovin' Lyrics: If you could change one thing about the industry today, what would it be and why?
R.T. Johnson: If I could change on thing about the industry today, it would be to make it so there was no possible way for people to get songs for free. Nobody wants to get up in the morning and go to work and not get paid. It's the same scenario for musicians. We put our hearts, souls and every bit of talent that the Good Lord has given us into every show. We play every note and put the work into every song we write. Some people think that being a musician is not having a real job, well let me tell you, it's the hardest job I've ever had and I've been in a tobacco patch in 100 degree weather sweating my tail off for most of my life. It's not just about having fun partying and getting up there and playing for 3 hours. We get there 4 hours before a show to set up and sound check, then 2 to 3 hours after the show to tear down. Its a long, hard, all day's work just to put on a 3 hour show.
Lovin' Lyrics: What is a favorite music related memory that always makes you smile when you think back on it? Was there a moment in your career that really made you just stop, breathe and take it all in?
R.T. Johnson: I wrote a song in 2009 titled "Firewater." We released the song in 2014,and I carried it to the radio station in Ahoskie, NC to Mr. Don Upchurch. He began to spin the song every morning and he would always advertise us and where we were going to be playing. He would always say "You better go out and see them boys because they are goin' places". About a month after he started playing the song, we played a show at Chubbies Bar and Grill in Ahoskie and I had never seen that kind of crowd before at one of MY shows. The bar was packed and they were still lined up outside. We played "Firewater" and the crowd was singing every word so loud I just quit singing and it took me a min to take that all in. We played that song 4 times that night. That was one of the best feelings in the world.
Lovin' Lyrics: What venues do you most enjoy playing and what artists have you opened for?
R.T. Johnson: I enjoy every stage I get on. Any and every time I can get on a stage I am one happy fella. I have shared the stage with Trick Pony, Black Hawk, Confederate Railroad, Muscadine Bloodline, Jesse Keith Whitley, Jason Michael Carroll, Marshall Tucker Band, Clay Walker, Deana Carter, Lonestar, David Allen Coe, Joe Diffie, John Michael Montgomery, Emerson Drive, Aaron Tippin, T.Graham Brown, Diamond Rio, Jimmy Van Zant, Cash Creek, Jawga Boys, Parmalee and I have played shows for the Grave Digger himself,. Mr Dennis Anderson I have even more shows lined up with some more folks. I have been very blessed and I am excited to be able to do these things. I have been blessed to share the stage with some of my idols that I grew up listening to and once in a while I slap myself to make sure I'm not dreaming
Lovin' Lyrics: When you’re not on stage, where can you most likely be found?
R.T. Johnson: When I'm not on stage, I can be found with my family or with my girlfriend and the kids which are family too, or I'll be on my Ranger bass boat fishing in a bass tournament every chance I get. LOL!
Lovin' Lyrics: Fill in the blank -“Today’s country is ---------“
R.T. Johnson: Today's country is what it is. It's not what I consider country like I like, but I do enjoy listening and playing some of the music coming out today. I guess it's just considered today's kinda country. I don't know. LOL!
Lovin' Lyrics: If you could use just one word to describe your music, what word would you use?
R.T. Johnson: If I could describe my music in one word it would be "real" and what I mean by that is that is comes straight from the heart.
Lovin' Lyrics: If you had the opportunity to ask one of your favorite artists one question, what would you ask them?
R.T. Johnson: If I could ask my favorite artist one question, it would be to advice on how I could become a better musician and a better person and I would try to get pointers on how to do handle the highs and lows of the business. When you get to a certain point, people watch your every move and I would just like to understand how to handle that aspect of it all.
Connect with R.T. on Facebook and stay tuned for updates!