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A Spotlight Interview With Neil Gregory Johnson

A new full-length album from Neil Gregory Johnson brings on a classic country style with all the perfected southern twang and attitude you could ask for to go right along some outstanding instrumentation and a variety of descriptive and honest story telling.

The Sad Songs For Stay At Home Dads album is packed to the brim with some excellent guitar work, arrangements and songwriting that at times gives you that classic approach and it works like a charm.

As a matter of fact, the record is quite charming as a whole. You get all kinds of fun, danceable swinging songs, and you get more heartfelt tracks that give a bit more impact and truth.

Some songs are incredibly relatable and his honesty on these songs is something that resonates for sure. Even lighter topics that feel so real you just know these were written from experience and it makes you feel okay in a way.

meanwhile the performances on everything are spot on. You become so attached to the artist its crazy. Like he's a friend telling you about his stuff. And you're listening. This is part of what true country music is about.

Musically the performances are outstanding all together. Piano, lap steep, guitars, everything is pitch perfect and just about flawless.

This record literally has everything. You get all arenas of songs and when it's all over you feel almost a little changed.

With such a wonderful album, we wanted to have a chat with Neil Gregory Johnson about this album and what may be next.

Here's what happened:

RAG: Okay so let's start with the Sad Songs for Stay at Home Dads album. This record has an amazingly genuine country tonality to it! Where did this album come from? This album includes 9 songs that I've written over the span of 5 years. We recorded it in January of 2022 in Roseburg, OR. We, being myself and my friends Brett Brooks on Bass, Michael Mendenhall on keys, Thomas Whiteside on drums, Todd Clinesmith on steel guitar, Bob Honie on Fiddle, Steve Erickson on accordion. It was produced by producer and composer Bart Budwig. Thomas Whiteside helped me chart all the songs, we recorded all 9 of them live with leads and backing vocals separate over a 5 day period of time. Bart Budwig took the tracks home and mixed them in his studio in Enterprise, OR. It was mastered by my friend George Nardo at Luna Recording Studios in Tucson, Arizona. RAG: So how did this all begin for you? When did you fall in love with music really? I grew up with parents who played out all the time in their bar bands, so as long as I can remember I wanted to be like them. But I also loved radio, and recording things on my little tape player.. and making movies on video cameras.. I started playing in metal and punk bands when I was a teenager and that was my first taste of the camaraderie of being a part of something bigger like a music scene. As I got older I realized I could make money playing music as a job, so I started playing everything from jazz, blues, latin, and folk... and finally found my way back to the same genre of music my parents played, traditional country and blues.. specifically cosmic country. RAG: Who is in your headphones right now? There are so many.. I'm such a fan of the style I play.. right now I'm listening to the recently deceased Luke Bell (rest easy) and contemporaries Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Ian Noe, etc.. and then I like the classics Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dr. Hook, Asleep At The Wheel, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, Commander Cody, John Prine, Merle Haggard, etc.. RAG: What inspires you to write a song? I don't really know... I think I have a certain kind of angst and sense of justice that tends to be a fuel and the fuels ignites with a good idea. I get into a relaxed creative space and I find joy in being defiant. I think a lot of my songs have a bit of a defiant nature to them... and depending on who's listening I'm either a hero or an anti-hero. When I think about an example of a song on this record that might fall into that category the first one that comes to mind would be 'Frozen Burrito Song' It's basically about laying around all day and doing absolutely nothing, when I'm supposed to be doing something... and feeling almost empowered by it. Which is a strange concept I know... stay at home dads like myself will get it. It's one of those 'if you know you know' concepts. 'Frozen Burrito Song' is available on spotify and other streaming outlets. RAG: I'm hearing some great styles on this song. Who are some of your biggest musical influences? I grew up listening to my parents' music, so old time rock n roll, traditional country and blues, and of course the punk rock attitude that I had when I was a kid. John Prine, Dwight Yoakum, John Anderson, CCR, Janis Joplin, Garth Brooks, Fear, NoFx, Pennywise, Minor Threat, etc.. WRAG: hat are you doing when you're NOT working on music? Taking care of small children, cleaning up after myself and them, hiking, fishing, enjoying my time on earth. RAG: Does the stay-at-home dad thing mean you don't perform live? I perform live full time in my region. I'm based out of Central Oregon. So I stay with my kids during the day, and play out 4-5 nights a week, I actually have a gig at a little bar in about an hour here.. and I took care of my daughter all day. The title of the album is a tribute to the stay at home dad struggle.. there's a lot of mental health challenges that can come with it, especially if you're having marital problems too. It's not easy but it's worth it. I think the songs on this record can relate to stay at home parents and what they have to deal with on the day to day. The music is also good for stay at home parent activities like laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn, and changing diapers. RAG: This album feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming artists out there? Embrace the suck, it's taken me about 10 years to get to where I'm at with the quality of sound being what it is now... and I still think I can do better. Set some goals, record home recordings, write songs, get out and work the small gig, kill your ego, and swallow your pride. Be your own biggest critic and eventually it should fall into place. I don't think it's fully fallen into place for me yet.. but I eat, drink and breathe music, and playing out for audiences.. and so eventually I believe it will. RAG: What can your fans expect from you in the near future? Make the best record I can make, promote it, tour on it, and do it all over again. Rinse and repeat. RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?

Thank You!

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