Typically, on a Thursday night, Jess and I are just hanging out at the house and enjoying each other's company. Last Thursday night that wasn't the case, I had the opportunity to talk to country singer and songwriter Daniel E. Johnson. Since we started this site, I’ve been wanting to get to know the people we write about and this was my first opportunity!
It’s very fitting this was the first interview for the Jukebox Junky, because the first “New Music” blog published was on Daniel E. Johnson’s song, Good Old Days. You can read that here.
Getting the opportunity to talk to Daniel was awesome, and we can’t thank him enough for taking the time to do it. Daniel told me stories about his life: how he got into making music, how he ended up in Nashville, his plan for releasing music this year, and much more. Our conversation felt more like a chat between friends than an interview, which is exactly how I wanted it to be. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I started out by asking Daniel about his early life: “How was growing up in Georgia? What got you into country music? Tell us about how you made it to Nashville.”
Daniel responded that he grew up listening to all kinds of music, everything country but 90s rock as well. In his middle school and high school years, Daniel dabbled in playing drums with a couple random bands. It wasn’t until college that Daniel picked up a guitar while at Georgia Southern, a college near Savannah, Georgia.
Daniel's older brother had a guitar that was just collecting dust, so Daniel decided he was going to learn to play. He didn’t go into it with the idea that he would play it forever; it was just a hobby. Luckily Daniel’s roommate, Ben Dixon, was a really good guitar player and helped him get started. Once Daniel started playing, it took over his life. He put a band together and started playing in local bars and writing songs. Songwriting and playing guitar went hand in hand for Daniel, and for a few years after Daniel graduated college, he and his band would play anywhere they could.
Life wasn’t all rosy after college though. Daniel was broke and selling insurance for State Farm. In reference to me saying “oh wow” after he told me he was an insurance salesman, Daniel cracked a joke and said, “Life took a bad turn Jack”. He was laughing, but he was also serious, Daniel wasn't happy with that set up at all.
After a few years at State Farm, Daniel started writing with Dennis Pickens from his hometown, Thomson, GA. This reenergized him musically, and Daniel decided to go on a trip to Nashville to record some music. He went up there and crashed on Ray Fulcher’s couch (Ray is a current country artist who just got signed to Black River Entertainment earlier this year. Check him out if you haven’t already! We recently wrote a blog on his song I Got It All as well that you can check out here).
After this recording trip Daniel knew he wanted to quit his job and move to Nashville to pursue his music dreams. As soon as Daniel got home, he told his girlfriend (now wife), Jamie Lynn, “Look we gotta move. This is where I want to be.” Daniel and his wife had that conversation in the spring of 2015 and made the move to Nashville in January of 2016.
Since arriving in Nashville, Daniel has put together a band and they’ve stuck together for the past four and a half years. Daniel speaks highly of his band members. He has a guitar player that's from Lynchburg, VA, and his drummer is named Jose and from the Dominican Republic. Daniel and Jose randomly met only a couple months after Daniel arrived in Nashville and have been together ever since. Daniel describes Jose as, “an absolute idiot” but says he is one of the funniest and nicest guys you will ever meet.
Daniel also told us about his manager Randy Fields. Randy and Daniel have been friends since college and have been working together since 2010. As Daniel has gotten more popular, their working relationship has grown stronger. For the last three years, Randy has had a hand in everything Daniel does.
When asked, “Who inspires you when it comes to country music?”, I think Daniel had a great response.
He states, “Man, I think that’s a constantly changing thing, you know? Back in the day, I was a huge Eric Church fan, Zac Brown, Dierks Bentley.. And not saying I’m not a fan of theirs anymore, but as the music has changed.. Country and the Western Americana, man it is so rich right now. There’s Tyler Childers, Cody Johnson, Chris Stapleton.. And then there’s Morgan Wallen and Hardy. There’s just so much good stuff. There’s Luke Combs. You know, it’s cool, I like all that stuff. So you know, the lines have become so blurred because I like so much different stuff. I’m always trying to reinvent.. I hope none of my songs sound the same to another song of mine. I like variety and I try my best to do something different each time.”
I loved Daniel’s response. He and I have the exact same taste in country music. He names most of my favorites! I think most country music fans can agree that the lines become blurred over time. A lot of people start out just liking one type of country music but then get into other artists who may have a different style. It goes to show that people love music- not just a specific category. Our minds don’t work that way.
We moved on to talk about success- specifically through streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora: "When you put out your EP “All We Ever Knew” and American Hearts, when that just started running up the streaming charts and stuff, did you feel at that point that you had really accomplished something?"
Daniel told me that of the one million plus streams American Hearts had, most of those streams actually came from Pandora. Daniel also talked about how, although he is grateful for the success of his song on Pandora, the streaming service seems to be a dying platform. Many of Daniel’s fans have found him on Spotify, and Apple music has started giving him more support with the addition of Good Old Days to country playlists.
As far as Daniel answering the question about success I think he had a perfect response: “Now you were asking about success, and I think this answers that question perfectly. When you look at my career, it’s not been a straight line in a diagonal towards success. It’s been like a line graph- up and down, up and down. But I feel like for the most part, it’s moved in a diagonal direction. So that was a big win, having Apple Music back Good Old Days.. With American Hearts, it did great. We would have obviously liked it to have done more, but it’s kind of like fishing man. You throw these things out, and we push it, and then you can’t just keep pushing the same song for 2 years in a row. You know, for me, it’s like ‘alright, we’ll catch them on the next song’ and then we just throw out another.”
Since I love Daniel’s song Good Old Days, I’ve been anxiously anticipating the music video that comes out this week. I asked Daniel, “Let’s talk about your music video that’s coming out. We saw on TikTok a little preview of it. What can we expect from that? It sounds like that‘s going to be a pretty fun one. How was filming that?”
Daniel told me that he and Randy are shooting and editing the entire video. He said it’s a lot of work learning how to make these videos but it's rewarding and fun being in control of the whole thing. Daniel didn't want to give too much of it away but he told us the premise of the video is going to be an old guy who gets to go back and relive his glory days just for one day. “It’s a little corny, a little cheesy, but we had so much fun. So our buddy that was the main actor for our video American Hearts; we brought him back to be the old man in this video.” I can’t wait to see it!
“What does a day in the life of Daniel E Johnson look like? Do you have time to focus on different hobbies, or are you grinding pretty much all day long, focusing on these songs you’ve put out? What’s the balance there?”
Daniel says, “It just kind of depends. Sometimes they’re slammed. I’m gone pretty much every single weekend, and it’s easy to treat Mondays like a Saturday. Some days I have absolutely nothing going on. During this past year, I did construction with my drummer when we weren’t working. I also do hurricane work in the fall.” Daniel spent 48 days last fall in Louisiana setting up base camps and providing for hurricane victims. He has been doing that since college and says, “when I can go, I go.”
To wrap up our time together, I asked Daniel, “What's next? Tell us about the next song?”
Daniel answered, “It's one I wrote with Josh Phillips and Ray Fulcher. It's called When I Drink I Do. I’m still working on it in the studio, but I really like it. I think it's gonna have a good vibe.”
I thanked Daniel for his time, and told him if he ever found himself in Southwest VA he had a place to stay and hangout! This interview was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had and I hope to do many more. Give Daniel E. Johnson a listen wherever you get your music, and you can also follow him on Instagram and TikTok @danielejohnsonmusic, and Twitter @Daniel_EJohnson.