New Music Now 003: Brian Johannesen

New Music Now 003

with Brian Johannesen

Listen and subscribe to New Music Now.

Stream New Music Now episode 003 for a selection of beautiful songs about hard-livin’, coalminin’,  stealin’, and dyin’ in a variety of ways, plus three super nice people’s happy afternoon dialogue about songs in the time of coronavirus and baby name predictions for the year 2044.

Subscribe with your podcast platform of choice at Anchor FM. Find the songs featured in this episode at New Music Now 03 on Spotify.

Today’s episode was produced by Frank Dreyer, Ian Koss, Rose Petralia, and Gregory Schaefer. Theme music was composed by Avi Bortnick—check him out online at avibortnick.com. Big thanks to Jeremy Glazier from Ink 19, Rachel Waters, and Brian Johannesen.

Thanks for listening!

Jeremy Glazier: Hello everyone, I am a staff writer for Ink 19. I’m also a photographer, mostly covering music and also have a podcast as well that focuses on a lot of musicians. This is New Music Now, and with me today are Rachel Waters and Brian Johannesen. I will let each of you do a little introduction, find uh who you are and what you do.

Rachel: Oh, awesome. Thanks Jeremy. My name is Rachel Waters. I currently live in Iowa city, Iowa and I wrestle full-time for the Hawkeye Wrestling RTC.

Jeremy: Nice.

Brian: I’m Brian Johannesen, I’m a musician and talent buyer and booking agent also living in Iowa city.

Jeremy: Awesome. Okay. So today on New Music Now, the album that I chose to go with was Vincent Neil Emerson’s new self-titled album, Vincent Neil Emerson, and the first song that we’re going to listen to is called “Learnin’ to Drown.” The thing I really like about Vincent is this song is really kind of a cool introduction to who he is as a person. His first album also did that, but I think this one is taking it a step further and going a lot deeper into who he is. It shows a lot of, a lot of growth in his artistry, and in this particular song, I think the other thing I really like about it is you also really feel the influence of Rodney Crowell, who produced the album, so let’s take a listen to it.

“Learnin’ to Drown.”

Brian: Yeah, that song is, it’s such a amazingly personal and deep song. I think you’ve mentioned that this song is… this album is just a lot more personal and that’s awesome. And I can definitely, like you said, hear Rodney’s fingerprints all over it.

Jeremy: Yeah, it’s great.

Rachel: I really loved that there was like instrumentation at the beginning as well. Like it’s really frustrating, I feel like, especially because of radio, a lot of songs are right at around the three-minute mark. So I really do appreciate like when artists, you know, take a whole five minutes. So.

Jeremy: Yeah. Yeah. Usually he really gets right into the songwriting, you know, but this time, this album kind of breathes a little bit, which is what I like, it’s just a little more airy, you know, so.

Brian: Okay cool.

Jeremy: Okay, so the second song that I picked was “Durango.” This one I really liked because it’s really like, I mean, I’ve, I’ve talked to Vincent a couple of different times, and this is just like having a conversation with him. I mean, it really is who he is. Just a song about his love for Texas, you know, getting back home, which is really cool. And I really enjoyed the way that the instruments, the guitar and violin kind of set the atmosphere and then just the cadence on the chorus, so.


Jeremy: All right. Cool. Yeah, that one just is really, really airy. I think. Breathes well.

Brian: I love the, the harmonic guitar parts. Sounds like it should be in a movie, you know, like Kevin Costner, riding a horse back to Colorado.

Rachel: I also really liked, like I don’t know who else sings in that song, but the, on the chorus, the harmony, I like that, that sounded really, really nice as well. I liked that.

Jeremy: Okay. So Rachel, go ahead and let’s hear your selection.

Rachel: Okay. The album that I selected was by Cole Chaney and it’s called Mercy. The first song on there that I decided to choose was “Silver Run.” So we can go ahead and listen to that one.

“Silver Run”

Jeremy: That was a really cool track. I really liked that one.

Rachel: Yeah. Obviously, I don’t know as much about music or what goes into producing music as you guys do, but sorry about that, but I really love that song because I absolutely love the meaning of it. What I get out of it is that no matter what you’ve been through it, you can look at it as a silver lining because it makes you who you are.

Brian: Totally. No yeah, it’s a beautiful song. And his voice and just playing style have such like a sense of place about them. You know, it’s very, I don’t know where he’s from, but I assume Appalachia somewhere.

Jeremy: Okay.

Brian: Yeah. Yeah, it’s very Kentucky.

Rachel: It might be, yup.

Brian: In that kind of like Childersian vibe, but it’s great. I love it.

Rachel: Yeah. Yeah. It’s I was a huge fan of “Ill Will Creek,” like his only single that was out for a while. And I was absolutely ecstatic when this album dropped, but. The next one by him that I have is “Coalshooter,” so can go ahead and listen to that one.


Jeremy: Yeah, that was another really cool song. I like both of those.

Rachel: I really, I really love that one. I just feel like it’s so emotional and I I’ve always loved like story songs, I guess you’d call it. But, but I wouldn’t, obviously my grandparents didn’t grow up in the coal mines, but it just makes me feel like I’m like talking to my grandpa and like him telling me his stories, so ‘at’s a, a big favorite of mine.

Brian: I actually, I checked that song out earlier today when Jeremy sent out like the little prep sheet and it’s been stuck in my head, like ever since then, it’s really just like a timeless melody that just will get stuck in there. I mean, everybody listening to this is going to be humming that song for months. Okay.

Jeremy: Yeah, I liked I really liked the mandolin and the guitar, the way they kind of feed off each other and…

Brian: Yeah. It had like a Mandolin Orange vibe kind of.

Jeremy: Yeah. As a musician, I always love the solo, so you know, that song, if they would have faded out, it probably would have been about two and a half, three minutes, you know? So I’m glad they put those in there. I, I like those little extras.

Brian: Yeah. Me too.

Brian: The the album I picked is a album that just came out a couple of weeks ago by a friend of mine named Darrin Bradbury. Darrin’s a songwriter who lives in Nashville, he has a very unique writing style that I really enjoy, and this album is different… in the past his albums have been kind of more Americana, and this one you’ll hear is a bit different and a really cool kind of change for him. The album is called Artvertisement, and the first song, it’s called “Field Notes from a College Town.”

“Field Notes from a College Town”

Rachel: As someone who just graduated from college and then immediately moved to Iowa city, I completely feel that.

Brian: Yeah, that so yeah, I love that song maybe because I live in a college town, so do you, Rachel, it there’s like, it just pokes fun at the, kind of like when you live in a coll… when you’re college age and you live in a college town, it seems like the end-all be-all of existence. And he kind of pokes fun at how seriously people at that part of their life, and I love it.

Jeremy: Yeah, it was really cool. I really liked the way he kinda strung some of those, those phrases and words together.

Brian: Yeah, for sure.

Jeremy: Like, it’s stuff you would like overhear, if you’re out. A lot of that stuff, you kind of catch it. You’re like, what, what are they… what’s goin’…

Brian: Yeah. And he and he, yeah, and he just kinda like goes straight through, you know, it’s kind of a stream of consciousness thing, which I like too. Where you can, like kind of follow the thought process of the song without, you know, you could tell, he wrote it, start to finish. He didn’t write a middle and then go do the first part like that.

Jeremy: Right. Yeah.

Brian: So the second song from this album—I decided to do the first song and the last song on the album, ‘cause I always think it’s kind of interesting how people structure things that way. This one’s a, a bit more serious that’s… I mean, he has like this great knack in kind of a Craig Finn from the Hold Steady kind of way of, like talking about things that are not that great in a nostalgic way. Which is kind of like, you know, sometimes you think about stuff that’s happened to you and, and you know, it wasn’t good, but you sort of miss it, and “Mikey Shoulda Died” is kind of about… It’s not really about that, but it has that kind of tone, and it’s about a guy who survived against all odds from his twenties, and maybe that shouldn’t have happened.

Jeremy: Hmm. Interesting.

Brian: So let’s give it a listen.

“Mikey Shoulda Died”

Jeremy: That was really cool.

Brian: Yeah, I love, I love that ending too, ‘cause it’s like, you know, this quiet, beautiful song to end the record, and then it’s just like, errr, and it’s like exactly how, you know, a band that never really grew out of high school or college age would end a song. I love that.

Jeremy: Right.

Rachel: It scared me, but I really liked it.

Brian: Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of an uncomfortable thought. You know, that we, we peak, well before we’re halfway done with our lives. So but you know, I dunno, I think he did a good job of describing a very specific person I feel like I know and sometimes am.

Jeremy: Hmm. Yeah, it was it was, it seemed like it was really sincere. You know what I mean? Like, like he, wasn’t saying it out of, uh…

Brian: No.

Jeremy: …wanting the guy to die, but yeah.

Brian: It’s like, yeah. I mean, like he is, his best days were then, and now he just seems sad.

Jeremy: Yeah. But it was very cool. Crazy. Okay. So now we’re going to talk about Brian a little bit. Brian is uh—I’ve said this before, he is probably one of my favorite lyricists of, like all musicians everywhere. He’s probably in the Top 10, I just, I love the way you write songs. I love the way you perform, musically and lyrically, I just, I love both of those things, so. Tell us a little bit about your last album.

Brian: Thank you so much. So the songs that we’re going to play today are actually not off of my last album. My last album was called Holster Your Silver. It came out right before the pandemic, which was awesome. And so that came out and then I was sitting around the house waiting, trying to do something to fill the time, and I ended up writing a bunch of songs. I released a single—I guess it was last October or November during the pandemic—that was two of the songs that I wrote during the pandemic. So these are pretty fresh and were written like right before I recorded them.

Brian: The first one is a song called “Corona of Springfield,” and it’s based on, I guess the way I figure is, every musician gets to write one true COVID song and that we don’t need any more than that. And so I decided to write mine for some reason in April of the pandemic, so I had to sit through the rest of it with, not able to write a song about it, but I read an article about a woman, this was back in the toilet paper phase of quarantine, and this woman gave birth to a baby in the toilet paper aisle of a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri. And I tried to imagine that baby, and that’s what “Corona of Springfield” is.

“Corona of Springfield”

Brian: So, yeah, I wasn’t very optimistic at the time. I think part of it was this, this article came out and everybody was kind of laughing at it. And I was like, man, this isn’t funny.

Jeremy: Yeah, that and I say, I say your last album because this is last record that I bought that has your name on it. Yeah. The single.

Brian: Oh, yeah!

Jeremy: No, I love that song.

Brian: I totally forgot…

Jeremy: I love the whole concept

Brian: …about that.

Jeremy: and just, you know, how simple and to the point it is.

Brian: There you go.

Rachel: I would like to know how many people were named after “corona” though, or “quarantine” or any of that.

Brian: Thank you. I wonder that too. When, right when everything hit, I had to cancel a show that I’d booked. And I was on the phone with the promoters and they had just had a baby, it’s like this husband and wife, and…

Rachel: Right.

Brian: I was like, what are you going to name the baby? And they were like, “Corona,” but they were like, kidding. And then I was like, oh no, that’s going to happen. Yeah. Like in 23 years, we’re going to be listening to music, by like, “COVID Simpson” or something like that.

Rachel: I like “Quarantina” is what I’ve heard, but.

Jeremy: Quarantina?

Brian: That’s pretty good. Quarantina. Yeah, so, okay. The second song. So also during quarantine, I, out of boredom, I did a thing where if you paid me at least $5, I would write a song about anything. And I thought it would be a good way to kind of find some new songs and keep my, keep my brain moving. It ended up mostly being just a competition of what’s the most ridiculous song we can make Brian write. One of them was “The Ballad of Paul Reiser,” and one of them was about my friend who’d made fried rice and then dropped it on the floor. It was fun. A lot of duds, but this was actually one that I was able to use, and it was a suggestion from my buddy, Dan Padley, who’s an incredible guitar player here in town. And he grew up going to the Turkey River in Northern Iowa, and he asked for a song about the “Turkey River.” so I wrote this song that’s a kind of a story about a drug-dealing couple on the run.

“Turkey River”

Jeremy: Yeah, that’s another, that’s another one of those songs that I really dig, just cause of all the the imagery and the way you paste it and all that stuff, it’s cool.

Brian: Thank you.

Jeremy: Reminds me of like a getaway, getaway movie, the contemplative part where they’re kind of sitting around on the car with all the money, you know?

Brian: Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was fun for me too ‘cause that’s the first song I’d ever written on a tenor guitar. I own a tenor guitar. I bought it because my buddy, Willie T. Taylor plays a tenor and I always loved ‘em and I never wrote a song on it. So the quarantine was like, well, I’m going to dust that thing off. Right. So it was cool.

Jeremy: Okay. Well, I think that’s it for the show today. Rachel, thank you so much for those selections. I love that album. I’m going to have to pick that one up. I’ve kind of been following Cole for awhile, but that’s one that I…

Rachel: Yeah, it was rough to pick two. I promise there’s way more than two that need to be listened on there, but.

Jeremy: Yeah. definitely. And Brian, obviously, thanks for playing a couple of your songs. That’s fantastic. And then I’m gonna check out your buddy’s music too. He’s got some pretty cool stuff goin’ on.

Brian: Yeah. Yeah. He’s he’s a good, good egg.

Jeremy: And where can people follow you the best at, Brian?

Brian: I’m all over the place. Instagram, Facebook, just Brian Johannesen that’s J O H A N N E S E N. And yeah, I’ll be around. I don’t know when this is going to come out, but I have some shows coming up, so check out my website or my Facebook and, and come see a show.

Jeremy: Fantastic. All right. Thank you both.

For more New Music Now, visit the podcast home page at https://anchor.fm/ink19-nmn

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