As I look back upon the years of posts published in Weekly Music Commentary, I noticed features of many Canadian artists. Some reach fans globally, others become national stars across Canada, then others take a trip south and set up careers in the US. The latter occurs as the artist seeks the overall surroundings to make sure of musical support. Such is the case of this weeks’ featured artist, country music singer/songwriter Robby Johnson. Of course, Johnson is from a French province in Canada. Therefore, his story is more intriguing than other young country artists.
Robby Johnson grew up learning to speak his accent free English by watching American television. He also listened to lots of music and among all the tunes he discovered and fell in love with country music. There are many singers from Canada who dream of successful careers in the music industry. However, not many have to work as hard to overcome language issues. Moreover, I think there are social and cultural obstacles that possibly create difficulties for a journey like Robby Johnson’s. It might be good to look at just a few this week.
Robby Johnson comes from Quebec City, Poverty and shyness were a way of life for Robby growing up, but in his imagination he dreamed big. He always believed that one day – some day — he would find a path toward the life he hoped for. Johnson is definitely not the only artist to come from humble beginnings to find success in the music industry. Just about any successful artist that you name went through a plethora of difficulties before finding that big break that pushed them over the top. Going from job to job trying to find a meaning to his life he received a paid demo session as a Christmas present. The experience changed him forever. It was the first time he realized his voice might be special and that his songs could affect those who heard them. That must have been a great feeling for Johnson. For the first time a great deal of self-doubt possibly was eliminated. Johnson very likely now understood his direction in music and life.
In 2012, Robby decided to come to Nashville and cut more songs. So strongly did he believe in his dream that when the company where he worked as a manufacturers’ sales rep refused to give him time off, he took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville. This was a leap of faith! The young man from a French province in Canada was moving to Nashville to sing country music. Wow! However, country music reaches fans and resonates all around the world. I remember a trip to the US Virgin Islands a few years ago where my wife and I were surprised to hear the natives listening to country music. We asked one man why country music was playing so often on the radio. He explained that so many liked the music genre that the radio stations had to play it. As I learn more about the reach of music, the fact of country music playing in non-traditional areas is not so surprising. Robby Johnson explained it best why he chose country music, “It’s music that is healing. It resonated with me and drew me in.”
In Nashville, renowned studio musician/producer Jimmy Nichols was brought in to oversee arrangements, but when he recognized the potential of Robby’s talent, Nichols turned to Grammy and multi-award winning songwriter/guitarist Frank Myers (“I Swear,” “I’m Already There,” “Tomorrow”) and together they started helping Robby find his way through Nashville’s Music Business. “The minute we started working Robby, we threw out the rule book,” says Nichols. “Everything was so different with him from the beginning. He has the makings of a true artist.” Echoes Myers, who likes Robby’s sound. “He definitely has the ‘it factor.’ I really believe Robby has the potential to fill a void now in country music.”
I must agree with Frank Myers when he speaks about Robby Johnson’s sound. Several months ago I started to listen to a couple of Johnson’s singles and watched accompanying videos. Right away I thought he might be one of the very good newcomers to country music. I got the opportunity to feature several good, young country artists in Weekly Music Commentary. As Myers said Robby Johnson might be one to really impact country music in a positive way. I later downloaded Robby Johnson’s début album Don’t Look Back. I listened to the entire album and made it a part of my personal library. Don’t Look Back is filled with what I call “feel good” music. It just sounds like a few guys that got together and had fun playing some songs. It might be so much more. In the long run this album may prove to be the vehicle that takes Johnson to the next level of country music artists.
Robby Johnson is enjoying the fruits of his hard work and tough decision to make the trip to Nashville. He has appeared on Late Night With David Letterman and serves as a commercial spokesperson for McDonald’s Canada. There could be more benefits coming as his audience grows larger. Many young artists might learn a great deal from Robby Johnson’s story. Don’t fear the road ahead. It may very well lead to great things. You must be ready to make the move.