Inspiration is everywhere for singer/songwriter, Chloe Johnson.
We caught up with the self-proclaimed social butterfly to dive deep into her time navigating the tumultuous music industry, her obsession with music and finding her “Why”.
Bridge: It’s easy for us to share facts about you, but tell us who you are in your own words…
CJ: Who am I? Geez, that’s a really good question. I’m still figuring all of it out, but I do know a few things for sure: I am obsessed with music. I mean, OBSESSED. I want to share it with people.
I’m a Diet Coke addict at the age of 19, which might not be the healthiest thing in the world.
I’m the biggest social butterfly and I LOVE to meet people and talk to people.
I’m a singer-songwriter, born in Manhattan and raised in Austin. My influences are rooted in southern soul music and alternative bands from the early 2000’s.
Fruit smoothies are the way to my heart. (smiles)
Bridge: Well, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, Chloe. So, I’m proud of you and…I’m here for you. (laughs)
Alright, so you’ve been in the industry for a while, how did you get involved?
CJ: I became involved in the music industry right out of the womb. Just kidding, that would be weird. But, I was really young. I started the violin when I was 5 and once I knew a few notes, I immediately started writing music. Of course, my songs were about rainbows and goldfish, but I was writing music and I wanted to share it to people. When I was 10, my fiddle teacher realized I could sing and she gave me some violin material that was accompanied by singing. She took my around Austin every weekend to perform and I started to get offers and networking opportunities from there!
Bridge: Personally, I think the world needs a rainbow and goldfish song right now!
It’s incredible that you were creating at such a young age! At what point did you know that music was your calling?
CJ: I had always loved music from an early age. At 5 I knew it was something I loved. I sang all the time. I played the violin all the time. I knew I loved it. But, I realized it was a calling for me when, during a really challenging period in my life at 12 years old, I turned to songwriting to cope with the pain I was feeling. I didn’t want to see a therapist or rant to a friend, I just wanted to create a musical journal entry about it. I poured my emotions into my songbook and to this day I still do. Writing songs is the most releasing, cathartic, coping mechanism for me. Writing music is my medicine.
Bridge: I feel that! Such good, soul satisfying therapy.
I want to switch gears for a minute….When we spoke before this interview, one of the most interesting things I learned about was your tumultuous time in the music industry. From partnering with and gaining almost 100k followers on the app Hear Me Out only to have it shut down, to having to part ways with a record label after 10 months. You’ve had more than your share of ups and downs but are still pushing forward! I myself have only been in the industry about a year and fight to not becoming disenchanted with the whole thing.
How would you say you stay positive navigating such a volatile business? And what advice would you give other artists chasing their dreams?
CJ: Oh, golly gee. Yes! The music industry is a tricky one to be in. There is no handbook for the steps to take and the people to work with to ensure “success.” I’ve had my fair share of moments where I thought, “This is it. This is my big break. Finally.” I’ve also had moments where I thought maybe music wasn’t my calling and that it wouldn’t work. The mental rollercoaster that this industry takes you through is no joke! I partnered with an app at 15, gained a large following, and the app declared bankruptcy. I signed with a record label when I was 17 and realized my style didn’t mesh with the production company’s style. I’ve had many times where I thought that it would be the big break. But it wasn’t. And, oddly enough, I’m thankful for that. These alleged “let downs” have made me realize and fortify the reason I continue to do music. Not because I want recognition or I want to be known. I do music because I love it. I’m a musician because I feel the most empowered when I’m in the studio writing songs. I’m a musician because amidst a world of ever changing variables, music is a constant. Music makes me happy, so why would I ever let the business side of it ruin that? My advice for anyone in the same position is to truly find your “why.” Why are you doing music? Why are you so passionate? Because if you don’t find your “why,” you’ll be saying yes to every opportunity you’re given. Opportunities that may not be right for you, but you accept them because you want to be known. Find your why and align your goals with that.
Bridge: Man, that is such dang good wisdom! Are you sure you’re not like, 100 years old or something? (laughs)
Alright switching back, let’s talk songwriting. Where do you get your inspiration for songwriting from?
CJ: As cliche as it sounds, I get inspiration for songwriting EVERYWHERE. The other night, I was looking at the sky, and I wrote a song about the moon. A few days ago, I was on snapchat, realized I was using filters a lot, and started to write a song about how filters are plaguing our confidence. I was in line for a diet coke from mcdonalds (shocker) and saw a couple in front of me, and I made up their love story and put it into a song. I love writing. I’ll write about the deepest and darkest concepts and a few minutes later I’ll write about something simple and sweet – like my favorite pair of shoes.
Bridge: You have that hippie/feely vibe I love it!
So do you only write songs in those moments that you feel inspired? Is it a habit or discipline that you plan to sit down and do?
CJ: I write songs when I’m driving a lot. I’ll set my phone up on voice memos before I start driving so I can capture any melodies I hum or any lyrics I sing. I’ll then take those little hooks I come up with on the road and finish it the second I’m with a ukulele, guitar, or piano. I think I’ve written a song everyday for the past 5 years. It’s a habit for sure!
Bridge: I can’t math but that is a hell of alot of songs, girly!
Here’s one I struggle with, writers block. (rolls eyes)
What do you do to combat writer’s block? Those times when you just can’t get an idea out of your heart onto the paper?
CJ: To combat writer’s block I’ll go through my songbook and finish any unfinished songs. I think the hardest part of songwriting is getting started, so I’ll go to the ones I’ve started and I’ll finish them. It gets me in a good flow to start a new one pretty soon after.
Bridge: I have a notebook of unfinished songs I’m going to need you to look at!
How about influences, who are your main influences in the music scene right now?
CJ: My main influences are pretty sporadic. Growing up, I idolized Allison Krauss, Patty Griffin, and the Killers. Those three were on repeat in my room when I was little. I loved the soul from Allison, the sweetness from Patty, and the slight angst from the Killers. Now, those three remain my main influences. I also draw a lot of inspiration from ZZ Ward. Her southern soul is infectious and her songwriting is absolutely killer. Her lyrics are what I aspire mine to be like.
Bridge: Dude! Allison Krauss’ voice haunts my dreams in the most beautiful way. I’m not really sure how someone can sound that good!
I gotta know, what are some big goals/dreams you have for your music career?
CJ: Hmmm, big goals and dreams. I mean, the obvious and typical one would be to perform at any stadium or arena. I love people, I love performing, I love singing. And that seems so heavenly. But a huge goal of mine is to release all the songs I never thought would see the light of day. I have so many written songs that hold so much emotional healing that I want to share with the world because I think it would resonate with people who went through similar challenges that I did. Music is medicine for me and I want my music to be medicine for other people. I want people to find healing in my lyrics.
Bridge: That they will! You have such a good hearted quality to your music that really shines through.
Okay, here we go, the question of the hour: If you could pick any song as the soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
CJ: The song that would be the soundtrack to my life would for SURE be, “Human,” by the Killers. That will always be my anthem. I’ve spent so many nights, windows rolled down, screaming that song at the top of my lungs as I drive down the highway. I’ve cried to that song, laughed to that song, I’ve really connected to that song. It’s cathartic. It’s beautifully written. It is what makes music so absolutely insane.
Inspiration is everywhere for singer/songwriter, Chloe Johnson.