If you give up on your dreams, what is left? That’s what’s Don Johns does, just believe in his dreams.
Don Johns has been playing music since he was a little boy.
It didn’t take him long to break the set of toy drums he got one Christmas.
His next door neighbor had a piano and his mom was very good at playing.
I can remember asking her to play for me and I was mesmerized!
My neighbour taught me a song and I would play it over and over.
As I memorized it, I started doing different patterns with it, different tempos, this was the beginning of me trying to create my own sound.
In 7th grade Don took drums and it was there he learned how to read music notation, not notes, just the rhythms. I had a great teacher who drilled us in keeping good time, that stuck with me and allowed me to pick up other instruments, first piano, then guitar.
When Don was 14, he had a job as a janitor at a church.
I would get my work done as fast as I could so I could spend the rest of my time playing the piano until I would get picked up.
It was there I developed a love for the piano that has stayed with me since.
As much as I love my keyboards, there is nothing like a real baby grand!
After many years in Nashville writing and performing, Don has never looked back. He continues to write as often as time will allow. From personal songs, production tracks, movie scores and instrumental music, Don has done just about every genre.
“There really isn’t a favorite, I just like music, whatever the genre, whatever the taste, but it has to be from the heart.
”Don writes from the heart and from feelings that we all have inside, but few are willing to explore.
“That’s what music is to me, an expression of one’s soul. It is a privilege to have someone listen to your music and I will never forget that.”
Hi and welcome to LiveTrigger Magazine! Let’s start by introducing your project: what does make it unique and where is based?
I’m currently based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, USA.
Lovely place on the beach!
What makes this project unique is, “Let the Children Laugh” are mostly songs I wrote for films that I have worked on over the years. (I’m also a Producer/Director-Just A Spark Films)
Many times in a film, the song is featured, but you don’t get to hear the whole song.
I decided to release these songs because I thought they were really great songs and needed to be heard.
As you know technology changes so rapidly and when I recorded these songs I did not have the arsenal of equipment I have now.
To hear these songs like I originally heard in my head is beyond thrilling for me!
Here is the list of songs from “Let The Children Laugh” that were used on films: Can You See Me, Walk In My Shoes, Let The Children Laugh!
How was your 2019 so far?
2019 has been great with the release of “Let the Children Laugh” and I’ve begun work on my 2nd instrumental album, “Tropical Paradise” Again these songs I wrote many, many years ago and recorded them on a 4-Track Cassette!
So I’m very excited to take these instrumental songs to the next level. I never take for granted the incredible technology that allows me to take my songs from an idea to an actual awesome song!
So far I have 3 tracks done for “Tropical Paradise”. I hope it will be as successful as my first instrumental album, “When Words Aren’t Enough”.
What’s the most exciting thing that happened to you recently?
I know this might sound morbid, but almost 3 years ago I had to have back surgery and having that experience made me realize how important my music is to me.
I mean, I have spent my whole life pursuing and perfecting my music, but being faced with making up a living will, what would I put in there?
As important as my films were and my many scripts, it was my music that is the most important thing to me.
Before my surgery I put together CD’s of all the songs I had recorded and created artwork with instructions to put those albums out in the event something happened during surgery.
At the time I was 3 songs away from completing “Love Our Life”, an old school country album dedicated to my father who has now passed.
Enduring great physical pain, I got these last 3 songs done and uploaded to CD Baby before my surgery date.
What is incredible is that album so far has been my best selling album to date! The CD’s still remain in my safe, but since that time, I have released two more albums, “Unclassified and “Let The Children Laugh”.
Where do you get inspiration and how do you create your music?
My inspiration comes from many places, but over the years it seems like it always comes when I’m still and somewhere very quiet.
I’ve had many songs come to me in the shower.
Other times just riding my bike, but almost 100% of the time, it’s been in some solitary event.
That is different for every song, there have been some songs that both lyric and music came at once, not very often, but it has happened.
On my last release, “Let the Children Laugh”, “No Place Like Home” is an example of that happening.
I was on my porch playing the guitar and all the sudden, I just started hearing this melody around some chords I was playing, and just like that the song was born!
At first I only had a cassette player, I’m dating myself, through the years as technology developed and I could afford better equipment I eventually started recording on the computer.
For those young people who have never experienced what us old timers have is the inability to make the sound we really want.
Just think about only having 4 tracks to work with, that’s it! Now I’m running Logic X and Reason together, with so many plug-ins, it’s absolutely crazy!
This younger generation has no idea how awesome it is to grow up with this amazing technology right at their fingertips!
Like I said earlier, I’m always amazed at what I’m able to create with just me.
Now, it does help that I can play drums, keyboards, guitars and sing, but even if I couldn’t I can still record everything in my home studio.
Who are your favourite artists in your local scene?
I have not found any artists here locally that I have really taken to.
When I was in Charlotte, North Carolina there were a few artists that I really liked and would go see them as often as I could, but here in Wilmington, I have not really heard anyone that I liked enough to go out and see them perform.
The Ben Gatlin Band out of Charlotte, NC blew me away. I became friends with Ben and he’s recorded a few songs with me.
You can hear this amazing guitarist on my newest release, “Let the Children Laugh”, he’s playing all the guitars on “No Place Like Home”. Super talented guy!
Don’t take this the wrong way, but being in Nashville, Tennessee for over 20 years it made me see live music in a different light.
I would play out a couple of times a week while living in Nashville and the level of musicianship there is mind blowing!
Many times I was embarrassed by my lack of skill compared to what was next to me on the stage.
So my point is, after having such a high bar for live music, I have not found it anywhere else.
Let me put it to you in another way.
Once you’ve been to Walt Disney World there is no other amusement park in the world that compares to that experience.
Sort of the same thing with me and going out to hear local talent.
How did they influence your style & sound?
My influence has been the artists that I’ve listened to over the years.
From Toto to John Williams the movie composer.
Growing up with two older sisters I had one sister who loved the classics, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Peter Frampton, Grand Funk Railroad, Kansas, basically your 70’s classic rock, awesome by the way!
Then my other sister was into Disco, so that style was there, the Bee Gees, Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, (yes, I love him!), Billy Joel, America, huge mix of artists and styles, and you can’t forget, The Carpenters! If you listen to my harmonies and arrangements, you can’t help but hear the tremendous influence they had on me.
As a kid listening to all that music, I had no idea that is was going into my brain that would later help me as I started writing my own music.
I think that is why I can write in just about any genre, I like it all!
What’s the best live music show you’ve seen recently?
Unfortunately, I have not been to any live shows in a while.
Most of the artists I like aren’t around any more or they just don’t come to where I’ve lived.
I’d have to say the best live show I’ve ever seen was Sting during his first solo tour after leaving the Police.
Second best show I’d have to say seeing U2 twice during the Achtung Baby Tour. Incredible!
What is your best and your worst memory on the road?
This is a very funny story!
One of the only times I’ve ever really toured was in one of my earlier bands, Over The Edge, this was before I went to Nashville, TN.
The van we were in broke down and the lights were not working.
We had our guitarist drive in front so we could see, but we were pulled over by a small town policeman.
He didn’t give us a ticket, but he stayed across the street until the sun came up so we would not drive anymore without any lights!
We were so tired!
Try sleeping on speakers in a van with three other smelling guys!
All in all, though, that was a fun night that we talked about for years!
That is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced as a touring musician. I loved it!
What do you think about Livetrigger?
I just joined a few weeks ago, so I can’t really offer that much.
I will say that I love the concept and I hope that it helps me in finding more places to play.
One of the most exciting things to ever happen to me was a few years ago I thought I was going to do a small tour in Germany, but it never happened.
My hope is that Livetrigger will help me find that connection again, because ultimately connecting with your audience is the best thing in the world to me.
I’ll never forget playing in Nashville at writer’s nights and having people come up and tell me how much they enjoyed my music!
Those are the moments I live for and trying to find places to play where people are actually enjoying my music, would be a dream come true for me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can first visit my website: Don Johns Music https://donjohnsmusic.com
At the bottom you can see all the social media links.