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Jay Johnson

"I’ve been described as a chronic workaholic and it’s hard for me to argue with that"

Jay Johnson is an award-winning musician and songwriter who moved to London before his teenage years and began making music from a young age. Jay’s naturally curious mind led him to start learning the cello. He then taught himself how to play the guitar a few years after. Jay started listening to artists such as Bob Dylan, Paolo Nutini, and Ben Howard from his early teens, and as a result, their influences can often be seen in his original works.

JJ: The past few years have definitely been an interesting journey for the music. Being asked to model for Gibson Guitars for their promotion plastered alongside London buses was very surreal. So I was being asked to model for Vans, managed to get some great pictures of me producing which was exciting and humbling for sure. The new sound is definitely more lofi, I’ve been making a lot this kinda sound over the past few years thanks to a friend who also produces and releases music (niumigi).

This new sound still stems from Jay’s earlier hiphop influences of his youth. Jay claims listening and making more chill, relaxed music has been beneficial in multiple ways…”especially over the past year with the pandemic, it’s become too easy to stress about life in general and what the future holds. So lofi’s been an invaluable safe haven for me, and I can’t wait to explore more sounds and productions with this vibe”

It’s still early days in Jay Johnson’s development, but one thing’s for sure, his growing urban flair combined with the classical musical training from his childhood is sure to result in some truly seminal sounds.

NEO: ​ Where did your artist name come from?

JAY JOHNSON: My artist name was something I made up when I was about 17/18. I used to be called Jerry when growing up, but didn’t identify with that character at one point. Especially because I didn’t choose that nickname. I thought Jay was a lot more me, and my last name is Johnson.

NEO: ​How would you describe your music journey?

JAY JOHNSON: I’d describe my musical journey as an unpredictable, meandering stream. I grew up on Classical and Hip Hop and they’ve both greatly influenced my sounds. In my teenage years I explored all the genres I could find, all mainstream genres and some more niche ones as well. Then I started producing and subsequently engineering for live shows and at studios. I was just so fascinated with sound. I believe my fascination stems from the fact that our field of perception when it comes to sound is 360 degrees as opposed to vision which is roughly 210 degrees. This increased field provides us humans with a wider understanding of the environment we’re in at all times and for me personally it heightens my awareness to a level that calms my anxieties and gives me a lot of reassurance.

NEO: ​ How long have you been making music?

JAY JOHNSON: I’ve been making music since I was 13, when I started playing the guitar. I then started writing songs at 15 and started producing at 17.

NEO: ​Who inspires you musically?

JAY JOHNSON: My musical inspirations range from Ben Howard to J. Cole, to Shostakovich. I also love listening to Lofi Hip Hop. For me it’s all just sound. I don’t differentiate and categorise unless it’s necessary for the work I’m doing in that situation. My great friend and collaborator Niumigi is also a huge inspiration for me. Recently I’ve been listening to Carl Cox, I like Dance music like House, Techno, Psytrance when I’m sprinting (by this I mean when I’m engaged in an intensely focused and intentional, time-bounded work session where I push myself beyond my current limits). The sense of urgency that comes with the quick tempo of Dance music is one I find very psychologically motivating.

NEO: ​What’s life like for you outside of music?

JAY JOHNSON: Outside music I develop businesses, hospitality businesses to be more specific. I’ve managed live music venues, bars, private catering businesses etc. I also love staying fit. Cycling has been my main mode of transport around the city since I got my first bike for my 10th birthday. Over the past couple years I’ve been working out regularly. Also thanks to my good friend and collaborator Niumigi for getting me into that. I love working out on my roof terrace in Hackney, I recently got an abs bench which I’m super excited about. To sum it up I’d say the three pinnacles of my life are music, business, and fitness.

NEO: ​Who are your top 3 present artists and why?

JAY JOHNSON: My top 3 present artists are Anderson .Paak, Berwyn and Benjamin AD. I was obsessed with .Paak’s 'Malibu' album during my very short-lived period in uni. Discovering that album definitely changed my life. Big thanks to Brendan Buckley (another amazing artist) for putting me on to that.

NEO: ​What is your guilty pleasure?

JAY JOHNSON: My guilty pleasure is probably the overexertion of my energy. I’ve been described as a chronic workaholic and it’s hard for me to argue with that.

NEO: ​What was the inspiration behind your recent release

JAY JOHNSON: The inspiration behind my recent release was the past couple years to be honest. It’s been fraught with uncertainty and unease for a lot of people, myself included of course, and Lofi has been a way to escape from all the noise of the world. My good friend Niumigi who I’ve been making music with for years now, who is also someone I look up to, was an inspiration for me, as well as an artist called KOTA the Friend.

NEO: ​If you could be any animal in the animal kingdom, what would you be and why?

JAY JOHNSON: If I could be any animal in the animal kingdom I’d definitely be a honey badger. Their ferocious spirit is something I connect with on a deeply spiritual level.

NEO: ​When experiencing a creative block, what do you do to combat it?

JAY JOHNSON: I find that the best way to combat creative block is to create anyway! That and to experience life more, so one has material to write about.

NEO: ​​Let us know where to find you on social media

JAY JOHNSON: @jayjohnsonofficial