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An Interview with Johnny Richman

Johnny Richman is a New York-based, aspiring musician who will be attending Berklee College of Music this fall for Contemporary Writing and Production. He has been playing drums since the age of five and began writing songs about three years ago. His music was released on Spotify and iTunes January 31, 2019, and is also available on Soundcloud. He recently had two independent shows at Shrine and Silvana, and a show with his band No Mas Pantalones at the Bitterend.

Lili: What is it like making music with your band compared to making music on your own?

Johnny: Being in a group is a lot of fun. There’s companionship, like a brotherhood. It’s fun to have people that you are close with to share music. We’ve been playing for a year and a half. But, I much prefer to record alone. I like to have, creatively, that freedom to make the sound what I want it to be and if I mess it up, it’s my responsibility and I enjoy it because it pushes me to be self-critical.

Lili: Why do you subscribe to a different sound than your band’s?

Johnny: My band’s sound is hard, tough, gritty, edgy rock and roll versus melodious folk, which is solely because of my influences. I’ve only found myself to write soft music because I feel it’s accessible to all types of listeners, easier on the ear. But during the band, I can let out my hard rock desires also because our lead singer, JM, really loves that type of music, so we can share that. JM and I recently wrote all new songs together, but the first song that came out, “Danny’s Song," was written by our guitarist. As we keep playing, there’s more contribution. Performing is a different story. If my voice is good, it’s more fun to perform on my own but performing with the band is better when my drumming is good because it’s a shared experience.

Lili: How do you write a song?

Johnny: My better songs were created when a melody pops into my head and then the lyrics come later. When that happens the song can get written it 10 minutes, but the longest its ever taken me to write a song has been 3 or 4 months. 10 minutes is very rare though…Most of the time, I’m playing around on my guitar and if something sounds nice, I’ll put chords over it. It’s a trial and error process.

Lili: What is the recording process when you are recording solo?

Johnny: It depends how long it takes to record because when I record, the process is starting with the drums, then the bass, then the guitar, then vocals, harmonies, and piano when I want it to sound a bit richer. Sometimes it takes 5 hours sometimes it takes weeks, it totally depends.

Lili: How do your surroundings inspire you to make music?

Johnny: A lot of times the people in my life inspire me, but mostly places, definitely sceneries. Not the city, but when I travel, I take it back. I bring back the memories of that place. I have an easier time writing about something I’ve already experienced it. When things are happening, I’m processing them.

Lili: What do you fear most about going into the music industry?

Johnny: Oh my god— tons of things. First of all, the people behind the scenes scare me: those who want to make money off of you or stingy people. Secondly, the possibility of a career can fall apart based solely on what types of people like you and for how long they like you for and why. My life could be navigated by that. Actually, it’s just the people. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting but I’m mostly just afraid of not being able to tell if they support me or are self-serving.

Lili: Can you imagine having any other dream?

Johnny: You mean like a passion? I’ve never used to word dream, but no, it’s literally the only thing I’m good at. It’s the only thing that brings me fulfillment and satisfaction, and that challenges me.

Lili: How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?

Johnny: Exactly the same way I feel when I listen to people like Simon and Garfunkel. I don’t really know how to put it into words but it’s when you hear something that feels so familiar even if it’s the first time you’ve heard it. It puts you in this trance, and you think of things that have happened to you and it erases everything that’s happened. That’s the best I can explain it…

Lili: What do you want most from a career in music?

Johnny:In spite of what I said before, to never feel 100% satisfied. I always want to want more, as in I never want to feel like I’ve mastered everything.

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