Photo Credit: Morgan Matyjevich
By Aaron Wagner
This past weekend, Johnny Gates released two new songs that help paint fans a better picture as to who he is as an artist.
Full of plenty of soul, Gates’ new releases “Loretta Lynn” and “Buy You a Beer”, tell relatable stories through cleverly crafted lyrics that pack an emotional punch. Johnny’s voice is so unique and soulful, that you can truly feel the emotions of loneliness in “Loretta Lynn” and the optimistic young love in “Buy You a Beer.”
With these two songs, Johnny shows that while he can write the deep, powerful songs that stop people in their tracks, he can just as easily write and sing the type of songs that gets someone to turn it up when it comes on the radio.
We chatted with Johnny about both songs and what it means to have both out in the world for fans to enjoy.
Raised On It: Where did the idea for “Loretta Lynn” come from?
Johnny: I had just spent a few years writing a lot of songs for my band, Runaway Saints, with hopes one of them would be our big “hit single”, but we couldn’t ever get one across the finish line at the label. And to be honest, I was just feeling kind of jaded, and was watching other artists have success at radio over us, and I wasn’t entirely impressed, and it made me miss artists like Loretta, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. But that’s when I started messing with the idea of using a name like that, to say what I was trying to say, without having to really say it.
Raised On It: What was the writing process like?
Johnny: This wasn’t just another relationship song for me, but in a way, it felt like a break up. I had been living in Nashville for around 7 years, and it just didn’t work out, so I thought if I could dress it up as a relationship, it could be more relatable, but also, a cool way to have the hook really hit you.
Raised On It: What’s your favorite lyrical phrase in “Loretta Lynn?”
Johnny: I really love “keep thinking you’ll walk back in, go dance around the kitchen, you know I love to hear you sing” and I’m really proud of the hook “oh my sweet heart where you been, I miss you like the radio misses Loretta Lynn.”
Raised On It: You’ve come full circle, leaving Nashville for LA and coming back to Nashville recently. Having written the song in LA about Nashville, what are the emotions or thoughts going through your head knowing that this great new song is being released while you’ve back collaborating and being creative in Nashville?
Johnny: I would say it feels right. LA will always be a home for me, and I’ll always spend time there throughout the year, and the friends I made there are my family. But I learned how to write songs in Nashville and got my first record deal and pub deal in Nashville. Every incredible music experience I’ve ever had, happened because I moved to Nashville.
It’s a hard town to navigate, and it will break your heart, and you’ll wanna run and hide, and hell, I did that, but I’m a Nashville songwriter. It’s just who I am. And I think it’s pretty fitting that the last song idea I started in Nashville, is the first thing I’m releasing since being back in the community. So I’m excited to get it out there, end that chapter, and start this new one.
Raised On It: Where did the idea for “Buy You a Beer” come from?
Johnny: The idea came from wanting to have a song that you could hear on the radio, but also, feel like me. So, we tried to really describe a night and a situation that was authentic to us and our friends. In our heads, we saw a night out at a dive bar in East Nashville (Mickeys or The Crying Wolf) that turned into something more, which has happened for so many of our friends. A true love success story that started with a pick up line!
Raised On It: Was there a certain vibe you were going for in this song?
Johnny: I wanted total radio vibes. I had spent so much time in my old band trying to write a “hit”, and coming up short. So, I really wanted this song to feel like you could hear it on the radio or hot country. I wanted it to be able to sit amongst the songs that we’re really hitting on there.
Raised On It: What’s your favorite lyrical phrase or production moment in this song?
Johnny: I love the second half of the chorus “wanna know your favorite color, wanna know your favorite song, wanna know your every dream, where you from, I could listen all night long.” I really love how fast the melody is.
And “you had a cool jean jacket with a patch on the back, lighting up the bar, like a match.” I feel like that line blends my style of writing, with who I am in every day life. I’m a sucker for a girl in a cool denim jacket!
Raised On It: The two songs have two different messages and sounds. Why did you want to release both of them together?
Johnny: For a few reasons. I wanted to show the different sides of what I’m trying to do this time around. With BYAB, I wanted to show that I can write the kind of songs that could have a shot at radio and getting people singing along. But with Loretta, I wanted to show that there will always be a side to me, that’s more that just that. My favorite thing in the world is playing a show with just my acoustic, and trying to get the crowd that was singing along, to get so quiet, that you can hear the bartender washing glasses, and have them hanging on every line, and that’s the world where Loretta lives.
Raised On It: Lastly, when people and your fans hear these songs, what do you want them to feel and take away after listening to them?
Johnny: There are so many songs being thrown at people right now. Every Friday, a new crop of songs to digest. It’s just a lot of music. So, if someone walks away after listening to my songs and says, damn those were good, I wanna hear more, I consider that a win.