Arts & Entertainment

On Stage with Sonny Johnson

Photography and Story by Maggi Stivers
On Stage with Sonny Johnson

Sonny on Stage

“There’s nothing like having a cool crowd, you know, they bounce good energy back at you and you give it right back to them. It’s a lot of fun and it’s good.”



Music has always been a part of Sonny Johnson’s life, and that’s something that probably won’t ever change. “My parents always had a lot of music playing in the house growing up and in the car and a lot of different music too,” Johnson said.Picking a guitar that was gathering dust in his parents closet at age 12, Johnson began to learn to play music himself. After a year of lessons, and some help from his father, he was mostly on his own.

Continuing to improve his skills, Johnson joined a band in high school, mostly covering songs, and Johnson soon grew tired of it.

“I was in 10th grade and there was this girl I was hanging out with,” he said. “I was complaining about always doing these songs or something and she was like, ‘Why don’t you go write your own songs?’ and I was like, ‘Alright maybe I will,’ and then I went and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Songwriting was a challenge then and can still be today for Johnson, who writes both from personal experiences and his emotions. He has a variety of artists he looks to for inspiration.

“I just listened to a lot of music that has a lot of good musical content. As far as like lyrics go, I guess even music too, writers like Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, a British band, and Caleb Followill from the Kings of Leon. I think he has unique vocals but his phasing of lyrics was really unique to me and the way he put words together,” Johnson said.

For the past year, Johnson has been able to improve his drumming skills, too, as he has been collaborating with Corey Medina, another local musician. “It’s helpful because I’ve been able to hone in my drum skills, I’ve really never drummed in a band before this, so it’s been a lot of fun,” he said.

Johnson hopes to return to the studio soon and begin recording his second album with Peter McKenzie.

“I met him when I working with Corey Medina and he produced Corey’s album. I did a few tracks on that album and that was the first time I worked with him, and he’s just a real cool, laid back guy. He’s got a good ear, he knows what he’s doing and I like the fact that he has a hip hop background, I would really like for this album to sound good in the car, you know what I mean, like kind of have a good thud to it,” Johnson said.

Johnson has big plans for the album, including recording it all myself.  “So I’m over dubbing all the parts. So, I’ve never done that before; it’s going to take a while,” he said. “I think it will give it that full sound instead of just being one guitar and one vocal.”

For Johnson, writing songs is something that he does to receive stress. “It’s definitely a good way to vent and instead of doing something stupid or getting in fights, you can just go home and write out a tune,” he said. Writing and recording, though, take a back seat to performing, he said.

“There’s nothing like having a cool crowd, you know, they bounce good energy back at you and you give it right back to them. It’s a lot of fun and it’s good.”

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