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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Labyrinth Project Creators Journal - Johnny Opus

Musician: Johnny Opus
Austin, Texas


Hello, I am Johnny Opus and I'm going to talk about the most common question I get when people hear my music. "What is your writing process?"

           There is no easy answer to this question because there is no one way in which I go about writing a song. Sometimes I start with the instrument. Whether it's a new technique I'm working on or a clever chord change I found. Then I go about humming or loosely improvising words until a structure starts emerging. Other times I will just free write thoughts into a notebook. No rhymes, no structure, just a stream of thought. Most of it gets scrapped but sometimes golden nuggets emerge which I refine into ideas and verses. A perfect example of a song I wrote this way is "Rustic Soul" which is on Spotify off my latest EP titled Ms Fortune. Some songs come about as a matter of utility for example my favorite song "Hero's Journey" began as way for me to open up a live set, or better yet a song in which I could stand on a table or be anywhere in public and quickly grab peoples attention. I finished it after reading the book Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, I was struggling with the final verse until I read the final chapter of that book.

          I write and flesh out songs based around a specific idea I want to convey and the words/rhymes are not as important as the over arching message I am trying to convey. Interestingly enough I feel that my most clever rhyme schemes emerge from this lack of attachment I have to individual phrases I like at first. Writing around rhyme schemes is necessary but also very stifling if you get too roped into trying to finish a verse you're struggling with. My song writing is a very messy process haha. More often than not I end up abandoning entire verses I start out with because they become inferior to verses I write later. 

        You'v heard the term "Quality over quantity". The way I see it however is that the answer is both. Quantity leads to quality by repetition and shear volume of content. I write a ton of freeform words, thoughts, poems, streams of thought etc which become later become songs I choose to flesh out. The songs I envision myself performing are the ones I spend an obnoxious amount of time on. Singing the same verses in the car over and over a hundred times refining the nuances of words, rhymes, melodies, etc. The most important part of a song is how it makes me feel and that allows me to repeat the same song a hundred times because I believe in it and feel inspired. My only release right now is a 4 track EP however I'v been writing songs my whole life and have a number of them in the bank waiting to be recorded and more waiting to be fleshed out. 
I plan on releasing my first full length album in February 2020

        Starting an independent music business is very challenging and time consuming. There is just not enough time in the day to do everything required so I have to go in and out of phases of writing so that I have time for recording, filming, editing, promoting, funding, networking etc. The business side is all very new to me and I'm learning as I go. I actually just started a podcast called "Pathfinder with Johnny Opus" where I will be talking about the methods I'm learning and implementing to begin building a successful music career.

        I'v been playing music my whole life and will continue to do so forever however I have accepted the fact that I need to look at it as a business rather than just a dream or a hobby. Thanks for reading! Your attention is gold.

The music journey for singer songwriter Johnny Opus began at the age of 8. His father enjoyed singing and playing songs by artists such as James Taylor, Paul Simon, The Beatles and Neil Young. Although Johnny was exposed to music since before he can remember, it wasn't until seeing "Guerrilla Radio" by Rage Against the Machine on MTV that he became fascinated with the guitar. When Johnny was about 15 his father started teaching him finger picking on the acoustic guitar and  ran away with it. He remains predominantly self taught on the instrument to this day.

While attending College to study music, Johnny fell in love with a new instrument. The piano. In the years following, Opus would win a number of piano scholarships and ended up graduating from SJSU with a Bachelors of Music Composition.  

Upon arriving home after graduation, a shoulder injury disabled Johnny from playing piano again. Realizing he could play guitar while lying down, he spent his time falling in love with his first instrument once again. The endless hours of finger exorcises and practice on the piano and new knowledge of music theory translated to the guitar opened up new abilities he did not know he had. The final catalyst to this story came after learning the song "Angeles" by the late Elliot Smith. The way in which the song is both strummed and finger-picked simultaneously opened a new door of creativity for Johnny and this technique can be seen in many of his songs and arrangements. 

As Johnny spent time playing and writing, a feeling began to build inside of him. An almost spiritual push towards the knowledge that he had more to offer this world. After a few years he decided then quit his job and move to Austin TX to pursue a life as a working musician. 

Although Johnny Opus has been passionate about music his entire life he feels as though his journey has only just begun.

You can hear Johnny's first track at: Hero's Journey

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