Nels Johnson took the long route to get here. Born and raised in the small town of Hood River, Oregon, he grew up in an Evangelical home, where the only music around was largely contemporary Christian music. Johnson picked up the guitar in 9th grade and started playing in punk bands soon after. Johnson toured regionally with his band for several years before deciding he needed to focus more on “getting an education” rather than playing music full time (the jury is still out on whether he made the right choice…).
Johnson thought he wanted a career where he’d rise up the corporate ladder, so he decided to go to law school, where the experience beat all the creativity out of him. He didn’t pick up a guitar, pen, or paper for over a decade. Finally, in 2016 Johnson picked the guitar up again after realizing that the white-collar ladder was no longer something that provided meaning or something he wanted to be attached to anymore. He spent the next few years rediscovering the joy of playing and writing music and reorienting his life around the gift of being able to be creative again. Letting go or no longer resisting creativity fundamentally changed his life and has led him to a much healthier, fulfilling, and joyful place in life. Many of those same themes of surrender can be found on his new record, Ios, which is about coming to grips with who you are as a person and what makes you happy.