Nels Johnson

Nels Johnson2022-08-09T12:46:40+00:00

Project Description

Similar Artists: John Moreland, Ruston Kelly, Sturgill Simpson

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.

RELEASES

“Ios” (Album)
Release Date: October 14, 2022

On “Ios,” Johnson leans into the theme of surrender, coming to grips with who you are as a person and what makes you happy. The songs embrace the human experience and stories that shape and change us along the way.  A visit to the Grecian island, Ios, inspired the record’s theme. Johnson wrote three songs on the album, “Rest,” “Holy Men,” and part of “Surrender,” while on the island. He says, “It was a place of total relaxation, which freed me up to slow down, quiet all the loud voices and get in touch with what I was feeling. It’s hard to describe, but I experienced a sense of freedom and just comfort in my skin that I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced before.” Those themes are captured in the songs that led to the album being named after the island. Read more

“The Light That Guides Me” (Single)
Release Date: August 9, 2022

“The Light That Guides Me” delves into a father/son relationship asking, “If he passed away, how would I want to remember our time together?” The single wistfully remembers and processes loss while finding hope within it all. The single takes a nostalgic look at positive memories growing up, some real, some contrived, all of them gone and not here anymore. Johnson says, “I love the nostalgia of the first verse, of finding a picture of an old loved one in an attic and being surprised at how different and young they used to look, and just remembering them in a new and different way.” The song also looks to the past as a guide through challenges in the present, “as I travel through this distant and foreign land, longing to grow into a man.” Read more

Bio

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. 

Johnson writes songs about the human experience and stories that shape and change us along the way. 

Johnson wrote every song on Ios and played most of the guitars on the record. 

Johnson is just a simple folk/country singer who grew up in rural Oregon. He remains inspired and in awe of folks like John Prine, Jason Isbell, Townes Van Zandt, and Gillian Welch.

TOUR DATES