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A Short Conversation With Johnny Chops

28 July 2020

As someone who is used to spending a significant amount of time making and performing music, how hard has it been to find yourself removed from that routine?

Johnny Chops: It’s been a difficult adjustment. I’ve been steadily performing every week for almost 20 years. Having that completely disappear overnight has really taken a toll. I’ve gone through a rollercoaster of feelings, from optimism, resignation, gloom and hope all in the same day. The making of music has actually been my saving grace, so I guess you could say I’ve doubled down on that aspect. I’ve written a lot of new music the past few months and plan on keeping that as consistent as possible.

What have been the highlights and the lowlights of lockdown, have you learned anything about yourself and is there anything you might do differently in the future regarding how you approach music?

Johnny Chops: I love my wife, my dog and my home, and we’ve been inseparable, so that has really been wonderful. We’ve spent more time outside in the yard and working on little projects around the house than ever before. I’m very lucky to have them. That’s definitely a highlight. I think the main lowlight is the feeling of uncertainty. When will things go back to normal? Will we ever play a show again? That creeping doubt has been hard to overcome. The lack of interaction from live shows and people in general has also been difficult. Online shows are ok, but it’s hard to maintain that conversation and feel the energy of a shared moment.

I’ve learned that when it comes to writing songs, playing bass, guitar and singing I can hold my own pretty well. I do have some other interests that I haven’t explored as thoroughly, so now is a good time to expand my horizons and educate myself. I never planned on needing a back-up plan because I always thought of myself as a “lifer.” But it would be great to have another avenue to rely on in case of emergency. Plus, I think one passion informs the other, so it’s a good thing to have multiple interests.

“Hope Is Contagious Too” is a very powerful song and the title makes a great slogan. Did it feel like a way of dealing with your own anxieties or was it more about giving others hope? Or perhaps both?

Johnny Chops: It was definitely both. I think at first, it hadn’t really hit me how long this thing was going to go on or how broadly it was going to affect people. Up until a month or so ago, it was mainly for other people to stay positive. But lately, it’s been a good reminder to me as well.

It’s also a fairly stripped back song for the most part. How much was that driven by the circumstances or was it a conscious decision to go for understatement?

Johnny Chops: I usually let the song decide, so mostly unconscious. But we recorded everything remotely so there were some limitations, notably budget. You could say I wanted to keep it “economical.” Also, I really wanted to keep the lyrics front and center, so there didn’t seem to be a need to bury them under a bunch of sonic layers.

The video footage is obviously fairly personal to you, and particularly to your wife Andy. Was it an easy decision to have such intimate family footage broadcast in such a public way?

Johnny Chops: Every song, if it’s done right, has an intimate, revealing aspect to it. Putting yourself under the microscope is what every good artist should probably be doing on some level. It wasn’t too hard to push forward with the idea. We felt like the family would enjoy getting some of the spotlight and they have all reacted very positively.

What are you looking forward to most about getting back into the old musical routine once it is safe to do so?

Johnny Chops: The casual hangs. Chatting on the bus about normal stuff, watching a baseball game before the show and playing to a loud crowd. It will be nice to see some different parts of the country, even the state again. I miss traveling.

Do you think that there is a ‘new normalcy’ to be found, particularly in music, on the other side of this, or has the new creative landscape changed forever?

Johnny Chops: I’m mostly a glass half full kind of guy, so I think long term, we’ll all be going about our business for the most part. Some things will no doubt change. A lot of companies seem to have really embraced the WFH concept, which is probably a good thing. It’s never been more apparent how important it is to maintain an online connection with your fans, whether it’s on social media, Zoom, or even just email newsletters. I think having to depend on those things this year will force a lot of us to continue to think outside the box. That’s always good from a creative standpoint.

And where next for Johnny Chops?

Johnny Chops: I’ve got three songs finished that were going to be released with accompanying videos starting this summer, but it’s been difficult with the shutdown to get the videos done. That’s the next immediate project. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be going back to school in a manner of speaking. I want to explore a few other avenues for my creativity. Likely learning some photography, visual design and maybe some teaching. Hopefully there will be some live shows thrown in there to spice things up, but we’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed.

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