Meet Fletcher C. Johnson—the folk singer/songwriter who isn’t afraid to use his acoustic guitar to shred some faces!
Originally from southern Vermont, he made his way to NYC after deciding he wanted to live in the largest city in the U.S. He admits that he needs to be able to see as much life as possible when standing on a street corner, or sitting on a bench, and NYC sure provides that.
His sound is usually placed more on the folk rock spectrum, but his latest album “Lessons In Tenderness,” which came out on Burger Records this past April, seems to be more influenced by classic and ‘50s rock’n’roll with some folk music undertones—you could even say there’s some old school punk vibes going on.
Tracks like “Wilder Than Me” and “Out On My Own” reflect similar song construction to that of the Ramones, the Beach Boys, or even Bill Haley & The Comets. Though Johnson’s vibe tends to lean more towards a bluesy tone, they’re all easy to rock out to.
BTRtoday called up Johnson one day, early in the morning, to help him get his morning started and talk about music making, wanderlust, NYC, and his hatred of writing lyrics.
Johnson has always been a musical person—having participated in many different music projects including playing with The Weight, King Tuff, and The Midnight Prayers. Not to mention him and his younger brother used to have a punk band growing up called The Silly Bastards.
He explains that he lived pretty close to Boston during a time that punk was all the rage, and him and his brother used to go to crazy punk shows!
Though his lyrics appear to convey him as a tender and innocent guy, Johnson has his wild side. He recounts a story from when he played a show in Pittsburgh, PA and while at a friend’s house, decided to jump off the two-story home to see if he could make it to the street.
Live show photo courtesy of Fletcher C. Johnson.
“He was on this really steep slope and the second story of his house there was cut out for a yard but you could jump out onto the road…like it was two stories, and the road was also two stories,” he describes. “Just as I was about to jump, he ran out and stopped me—there was an electric line that was in the way that would’ve clotheslined you and then you’d die… I didn’t see that.”
Doesn’t sound wild enjoy?
Well, Johnson also takes some musical ricks. For example, he quite despises writing lyrics. Many artist will write a poem or some sort of story and then write music to go along with that—or at least they’ll write a skeleton of a song, then they’ll fill in the lyrics, and then after that they’ll complete the song.
Not Johnson. He writes an entire song, including vocal melodies, instrumental breaks, and solos before he gets to the lyrics. Even then, he confesses that he creates demos of the song without vocals, and only then if he’s happy with the demo and decides it should go on the record, then he’ll add the lyrics.
“Lyrics are tough! I fucking hate writing lyrics—I don’t even think I pay attention to them,” he admits. “Writing lyrics is just not fun, they’re fucking hard.” He adds that lyrics are the last thing he hears in other people’s songs and that makes it quite a struggle for him when he’s trying to do covers. In fact, he says he ends up just having to make up the lyrics on stage.
His live stage presence stirs up the crowd—Johnson describes it as lively. Though he writes all the songs himself, he has a solid band that’s been playing with him for a while now. Todd Martin, the bassist, has been playing since the inception of the project, and John Dougherty has been drumming with them for about three years now.
Recently they finished recording a three song EP and Johnson is about halfway done with a new full-length album. He admits that this album is going to be truly folky. “We’re only using acoustic instruments, and there’s a lot of acoustic guitar shredding on it,” he says. “One of the new songs on the new album is all about giving up on your dreams, cause I feel like there aren’t enough people focusing on that angle—it’s called ‘Shinning Light’—very tight lyrics.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering what the C. stands for in his name, it’s “Cooke” (pronounced like cookie).