Jonny Rice was born October 13, 1989 in Texas into a family of musically gifted individuals. Determined to create opportunity for Jonny and his siblings, his family moved to Ohio where he became a student of music. Rice has never fit comfortably into categories. He follows his own musical and spiritual quest, fueled by his “Musical Heroes” Ben Harper, G. Love, Lil Wayne, amongst others, weaving together Southern roots with a wide experience of life, and creating new traditions in American music.
Rice has never been close enough to the mainstream to sustain his occasional brushes with stardom. He has been unwilling to accept the loss of artistic control that the industry expects of its stars. However, he is working with a team that is determined to embrace his unique style and highlight his creative genius. Rice’s debut “EP”, “The Eclectic”, was released during 2012, while his debut album, “Average Man”, will be released during 2013. Here is an exclusive interview with Jonny…
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
JONNY RICE: I come from a very musical family, so I was constantly eating and breathing music. It’s funny, walking down the halls of my house you’d hear Hip-Hop from my brother Rick’s room, Rock coming out of my brother Jared’s room, R&B and Gospel coming out of my Sister Becca’s room, and my mom had either Gospel or southern Gospel bumpin. It was a melting pot, and I drank the soup. I started pursuing a career in music when I turned 20, after practicing guitar and lyrical writing for 7 years.
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
JONNY RICE: If you mean the first musicians I liked, I would have to say Boyz II Men. My sister Becca used to blast them, and I just fell in love with their whole groove after I heard “Motown Philly”. I was probably about 5 years old. The first musicians to influence my music were largely G. Love, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings…basically anyone associated with Brushfire Records.
3. Which artists do you listen to today? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
JONNY RICE: There’s so many, but currently I’m caught up in the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis whirlwind. Their music is, just, so refreshing. It’s so nice to hear music with a message again, and it pushes me to be a better musician. If I could collaborate with Macklemore/Ryan Lewis, Lil Wayne, G. Love or Kanye West, I’d be set on happiness for a few decades.
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware you’re still looking to buy now?
JONNY RICE: The first guitar I bought was a blue burst Stagg acoustic guitar, from a shop that went out of business a while ago. It was $88 and my brother Jared sent me the money to get it. I treated it like gold, then 3 years later I tried to replace the nut at the top, something I was soooo not qualified to do, and broke it. I’m currently feigning for the modern update of Gibson’s Fretless Wonder.
5. Tell us something about your current band line-up and instrument setup?
JONNY RICE: I’ve got 3 guys in my band. Cody Flickinger is our drummer, Shane Branning and Aaron Perez-Strohmeyer switch back and forth between guitar and bass, and I handle vocals and rhythm guitar. We’re also adding some synth and horns to our line up soon, because Aaron is Mr. I-play-everything. It’s really handy to have one of those people in every band. Every time a lil spice needs to be added they can help figure out a way, if the rest of us are stuck.
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6. Live gigging or studio work, which do you prefer and why?
JONNY RICE: I have to be that guy and say both. There are only 2 places I feel completely carefree and that’s in the studio or on stage. Both have such intense feelings associated with them. I mean, it’s the most addictive drug out there. You have someone bumping your music in their car or rocking with you at a show, and after knowing someone feels what you’re putting out there, it’s over…addict just like that. You can’t stop yourself from pushing further.
7. Which one of your original songs do you feel is the absolute “crowd pleaser” at live gigs and do you remember when and why you composed it?
JONNY RICE: “The Eclectic” is the song we know that everyone will be rocking to no matter what. It’s just fun and inviting. I wrote it as kind of a message about who I am and what I’m about. I love all types of music, and I want everyone to know it. I also wanted to kind of pay homage to some of the musicians who made me who I am. After about an hour I spit it out, and recorded a week later.
8. On which one of your songs do you think you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
JONNY RICE: I think my latest single, “I’m Leaving” really shows that I have something to offer the music industry. Lyrically, musically and technically, it’s currently one of my strongest songs.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making JONNY RICE music sound the way it does?
JONNY RICE: INPUT! If it weren’t for the input of my friends, fans and crew I’d never grow as a musician. I mean without constant grind with these people I lose my edge. Each person brings something different to the table and makes me just a tad more eclectic with each compliment or criticism. And it’s not like I need approval from anyone, I just make this music for more than myself and want to make sure people understand it. Feedback, good and bad, helps.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you day after day to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
JONNY RICE: I wish I could say love, but I’d have to say passion. While love is an amazing thing that can unite millions, life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There are dark sides, and people who are in those dark times need music too. Passion, shear passion, whether it be good or bad, has a story written all over it. I’ve been through a divorced home, I’ve broke my neck 4 times, I went deaf in my left ear at the age of 14, I’ve been homeless and then some. But all of that experience and emotion twists and wrenches and smooshes together and turns into passion…if any of that makes sense. I sound like a hipster musician, yikes.
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11. What aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and what aspect discourages you most?
JONNY RICE: There is SO much more freedom as an independent artist. You have the opportunity to not follow industry standards and write your own rules. But with that comes the people, when you first get started, that mock you and hate because you’re an underdog and don’t have official backing. You also deal with a lot of venues not taking you seriously. It’s sure funny as hell to see the looks on their faces when they see you making moves though.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the music? And on which instrument do you compose?
JONNY RICE: I usually get a concept in my head that can come from literally anywhere or anything. I try to keep a pen and a pocket mead pad on me as often as possible, because you never know when inspiration is gonna hit you. It sounds cheesy and cliché but it’s the truth. After I come up with the concept I’ll play around on my acoustic trying to get a chord progression, and from there the melody and lyrics just work themselves out.
13. How involved are you in any of the the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music. Do you outsource any of these processes?
JONNY RICE: We have an amazing team with extremely talented people, and while we have the capability to master our own recordings, we think a fresh pair of ears works the best. Over the last year I’ve learned to produce tracks and do some basic recording. I’m getting better every day. It’s just a learning process. As far as marketing goes, I’m very involved. I’m a friendly guy who likes to interact with my fans, and the best way to get fans is good music and good marketing. So my crew and I are always thinking of ways to better interact and connect with fans.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
JONNY RICE: I heard a lyric a while back and plucked it up as a personal mantra. I was listening to “Drop the World” by Lil Wayne and heard the lyric, “Confidence is a stain/they can’t wipe off”. Being a guy who’s had his fair share of self-esteem issues, I decided to take that chunk of wisdom, apply it and always remember that I may not be the best, most handsome, best dressed, etc. but I’m damn good at what I do, and nobody can do it like me. When I got into this business, people kept telling me to be cautious but I was just not going to hear that the music business was filled with sharks. So because I’m so damn stubborn, I bumped my head a lot and got a shark bite a few times. Thankfully I’ve found an honest team which I consider my family.
15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
JONNY RICE: I think people are impressed when they hear what you do in the studio, but they become a fan when they hear you rock a show. I would love to have bigger live venues. You reach a lot of people that way. Media is fantastic, but the best advertising is word mouth.
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16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
JONNY RICE: It’s kind of a catch twenty-two. Without it, good underground artist would never reach the acclaim that they can today. Producers, labels, A&R’s, anybody can access your music. There’s no telling who will hear it. At the same time, you do have the no talent, cookie cutter musicians who have great friends who don’t tell them that they need to consider other career options who constantly post awful music, that somehow gets circulated. It’s existentialism at its finest, Ying and Yang.
17. Do you make use of the new technology offered by the computer and software to produce your music, or do you prefer real studios, with traditional instruments and music productions?
JONNY RICE: I like a mixture of the two. Using both makes it a lot easier to get a mix of genres in different songs. Plus, sometimes it’s just easier to play something on an actual instrument instead of dealing with the computer, but that’s just me.
18. Where are you hoping your new single “I’m Leaving” will take you? And when will the new album be ready?
JONNY RICE: I’m hoping people will appreciate the message behind the song, and the hours we put into the music and the video we’re releasing for it. It’s been our strongest song for a while now, and I’m excited to see if folks like it as much as we’re anticipating. The “Average Man” album should be released late summer/early fall 2013.
19. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie songwriter/performer, in your quest to achieve your goals and any commercial success?
JONNY RICE: People who don’t take you seriously. I’ve had numerous people in my life, look at me like, “What in the hell are you doing”, when I get up to play, or inquire about a show. However, we crept in a few places as openers and played our asses off, and now people are starting to change their tune a little. It comes with the territory though. If you want the perks of indie life, you have to prove yourself to everyone and work for respect. And that’s something we don’t mind doing.
20. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
JONNY RICE: Screw over my team, or sacrifice what I do for money. Chances of large paychecks are a great plus to this career choice, but that’s not what I’m in it for. People have asked why I haven’t tried to go major by myself and also tried to talk me into it. But the way I look at it, we’ll get there eventually, I don’t need to sell my soul for money. And why go with a bunch of people I don’t know or trust when Dean’s List ain’t wrote a bad check yet?
21. Tell us about any new projects or ideas you will be working on in the near future, and how fans can connect with you?
JONNY RICE: Right now we’re working on tying up loose ends on the “Average Man” album, as well as dropping our “I’m Leaving” music video June 29th. We’re also having a video release party June 29th as well at the Pub and Panini’s in Canton, OH. You can find all of my contacts on my website, www.JonnyRiceMusic.com, or search JonnyRiceMusic on twitter or Facebook and hit me up. I love talking with fans!
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