James Johnston – Australian Idol Contestent

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Since his success on Australian Idol, James has gone on to carve out a musical career that is taking him places. He is busy composing and recording in preparation for the launch of his band onto the national stage.

You’re heading to Port Macquarie to perform at the Westport Bowling Club. Tell us about the show you’ll be performing?

Well, I am actually heading there with a good mate of mine, Chad Hayden, who’s my guitarist, and we’ve been playing together for probably about 7 years now. In the last year we have been touring a lot around Queensland, just the 2 of us, so we are coming and doing a duo show.

In the show there’s a good mix of everything.We’ve got a few of the new originals we’ve been working on and a couple of things we’ve recorded already … a song called Roller coaster, which I released about a year ago. Also some new stuff that hasn’t been released yet and just a few covers.

When we play, we bring out a bit of piano, harmonica and didgeridoo and try to tell the story behind where the songs come from.
You put a band together recently, but you’re not bringing them?

No, not bringing the band down; we’re just doing this one as a duo. It’s kind of the next real project I guess. We’re called the Circle of Suns, and that’s kind of the big focus for us at the moment. Just trying to get that off the ground, and that’s a totally original band. It’s kind of pop rock type of stuff we are doing along the same lines as Train and Thirsty Merc all that kind of music. That’s pretty much what our real kind of focus is on for the next 5 months. We’re not really putting it out there just yet, until we have all our songs ready, then we’re going to hit the road and do a tour.

We’re actually talking to Westport to get the band back there round the middle of the year sometime.
Port Macquarie is almost home ground for you, being from Wingham. Are you excited to perform in front of the locals?

Yeah, definitely. I’ve been in Queensland for the past year, and we’ve just been doing stuff in Queesnland. It’s always good to perform in front of a local crowd. I grew up around Port Macquarie, and every week I would play a little gig at the Mercure. So definitely, Port Macquarie is a second little town for me. It’s good to get back, and I haven’t played around the area in a quite a while, so it should be good.
Since your Australian Idol days, how has your career taken off?

It’s one of those things. Australian Idol was obviously a huge event, and it pushes you into the limelight. After the show it was a little bit slow and we were kinda like, “What do we do now?” But it’s definitely been good and picking up. We’ve been touring a lot and been all across the country doing gigs. It’s really kind of picked up on that front.

The band is at that stage now when they want to get more than just the local kind of venues. It’s more now about getting national exposure to really try and crack it on the radio. It’s been going well; it definitely has been picking up over the last year.
Over the past 12 months, have you performed with anyone exciting, or have you opened shows for any big bands?

We were playing the support act to Jimmy Barnes last weekend; we played at the after party as well. We got to hang out with all the guys from Jimmy Barnes’ band. We just got a gig supporting Gangajang. So that should be pretty exciting.

Tell us about any upcoming Single / CD releases you have been working on?

At the moment, we will be releasing stuff as a band that will probably come out in the next 4-5 months. We are just locking ourselves away at the moment and really just trying to work on writing the music. Then we’re going into the studio and once we’ve got our tracks out, we’ll start touring around. That’s probably about 4 or 5 months away, so we’re not releasing anything ‘til then.
What is it that you love most about performing in front of a live crowd?

I’m one for just getting pumped off a live crowd; just being in front a live crowd gives you a lot of energy. When you’re excited about being on stage, then that kind of rubs off on the crowd and they start getting more into it, and it kind of just escalates from there.

It just really gets you pumped up, and they’re some of the main reasons I love music.
What’s life on the road like when touring?

It’s different. We’re actually living in a big van that’s got some beds in it and a kitchen set up in the back and all our band gear in the back. We just cruise round, driving in the van, so we’ve definitely been doing it very much at a grass roots level. It’s been good though – every day you’re in a new place and you’re meeting new people, and I love that side of things. I get a bit anxious being in one place for too long, so I like being out there and seeing the country.

We got to go down to Victoria, Adelaide, NSW and Brisbane and all the way as far as the Northern Territory, so we’ve kind of seen a fair bit of the country. Being my age, ‘cause I’m only 20 and seeing the countryside is a good thing, I guess. If I didn’t have my music, I would probably be doing that anyway. So by playing the music, I get to do a bit of both.
Who are you on tour with at the moment?

At the moment it’s just myself and my guitarist Chad and 2 others. We kind of swap between mates who can drive. Usually I just call up mates and if they’re free for a couple of weeks, we ask them if they want to come on tour with us. That’s pretty much the way we run it, to be honest.

Sometimes it will be just myself and Chad, but you get pretty buggered after doing that for a month. With the band, when we get that out on the road, we’ve got a bunch of guys, so we’ll be doing it more on a bigger scale.
What else is on the radar for 2011?

Pretty much we’ll be focusing on the band. The solo stuff we’re still doing, but it’s going to take a little step back so we can focus on just the band. We want to get everything together and working on it from there. So that’s pretty much our 2011 plan.
What do you guys get up to when you’re not performing or driving round the countryside?

Generally as soon as I get home, I sit behind the piano and start writing songs. We both like riding dirt bikes and go camping. Like I said, I don’t like to sit still for too long, so I get out and travel round.
Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?

Just to make sure they come down and help celebrate Easter Friday and to bring lots of chocolates.
Thank you James.

James performs live at The Westport Club on Good Friday, 22 April from 8pm – 11pm.

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