JOHN WHORISKEY, JR. on making it in a DIY world

John Whoriskey, Jr., or “Johnny” of Bright EYED Music, is back, three years later and still double fisting artistic vision with DIY representation. Following time teleporting back and forth from LA to NY to his home state of MA, this time around Johnny lends insight into pushing outreach in an increasingly saturated, social-media/streaming dominated industry.  Among other perspectives, Whoriskey Jr. shares his secret ingredient to staying true to himself while reaching a wider audience, stresses a need to approach DIY recording and representation from all sides at once, and keeping the fun in the grind.

His latest EP release, Nothing Lasts Forever, was released in a single format over the course of several weeks by way of a new Bright EYED video series called Ice Cream Sundays, which drops regularly on YouTube. Performer had the pleasure of linking back up with the singer/songwriter to discuss new tracks, an evolving sound and identity from rapper to singer.

Your new record differs from the last EP in terms of sound, but also has a clear link in content. What decisions went into the shift?

I just think that I wanted to be more known as a singer than as a rapper. And I try to steer people away from saying, ‘Oh, this is rap music,’ because — yeah, I can rap, and the flows have a kinda urban sound to it, but…I just want to sing more. Especially with this project being sadder and more serious, I wanted it to be more melodic and be able to try to push my range a bit more.

Could you detail the recording approach?

[I’d] moved to LA, had a really strong feeling I wanted to just get in the studio and make music, and I thought like, just doing that and really focusing on it, getting out there and making the music, was gonna be a fucking homerun. You know?

It’s really helped me find my footing as an artist. Now, it wasn’t my hit EP, but it was one that really helped me get to know that I can do this, that I can make the music I want to make. Now I’m like, ‘just keep going.’ But [in] L.A., I was only focused on music. I didn’t have a day job, had some money saved up. I moved out there, lived with a friend. The room I stayed in didn’t really have a door. But it was awesome, I loved it there. I had so many friends, so much support there. There was so much music being made there, written there. It really inspired me to work hard.

So, I was in the studio a bunch, and cut a [lot] of vocals and really got the core of my project and then I had to move back to NY. So, I moved back and auditioned for this show — and they liked me, but they ended up chopping the show. So that was a letdown. I had another A&R I was talking to — thought that was going to pan out. That totally fell apart. Went to the studio, worked in two studios in NY: this place called The Brewery, where I basically did the mixing and mastering for “Right Now” — that’s in East Bushwick — and there’s the main studio I work out of called Shifted Recordings. Those guys are just starting out, and I was just trying to get in there with them early, and, you know, a lot of them are from Boston. My engineer is from Medford, so we hit it off. So, I worked there to get a bunch of different sessions.

The lyrical content is [on the new release] is earnest — uprooting and re-uprooting; heartache and break; a distinctive catch me if you can mentality — and pays homage to previous tracks but is more specific. Tell us how you feel about that appraisal.

I mean yeah, I got my heart run over. By a Hummer, H2. But it wasn’t a “fuck my ex-girlfriend” project. It wasn’t that at all.

Just talking about the ways you’re hurting and making sense of it? Sounds like R&B.

Exactly. And for the relationship stuff, I’m at fault too. I’m not here to talk shit about people from my past to bury them, I’m just here to tell you how I feel…

How does that writing style and your navigation of DIY promotion mash up?

I think that it’s hard to look around and see all these musicians, artists, who have made it so young, and [not] feel like I’ve been going at it for a while now. Especially doing it on my own. As a male pop/R&B artist, it’s statistically one of the hardest acts to break. If you get told ‘no’ day after day after day, you’re going to feel like shit about it at some point. I know what it takes, I just wish it didn’t take so long. You keep hitting base hits until you get that homerun.

Best thing about the music business is that it’s so much more accessible than back in the day. Anyone can make music straight out the bedroom and make it. That’s also the worst thing about it. I don’t wanna sit here and make it out like the industry is against me; it’s against everybody … [but] in the long run, it’s made me a better independent artist. Ok you want me to get these Spotify streams up, how do I do that? You can’t just hit up the guy who curates New Music Friday. There are a lot of companies that will present your song to the different playlist curators.

Instagram has been the platform that’s most helpful for me — where I feel like I get the most feedback — [but] I don’t even have my Instagram notifications push anymore. I don’t wanna see that. I’m refreshing enough as it is … I’ve become a fucking foodie. [Laughs] I’m a YouTuber. Inadvertently.

And with that, let’s plug Ice Cream Sundays!

My parents had an ice cream place when I was growing up, called Country Whip. I worked there in high school, and I had this idea a few years ago. It was around the same time as “Good Fridays.” I was infatuated with this idea of releasing something every week and having it be serial. One of the things I was reading said that the best way to give yourself potential is by doing something more than the release. Ice Cream Sundays was that I would release a new song every single week, instead of releasing the whole project at once, and I’ll have visual content from all the Ice Cream places, and the songs, and anything else I’m releasing. I planned the release so it would be the week after, and we dropped a documentary about the making of the project. Now I can just drop whatever I want and just do an Ice Cream Sunday. The thing is ongoing until I feel like not doing it anymore, you know?

Where is Bright EYED Music headed next?

I want to make hit-sounding sounds and just keep hitting them with it. I wanna make so many good songs, they just can’t ignore it. With so many flavors, familiar and strange, who could?

Find Johnny’s new record, Nothing Is Forever, streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, and don’t hesitate to tap over to YouTube for regular Ice Cream Sunday updates — a look inside Johnny’s creative process, and so much of that frozen deliciousness — cone, cup, straw, soft serve, or the hard stuff.

Follow John on Twitter @listentojohnny_

photos by Benny B Stoll

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