Johnny Dailey has been making waves in Country music with his singles ‘Burns Like Whiskey’ and ‘Driving Things Around’, both of which were released earlier this year.
The Alabama native made his way to Nashville via Charleston after deciding to pursue a career in music, and he’s recently been opening shows for the mighty Old Dominion. Today Dailey releases his emotive new single ’24’, which is available to download and stream.
I spoke to Johnny recently to find out the story behind ’24’, discuss building a fanbase during a pandemic, and to talk about his journey so far…
Your new song ’24’ is out today. What’s the story behind it?
I wrote that song with Daniel Ross and a guy named Benji Davis. It was a hard song to write a little bit because I wrote it after my dad had passed away. That’s where that idea came from. Life is short and our time on earth is (short)… tomorrow’s never promised. We were just talking about that in the room and just thought it’d be cool to write a love song that was geared towards telling that person, ‘if I only had 24 more hours and the world was ending, I’d give it all to you’. To me that’s like saying, ‘I love you’ in the best way. We have so many places we can put our time and energy but in the end it’s like, ‘if I knew I had 24 hours left, I’d give it to you’. It’s about soaking in the moments and the time with the person you love and giving it all to them.
The lyrics and the sentiment of this song are so relevant right now, given the losses and the pain caused by the pandemic. Of the three songs of yours that you’ve put out so far, I think this one could be a turning point for you. How are you feeling about it?
I definitely think so. There’s something special about this one. I can’t really put a finger on it. I think it just resonates with people. It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you’re at in life, I think we can all relate to this lyric of ’24’. Everybody has that person and when you hear the lyrics, it just makes you want to call somebody up and just be like, ‘man, I just want to tell that person how much they mean to me’. It feels like the biggest song yet. Fingers crossed.
Launching as a new artist in the midst of the pandemic can’t have been the easiest situation. What challenges has that thrown up?
It was unexpected for everybody. I think it affected everybody in all different ways but for me, as a new artist we hadn’t built this big touring base and then had to drop off and then rebuild. It was very much releasing new music and trying to get a tour going, and that was hard because live music totally went away for a year and a half. The frustrating part is I’ve got this music out and I want to go play it for people and build the fan base that way. Thank goodness for social media and the connection that we’re able to have a fans through that. Touring is the biggest and the hardest part for me because that’s how I want to build my fan base. I want to go out and play for people and be able to shake hands and thank people and put a face with a name. You just can’t do that unless you’re touring. It’s hard to do that. It’s good to see that on rise again.
Do you feel that everyone being stuck at home across the world for so long has created an opportunity for your music to be discovered because people have been consuming more music?
I think so. That’s something I’ve had to lean into, as well (like) the TikTok platform or Instagram. Through the pandemic, people have needed entertainment while they’re sitting around their house and I’ve had to lean into that as an artist and just really focus on those platforms. It is an awesome thing that you can connect with people over the Internet. I think it’s definitely allowed another avenue of growing my fan base so I’m grateful for that for sure.
TikTok has really exploded during the pandemic. Did you find it easy to get to grips with it because I know I’ve struggled…
No, I was right there with you man. For so long I would scroll through, I would watch videos and I would post a video and be like, ‘this is not working’. The more I do it, the more (I get it). People hear a song and then they’ll go to Spotify and they’ll stream it. It’s really just like growing a relationship because you post a video, and who knows who will see it, that’ll bring in fans and it’s just a cool thing. Saves gas money, for sure not having to get out on the road (laughs).
It’s incredible that TikTok has become this platform to discover and break new artists. Are you having to constantly think of new ideas to leverage it to increase your exposure?
Definitely. I really have to be intentional about it because if I’m not, it’ll just slip away. It’s definitely everyday and being intentional about sharing the music or playing a cover. It’s so cool because you don’t have to wait until a release date to get a song out there. If I go write a song and we demo it, and I’m excited about it, then I just get on TikTok and be like, ‘hey, check out this new song I wrote’. It’s immediate to the fans, which is really cool because you have all these back catalogue of songs and you’re just like, ‘man, will, any of these ever see the light of day?’ It’s cool to have a platform like that to share that music.
The model of releasing music has changed so much since I was growing up in the 90s. Back then you released a single every three to four months, and an album one or two singles in. Now you can release as frequently as you want to. Does that benefit you and give you freedom as an artist?
A lot, yeah, especially being an independent artist right now. Me and my team, we have all these songs. I’ve been in Nashville for four years now just right writing and writing songs every week, every day. I’ve probably got 300 or 400 songs on my computer and 50 of those I want to get out into the world and want people to hear. It’s complete freedom. Figuring out which song’s the right one put out next, I love it. It’s very cool to be able to gameplan and create my own release schedule and put out the music I want to put out. Hopefully people love it and relate to it and want to hear more.
What’s the plan after ’24’. Are you working up to a releasing a body of work?
Yeah. I think this will be the last song for this year and (I’m) hopefully coming with an EP in February or March. In between that there’s going to be some mixtape, almost like souped up demos as I like to call them. I’m excited about those because I think they’re going to give people a little more insight into who I am as an artist and where I came from. Each of those demo mixtape projects will aim at a certain point in my life. I lived in Charleston for a little while so one of those mixtapes will be called ‘The Folly Beach Sessions’ and it’ll be coastal beach songs. Another one will be based on Alabama and the country lifestyle that I grew up in. There’s lots and lots of new music coming and it’s exciting to get all that out there.
You mentioned the different places you lived before moving to Nashville. At what point in your journey did you realise that music was what you wanted to pursue as a career?
I would say high school is when I first started writing songs. I never thought I could make it a career, I just did it for for fun. Then I moved to Charleston after high school and met some guys there who hooked me up with some local gigs playing cover songs. They were really into music and I really started to hone in on my songwriting craft. I wanted to get to Nashville as soon as possible but there was always this hesitation of whether I can make this work. Can I go to Nashville and actually write songs for a living? Will people listen? It was there in Charleston that allowed me to hone in on my craft and decide that that’s what I wanted to do for a living. I just left there and started my Nashville journey, I guess you can call it.
What was it like adjusting to Nashville? It’s one of the most competitive places to make music and try to build a career…
It scared the hell out of me. When I left Charleston, I had this two or three year period where I would just drive from Alabama to Nashville – drive up, write a song with whoever I could and drive back home. I knew it was competitive, I think that’s why I was just so hesitant. It was really a mind game of ‘can I can I make this work? Can I do this? Am I good enough?’. I think we all struggle with that. After moving up here, everybody’s embraced me and welcomed me in with open arms. You’re just surrounded by excellence all the time, whether it’s songwriting or singers so it’s been a cool place to be. I learn something new every day and I’m grateful to be here but yes, it definitely can be intimidating sometimes. I guess you just have to let that drive you to be better at your craft and keep honing in on the end goal.
Country music is very much a community and it’s rare in that you wouldn’t get this same support network in any other genre. I’ve worked in pop music and it’s quite cut throat in comparison…
I’ve never experienced the pop world but I’ve heard a lot of people say the exact same thing as you. I’m grateful to be in this community. You’re right, it’s like you’re all after the next thing whether it’s getting that song cut or (whatever) so it’s a healthy competition. You go get beers with your songwriting friends or other artists, and it’s definitely a good community to be in. It drives me and makes me want to be better every day, because you gotta stay on the ball or people will outrun you.
You recently did some shows with Old Dominion. What were they like to be on the road with?
Great. I’ve met them a few times and they’re just nothing but kind and nice. Obviously, they’re veterans at what they do and it’s just really cool to be out on the road with them and get to open up and be in front of their audience, and then just watch them play and soak in how they handle the show and how they entertain a crowd. It’s really a learning experience getting to watch them and see how they do a show. It’s been awesome. I can’t say enough good things about those guys. They know how to write hit songs, that’s for sure. So it’s been really cool.
Johnny Dailey’s new single ’24’ is available to stream and download now. Listen to the song below: