Music so often serves as an escape. For the listener, it can help block out the worst parts of our world, at least for a little while. For an artist, it can be a path to a bigger, more open-minded world. In both cases, though, reality eventually requires a reckoning. Josiah Johnson, co-founder of The Head and the Heart, begins grappling with that return to reality on his debut solo album, Every Feeling On A Loop, and everything from his addictions to his sexual identity is fair game.
Johnson, who grew up in a conservative community, experienced a fairly quick rise from anonymity (studying math and computer science in grad school) to co-founding and touring with The Head and the Heart, filling large venues like Red Rocks, all in a few short years. That path led to drug use, burnout and rehab, as well as a separation from the band, all giving Johnson the time and the headspace to deal with the unexamined corners of his life. The result is a big, lengthy and lush album full of complex arrangements and unflinching honesty. The first track, “False Alarms,” finds Johnson at the beginning of this process, trying to establish a new identity and a new relationship – failing some, but learning along the way. He catalogs the unbridled bursts of emotion familiar to anyone who’s started over – “Every single thing you said was the best I’d ever heard.” We follow Johnson through the ups and downs of this new life, carried along by horns and warm harmonies, as he realizes that the burden is ultimately on him – “Do the work to keep yourself open to other people’s magic” – to keep his sobriety and self-improvement moving forward.
Johnson starts to dip into his sexuality through the prism of perceived gender roles in “Woman In A Man’s Life.” The singer, who identifies as queer, feels that his emotional sensitivity is not shared by his (seemingly closeted) partner – “You say you wanna be my lover, but/I never see you try to be by my side.” “Nobody Knows” introduces another theme on the record – separation, with the intent of taking responsibility. At the outset of the song, Johnson is dependent on others – “Always thought I’d be a well-kept man.” “I Wish I Had” shows the singer beginning to flush that dependence – he’s ready to make the tough decisions: “I take the right way now, instead of the wrong way out/For the first time.”
Aside from the deep introspection, there’s a LOT happening on Every Feeling On A Loop. Strings, horns, multi-part harmonies and long instrumental breaks are all around the record. It’s not “breezy car ride” music. But it’s one of the quietest moments that sticks out. “Rise Up” is a gorgeous, seven-minute respite in the middle of the album – it’s almost an instrumental, save for simple verses sung by Johnson and a small chorus of voices, asking himself, his partner and, really, all of us to simply slow down for a moment – “Don’t hold back, really fall apart, and find the shape of the thing that you are.” It’s a break that feels earned in the midst of his path to finding his own new reality.
Every Feeling On A Loop was produced by Josiah Johnson, Peter Lalish and Matt Gervais, recorded by D. James Goodwin, Quinn McCarthy, Lalish, Gervais and Johnson, and mixed and mastered by Goodwin. Musicians on the album include Faustine Hudson (drums and shaker), Kaylee Cole (vocals), David Lizmi (electric bass, upright bass), Dan Brantigan (trumpet), Jen Borst-Dagdagan (vocals), Matt Goff (percussion), Emily Hope Price (cello), Aynsley Powell (drums, percussion), Peter Lalish (electric guitar, theremin), Renata Zeiguer (violin), Carleigh Aikins (vocals), Lindsay Giles (vocals), Joy Pearson (vocals), Olivier Manchon (violin, viola, saw), Rebecca Marie Miller (vocals), Michael Porter (trombone), Chelsea Coleman (vocals), Aviva le Fey (vocals) Matt Gervais (drums, percussion, synth, keys, electric guitar), Mikey Gervais (bass & group vocals), and Elizabeth Johnson (sweet loving wisdom).
Go here to purchase Every Feeling On A Loop: https://kingsroadmerch.com/anti-records/artist/?id=832&ffm=FFM_872c19bd3af952271b2ead72b7feb2fb