Benjamin “Bailie” Johnson is a talented upcoming Indie / Folk musician from Springfield Missouri who performs as ‘Superstar Runner’. At Song Revelation when we heard some of Superstar Runner’s music we were delighted to complete an interview with Benjamin. Read the full in-depth, candid feature interview where Benjamin discusses what he’s been working on for the last 12 months, what advice he would give to other Singer / Songwriters and what he’s hoping to achieve over the next 12 months.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
Sounds like: A kid, singing and screaming his lungs out – while standing on a street corner.
Q: What is your musical background?
A combination of choral music/church hymns, oldies (James Taylor, The Allman Brothers, Jackson Browne), Weird Al, Ben Folds, Jimmy Eat World, and Radiohead. I learned to play piano when I was 19. I learned to play the guitar (sort of) when I was 20, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was almost 22. I started writing around the end of my junior year of high school (17/18 years old). It was all crap, for the most part, and I don’t want anyone to read any of it, ever!
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
The last 12 months have honestly been amazing. (I try not to use that word lightly.) God has taken me all over the country. I have incredible friends, an incredible family, and a lot of people in my life who really believe in what I’m doing. I have met so many neat people, and heard and shared so many stories. I get to make music, I get to get an education, and I get to share my faith with others. I sort of view my life like living at an theme park – every day is an adventure, full of rides that go up and down; sometimes I start freaking out and then think, “Wait, I’m at an amusement park! I love amusement parks! What am I worrying about?” And when it’s a rainy day, life becomes a water-park.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Not to sound like a bible-thumper, but God is my biggest influence. Not many of my songs are actually about God or Jesus, but both are a center-point of my life. Bands that inspire me these days are Angels & Airwaves, Jimmy Eat World, A Day To Remember, and a lot of lesser-known bands like Radar vs. Wolf, Listener, and The Midwest Indies (Facebook them). Really, I’m inspired by music that makes me feel like I’m soaring.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
My answer is sort of similar to who inspires me, musically. These days, I really look up to Angels & Airwaves. Tom Delonge seems to have grasped on to a feeling of optimism that he just can’t let go of. He seems very, very dedicated to being an outstanding husband and father, and I greatly admire that. I honestly admire any artist who manages to be dedicated to his/her family while out on the road. Family (especially fatherhood) is extra important to me also, so it says something about their character. I also look up to artists like Martin Sexton, and Listener, who have a sort of “Do-it-yourself. Go-out-and-earn-’em,” mindset when it comes to fan base. Their music has a very “homemade” quality to it that would be extremely hard to reproduce. Listener (Dan Smith) has a way with words that makes every line worth quoting; like every line is as important as the one that came before.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
Haha. I could give you a list that goes on-and-on. Basically, if someone came along as said, “Hey Ben, we should tour together,” I’d be all for it. To name a small number, I’d really love to collaborate or gig with artists like Listener, Mewithoutyou, and SaulPaul. I am active with the suicide prevention organization, “To Write Love On Her Arms”. I would feel honored if I could do something musically for them.
Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?
Let me check… IPod: “Some Origins of Fire” by Angels & Airwaves (big surprise there) Laptop: “Anthem” by At The Onset IPhone: “Sunday” by Sonic Youth Van: “Fearless” by Taylor Swift (yes, the entire album).
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
I just write the song. It’s as simple as that. Usually, it starts with a melody on piano or guitar, and then words come. I often have to record myself with my phone, or write down the lyrics as I’m saying them, otherwise I won’t remember them.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Definitely lyrics. Though, if the right melody isn’t there, it can throw off the lyrics.
Q: Where are you based?
Currently (until May 18): Springfield, Missouri.
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Honestly, I’ve only lived in Missouri for about 7 years. (I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey.) I moved to Springfield, MO in August 2005, and it has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I made a lot of really close, really good friends very shortly after arriving. I’m positive that I wouldn’t have started Superstar Runner without moving here. Some of the most heartfelt compliments I can receive are when those who have known me for a long time tell me how much I’ve grown as an artist. My two best friends from Missouri State (Brett and Kyle) were living with me when I started working on Superstar Runner, and have seen it’s progression. The music scene here is pretty nice, and low-key also. We have some artists who are doing fairly well, but no one really sticks up their nose about it. From what I’ve assessed, the vibe goes, “Oh, you play music? That’s cool. I play music, too!” That’s a vibe I can dig it a lot.
Q: What are you currently working on?
Currently, I graduate from Missouri State in 3 weeks. Then I will tour around Missouri and back to NJ for a few weeks (including a stop for disaster relief in Indiana). I am preparing for a sort of youth-ministry internship back in NJ for the summer. At the end of August, I will hit the road again – the southeast, Florida, Midwest, CO, AZ. I haven’t decided exactly how long I’ll be traveling; it largely depends on the mission projects I get involved with. If I could find bandmates who want to come on the road full-time, I would love that. I have also sort of started working on another album – I don’t have a title for it, yet.
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
That’s sort of hard to say. I haven’t really played with many “big names”. When I was in high school, I actually got to beatbox on stage with Bobby McFerrin. Typically, the biggest highlights have been the interactions I’ve had with others who have heard me play. For example, teenagers who have written me after shows telling me how my music has helped keep them alive. One time when I was street performing, I had a homeless man come up to me and tell me, “you and your music are keeping me from going to get a bottle of alcohol, right now. [So, thank you.]” Those tend to be the biggest highlights for me.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in over the next 12 months?
Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. Maybe to have made a good list/network of contacts. Heh. It all sort of depends on what I’m doing with my life then. It would be exciting to have a full band traveling with me, and maybe to be working on the next album, but we’ll have to see. I sort of try to just take what life gives me and work with it.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
Be on the lookout for tour dates this Fall 2012.
Q: What do you do to relax?
I breathe. It’s that simple. There’s a bench on my front porch that I like to sit on a lot (I’m sitting on it as I type this), whether it’s a pleasant day or not. As people walk by I give a wave and say hello. Every morning I walk out on my house, and sit here, and breathe deeply and calmly. I pray, and think about my day ahead, and give thanks for simply being allowed to open my eyes again.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
Haha. That changes all the time. For the moment, I’ll say Wilmington, North Carolina. One time my van broke down in Wilmington, and what was supposed to take 3 hours to fix took 4.5 days. Wilmington is such a nice place though that it sort of wound up being a retreat center more than a prison. I got to hang out at the beach every day, and make some really cool friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I could handle going back there.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?
Just one piece? Haha. That’s hard. Songwriting: Just write the song, Man! Don’t worry about whether it “fits” with some format. Some of my songs, for example, use two chords, some use many more. It all depends on what my song needs as I’m writing it. Set list: Don’t worry about having 45 minutes of music. It is better to play a 3-5 song set (15-25 mins) and have people wanting more than to play 6-8 songs and have people thinking “I wish he would have stopped 3 songs ago”. Choose your best 3 to 5 songs, and work with those – don’t worry about “filler” material. General: Practice extreme Patience and Flexibility. Be willing and able and easy (as much as possible) when working with venues. Sometimes plans change, it is important to be able to work with it. Venues often take notice (they have with me) of those artists who are cooperative. One time I played a festival that was supposed to be a 20-25 minute set, and it wound up being shortened to 15 mins. I picked the 3 songs I “needed” the audience to hear, and worked with those.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
My favorite thing about life is that every second is different than the one that came before it. That means that as long as you are still alive, there is no reason to think, “I can’t start again”. As long as you are breathing, your life can be rebuilt, your life can be mended, and your life can start again. Right this second. You don’t have to wait until next year, or tomorrow, or even the next hour, you can start NOW.
Editor’s Note: Superstar Runner’s individual and understated tracks have many hidden depths and a commercial edge.
If you’d like to learn more about or get in touch with Superstar Runner just follow the links below:
Website: http:// www.superstarrunner.com