Canyon City
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Canyon City

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Album Review: Canyon City - Refuge EP"

The opening song of Canyon City’s debut EP is “Fix You,” a cover of the Coldplay hit. That might sound like a run of the mill place to begin an acoustic EP, but it immediately shows the grace and intimacy of Paul Johnson’s lyrics. He plays his guitar as if he genuinely, truly loves the music he makes. He delivers lyrics like he means them. Canyon City is going on my short list for full length albums to look for in the near future, but this EP is a treat in and of itself.

“Fix You” begins with a light and almost airy feeling on the guitar. The piano provides backing power for the track. I’m not sure, but it sounds as though the background vocals on the bridge later in the song sound like they might be Paul on multitrack. They sound lovely and when the soothing organ enters the track, listeners are invited to the total package of comforting music.
The second track “Blue” is so good, I Googled the first line to see if it was a cover, too. But it’s not. This is a fantastic original. It’s the kind of song that I truly love; it incorporates elements of gorgeous finger-picked acoustic guitar along with an authentically-delivered lyrical line. The way the song meshes together is really the mark of good songwriting. Canyon City reminds me of artists like Joshua Hyslop who have the ability to draw the listening audience right up onto the stage beside the singer. He is phenomenal.

“Be Still” is another similarly relaxed song. There’s an introspective element to this one. “I can tell you one thing; whenever someone loves you don’t look back, don’t worry, be still.” It’s romantic and definitely true. I really like how Canyon City is able to pierce through the noise to create something subtle and beautiful.
The title track “Refuge” ends the album much earlier than I am ready for. I know it’s an EP, but gosh could I use more of this talented artist. The crawling, crescendoing piano creates an ambient ethos for the song, which works perfectly with Paul’s voice. “There is a rescue in your arms…” It could be a spiritual song or a romantic one, but either way it’s definitely the audio picture of intimacy.

This is a gem of an album and one that will find its way into steady rotation for me. “Blue” is my favorite, but really all four are excellent compositions. I will be waiting with bated breath for the continuation of this talented young artist’s career; I simply can’t wait to hear him live. You should consider following allowing with this bright and budding career. - Ear to the Ground Music

"Record of the Week - Midnight Waves"

It is finally here! Canyon City has officially released his debut album. After listening to the first single "Between The Stars" a couple of weeks ago, I had written that, if it was anything like the rest of the album, it would quickly become a favorite. And it will. It is one of those albums I will repeatedly recommend in the next few months because there is something special about his music. Canyon City is guitarist and singer/songwriter Paul Johnson's indie-folk project. He recorded all his previous Canyon City releases in his living room. It does not get more independent than that! In his 3rd EP "Smoke & Ash" (a gem), I could feel a shift in his songwriting. The tone and the mood just felt deeper. Just after its release, I had the chance (privilege) to talk to him (interview here). Funnily enough, he actually had just started working on his debut album. He knew the direction he wanted to go with this record. It was very important for him to dive deeper in the story telling elements, building on the trajectory he had taken with his 3rd EP. And I can say now that "Smoke & Ash" EP was just a beautiful prelude to this album.

"Midnight Waves" is classic Canyon City with just a little something more. It is classic Canyon City because it has all the elements that made people fall in love with his music. The songs are acoustically-driven with some gorgeous fingerpicking (e.g. in his song "Firework"). The combination of the arrangements, the light production and his voice make any listen feel like a dream-like experience. And there is this little something more. The mood of the record is melancholic, romantic and pensive. You can feel that he is just in sync with his emotions. That makes his songs feel personal and even more relatable. His song "Ring", for instance, really moved me. It has, in my opinion, some of the best lyrics of the album*. And this is just an example. This album is full of those little moments (a note, a lyric) that will touch you and bring you back to a time in your own life. This is why I feel "Midnight Waves" is special. One of the most magical things about music is when you connect with someone's songs and their songs become part of your life and journey. This is one the many reasons why this record is a success.

It is almost impossible to choose a favorite track from "Midnight Waves". It keeps changing each time I listen to it. I am pretty sure you will have the same "problem" (if we can call this a problem). There are, of course, tracks that stand out (like "Ring" or "Time"). However, I find the ensemble so cohesive that I recommend to play the whole record on repeat to fully appreciate it. It reminded me of albums like "Leavetaking" by Peter Bradley Adams or "Where The Mountain Meets The Valley" by Joshua Hyslop (both great records by the way). Those 3 albums embody my definition of beautiful music. They are also records I could listen to all day long without ever growing tired of them. There is not much more I can write about this brilliant and solid first album. "Midnight Waves" hits home. The tone is just right. I know that, in a couple of years, after listening to it countless times, I will still manage to find something else to love about it. Honest, poetic, romantic, beautiful...take a moment, a deep breath and dive in. 5/5 in my book! - Sway & Breathe

"Special Interview : Canyon City"

Tell us how it all started. What had you first interested in music?

My parents were in a folk trio together when they were in college, so for my sister and I music was always very encouraged and accessible as we were growing up. We used to practice harmonizing together and once I could fit my hand around a guitar neck I started learning to play. I took lessons from the pastor at our local church in Fargo, North Dakota, through most of my childhood, then started playing in bands in middle & high school, eventually catching the songwriting bug around 15. Looking back I was incredibly lucky to inherit influences like Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Tom Petty & other great folk/rock artists from my family early on.

What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music?

This is something I think about a lot. I used to be very “impression based”, in that I wanted to make music that somehow brought people a moment of presence or communicated a valuable moral or idea. I guess I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was meaningful. The issue was you could hear the weight of that consciousness; listening back I could tell that I was saying what I thoughtCanyonCity was “good” to say instead of what I was really going though. It felt kind of surface level. A turning point was when I sincerely thought I was maybe working on my last “professional” record and just decided to just let go and play whatever I genuinely connected with and enjoyed creating. All of a sudden these stories started falling out, I started learning things I didn’t know before they came out as lyrics and saying what I otherwise couldn’t. In that I re-discovered why I loved this in the first place.

For me spirituality plays a very central roll, and just finding and recognizing the beauty in honest, imperfect life reminds me that the cracks are part of the art, of both the song and the person. Then when other people can hear that and say “me too”, if feels like there’s somewhat of a healing in that. Basically these days I just set out to enjoy the creative process itself, and try to let the rest be a side-effect.

What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?

I would love to tour more. Right now I spend a lot of time in my studio and I really love that part of it, but it’s an incredible feeling when it all connects with people in a live environment and you’re all just in that moment together. Basically if I can spend half the year making stuff in my studio, and the other half traveling around playing it for people I’d be a pretty happy dude. As far as a “made it” moment, playing the Ryman here in Nashville would do the trick.

Success, what is the secret to it?

Living and working from a place of joy rather than obligation. I think that’s easy to hit or miss regardless of what you do for a living.

What has been your biggest career highlight so far?

I think Canyon City as a whole has been so far. I’ve played music in a lot of different forms for a lot of different reasons, but Canyon City was something I started in mid-2015 just as an outlet for the music I love to make. I had to do something outside of industry pressures just for the simple joy it. I didn’t really know if it’d make it very far out of my living room, or really need it to for it to feel like a success. That this albeit imperfect, yet very honest stuff has gone out and resonated with some people is hugely rewarding.

Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring?

Man, so many. I love great writing, Jason Isbell, The Avett Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and I also am hugely inspired by guys like The Tallest Man on Earth who just set up shop in their own studio and make great records. Taylor Swift is pretty catchy too - The Aussie Word

"Daily Discovery : Canyon City, "Blue""

HOMETOWN: Fargo, North Dakota

CURRENT LOCATION: Nashville, Tennessee

AMBITIONS: Have the presence of heart to make music that reflects the beauty of life, creates community & shortens the emotional distance between the head and the heart.

TURN-OFFS: When the apartment smells for days after making garlic bread.

TURN-ONS: Making garlic bread.

DREAM GIG: Play SNL, preferably when Will Ferrell is hosting.

FAVORITE LYRIC: “All these psychics and these doctors, they’re all right and they’re all wrong, it’s like trying to make out every word when they should simply hum along, it’s not some message written in the dark or some truth that no one sees, it’s a little bit of everything.”

SONG I WISH I WROTE: “Sailboat” by Ben Rector

5 PEOPLE I’D MOST LIKE TO HAVE DINNER WITH: Neil Young, Taylor Swift, Elon Musk, Stephen Colbert, and Justin Vernon.

MY FAVORITE CONCERT EXPERIENCE: The Bridge School Benefit show with my Dad in Mountain View, California, hosted by Neil Young and filled with acoustic sets from artists all over the genre spectrum. - American Songwriter

"Canyon City - Smoke & Ash"

I had the chance to talk to Paul (aka Canyon City) about this music project (check out the interview here). As we discussed the music he's released as Canyon City so far, we both agreed that this EP feels like a turning point for him. In 'Smoke & Ash', he dives deeper in the elements of storytelling than he ever did before. The 3 songs blend perfectly together. He has found his sound. While it's over too soon (if you like it, his former 2 EPs are amazing too!), this release is very promising. The upcoming album, if it's anything like this, will be incredible.

Personal favourite: Smoke & Ash - Sway & Breathe


Flicker a Light EP - July 2015

Refuge EP - September 2015

I'll Be Home for Christmas (Single) - 2016

Smoke & Ash EP - February 2016

Firework (Single) - July 2016

Midnight Waves (Debut LP) - Sep 2016



Canyon City is the music of Nashville indie/folk writer & producer Paul Johnson. Paying homage to musical roots in folk along with modern indie influences, Canyon City is an immersive sound of virtuoso fingerpicking, airy harmony & minimalism in the context of conversational storytelling.  A contemporary return to pure songwriting.

On the heals of a successful set of EPs, the debut full-length record, Midnight Waves, released 9.9.16 worldwide. Since the full-length release Canyon City maintains between 200,000 & 300,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone & has been featured in numerous editor playlists, including Apple Music's "Breaking Singer/Songwriter" & "Acoustic Chill", & Spotify's "Fresh Finds: Six Strings" & "Acoustic Covers", among others.

"...the ability to draw the listening audience right up on stage beside the singer.  He is phenomenal." -Ear to the Ground Music

Band Members