Keith Johns
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Keith Johns

Miami, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Miami, Florida, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Americana

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"Tuesday Tunes: Keith Johns"

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~ Charles Dickens

On a beautiful Tuesday like today, our ears are looking for something comforting sprinkled with the profundity of genuine skill. Something light, carried by the distant pangs of raw emotion. This is why our heart was filled by the soothing sounds of charming Miami-local, Keith Johns and his band of merry gentlemen.

Acoustic and swirling, like a bouncing sailboat on a windy day, Johns has one of those rare qualities that your soul befriends instantly. Something we don’t see or hear much of in the booming, bass-filled music scene of the city. Take a listen to a live recording of “Trust” and then try and find one of his tracks that you aren’t completely smitten with. We dare you. - Arts & Entertainment District


"Keith Johns -- These Words Are True"

Keith Johns is a singer-songwriter from Miami.

The category of “guy with a guitar sings earnest songs about love” is a pretty crowded one, but Johns’ playing and lyrics are good enough that the music stands out on its own.

His debut EP, Maps & Plans, came out last year. You can preview and download it here for the low cost of one email address.

His first full-length record will be called Grateful Fool. It’s due out this fall. - The Monday Morning Tape


"Song of the Day: The Fall by Keith Johns"

Another submission, another excellent single! They just keep rolling in. This one’s from a group called Keith Johns (after the lead singer-songwriter), based in Miami.They released their first EP just last year, called Maps and Plans, and “The Fall” is the first single off of their upcoming debut, Grateful Fool. What’s interesting about Keith Johns is that they are able to record all of their music at home, and the video for “The Fall” was shot in the living room. But the coolest thing (at least in my nerdy mind) is that the frontman/namesake has a degree in physics. I didn’t mention this in my last post, but Brian DellaValle (Of the Valley) has a PhD in neuroscience. What a world, where the brightest minds are also bringing us the best new music! Listen to “The Fall” if you like: upbeat folk/Americana, early Mumford & Sons (minus the banjo), and/or following your dreams. Cheers! - The Suburban Hipster


"Former Physicist Keith Johns Hopes to Start a Folk Revolution in Miami"

If, perhaps on Family Feud one day, you find yourself face to face with the category "Former jobs of folk musicians," you might yell at Steve Harvey things like English teacher, health food store cashier, or, most likely the number one answer, pot dealer.

But Keith Johns, a former physicist, would prove you wrong. "If there's math rock, there could be physics folk," the 27-year-old Palmetto High and University of Miami grad jokes. But you don't need any sort of understanding of algebra to understand his lyrics, which often linger on topics like love and life without a reference to Einstein or Isaac Newton in sight. "I dropped working in science because the ivory tower distance got to me. I wanted to do something more human than stare at numbers [on] a page."

For two years after earning his physics degree, Johns worked at a carbon-dating lab with a machine the size of an entire room. At the time, he thought of music as just a hobby, whether he was playing piano at his parents house or strumming the guitar he picked up in college. But he started hanging around with two friends who encouraged him to make music a full-time thing. "Adam Robl and Shawn Sutta started Audiocastle Studios at the same time. They really encouraged me to go for it," Johns says. "I ended up living at their studio for a while. Thanks to technology, we could do things on our own, and we could approach recording slowly. We could be more artistic about things and not worry about having to pay for studio time."

Johns' second album, which he's scheduled to release in October, is called Grateful Fool. Its sound, he said, was influenced by Gregory Alan Isakov and Josh Garrels, and if you've never heard of either of those two, don't sweat it. "It sounds like I just said random names nobody knows," Johns admits. "But that's what is kind of cool about labels not having their hands on who you listen to any more. You can find your own niche music to listen to. Both guys build each song up. I really respect their processes. What they do is masterful."

Though he never intended for the album to have a theme, Johns said he noticed one popping up as he finished. "There's that ominous wheel of death that reminds you of the magnificence that you get to choose how you're going to live," Johns says, the physicist in him clearly giving way to the folk singer. One of those lifestyle choices, in his mind, is to live responsibly. And so he will donate all proceeds from sales of the album Grateful Fool directly to the poverty fighting charity, the Hunger Project.

Before that, though, he will celebrate the release of the album's first single "We're Alive" with a September 10 show at Lagniappe House, where he will be joined by Robl on guitar, Sutta on keyboard, drummer Matt Davis, and bassist Taylor Byrd. "It will be the first time we play the song live as a band. I'm going to try to get some horns out there to have a marching-band feel. It's a celebratory song about how even a single blade of grass is amazing. It's joyous."

The joy will continue October 21 at the Wynwood Yard, where Johns is going to organize a folk festival to help celebrate his album's release. "The Americana scene — the folk scene — is growing so much in Miami the last two years. We're going to have five or six bands play, and then my band is going to play the full album live, front to back."

With the album and the festival on the horizon, it seems like Johns really was able to drop science cold turkey. But were there any residual effects of going from the world of logic to the world of creativity? Does he wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty and out of breath, to write down equations? "I still try to link those two parts of me together," he admits. "It's like two people that don't know each other living together." - Miami New Times


"Keith Johns Delivers Soothing, Introspective Album 'Grateful Fool' [Premiere]"

Miami-raised folk artist Keith Johns may be a newcomer to the industry, but his music is already starting to show the polish of a veteran. His debut artist album Grateful Fool will be released next Friday on Oct. 21 and we have the full premiere for you here a week before the official release.

The 12-track LP explores the daily struggles that people can go through with love and life, but also the good times that come with along with it.

It is a pretty cohesive effort all the way through, balancing some more upbeat songs like "Songbird" and "We're Alive!" with folkier, subdued selections like "Isn't It Grand" or the album finale "Two Trees."

Grateful Fool comes from a place in Johns' life that was in flux where he shifted from one medium to the other.

"Grateful Fool serves as a loose reflection on my past few years since switching career paths from scientist to musician. After a physics degree and two years working at a laboratory, I shifted dramatically and entered this new world without the slightest clue what I was doing," explains Johns to Music Times.

Despite that scary step, he still pushed on and has recorded some excellent new music.

"And yet, despite my ignorance and clumsy first steps, potential roadblocks vanished before my eyes and, over and over, allies and opportunities emerged to assist me of their own accord. It feels like I started to roll a small snowball down a hill, and now it's picked up enough size and steam that I'm no longer fully in control of it," he continues.

"Maybe I never was. Over all, the experience has left me with a feeling of deep gratitude for being accepted as the fool I am and for what is and has already been such an incredible journey. There are other themes that bounce around the album, namely the illusion of control and the human struggle to accept one's own mortality, but gratitude is the most prevalent thread that runs through the work."

Stream the full album below before it is released next Friday, Oct. 21. Head to his website for upcoming tour dates. - Music Times


"Keith Johns Celebrates Album Release at Wynwood Yard's Miami Folk Party Tonight"

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Keith Johns played on a temporary stage under the Brickell Metrorail station as his audience — face-painted children, adults, and costumed dogs — swayed along to his breezy, lazy-afternoon cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”

Midway through the set, Miami’s schizophrenic weather took a turn from a sunny, bright blue sky to a drizzle, as a cloud rained directly on Johns’ parade. Rather than running to the nearest bar for shelter, or hopping on the rail to rush back home, his audience, fussy babies and all, moved their lawn chairs a few feet under the nearest tree and continued to sing along.

It was a small gesture, but to Johns this was an indication of something bigger stirring in the city. This is the level of interest and engagement that Keith Johns has been anxious to foster in the Miami music scene, and as a folk musician, he feels an even greater responsibility to use his music to advance useful causes within the community.

“In this day and age we're going so quickly,” he reflects. “People's attention spans are shortened and we're also more distant, and I think this feeling of community is up there with, maybe not food and water, but it's this natural need that's ingrained in humans ‘cause we're social, and we're losing that. I think that we need that.”

Johns kept these sentiments in mind when it came time to plan for the release of his first full-length album Grateful Fool, and linked up with Prism Music Group to organize Miami Folk, a mini folk festival taking place at the Wynwood Yard, featuring performances by Raffa Jo Harris, Shira Lee, Richard Korn, Uncle SCotchy, and Robson. Johns will close out the night by performing Grateful Fool in its entirety with a full band and orchestration.

“Music is so important to developing and establishing a culture and a community in a city,” says Pola Bunster of Prism Music Group. “Music is so powerful in our city, especially since so many cultures that are calling Miami home are very closely tied to music. As more spaces like the Wynwood Yard open up, that community is becoming more and more inspired to stay here, to create here, to grow here, to expand here. These artists that are playing there on Friday — people like Keith Johns — these are people who depend on the city that they live in to know their music, and if there aren't opportunities like Miami Folk in the city, then these artists [will] go to another city where there are opportunities.”

Michael Stock, host of WLRN’s Folk & Acoustic Music, on 91.3 FM every Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., has been spotlighting local folk artists on his radio show since the late '80s. His office, crowned by a poster of his idol and recent Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, is a veritable folk music warehouse, with folk CDs and vinyl records stacked from floor to ceiling and running the gamut from Celtic, to bluegrass, to Jewish folk music. A stack of local artists’ CDs sits adjacent to his desk, waiting to be mined for treasures.

Over the years Stock's show has become a valuable platform for local and regional folk acts to showcase their music and give insight into the creative process behind the songs. Initially playing albums in their entirety, a format change encouraged Stock to begin hosting artist interviews during the broadcast.

“[WLRN] dropped a lot of our music programming, and we became an all-talk NPR station. I figured I'd better start talking,” he laughs. “So that's when I really went heavy duty and started inviting people for interviews on my show. That became a very important part of my show where, not only do I help out promoting the artists and giving them radio exposure, but I was very interested in promoting their local shows and promoting their albums. That's become a big focus of my show.” Additionally, Stock also uploads videos of local artists’ in studio performances to YouTube.

This past Sunday one of Stock’s guests was Keith Johns. He played songs off of Grateful Fool live on air in promotion of the Miami Folk festival and album release, and announced that all proceeds of his album will go to The Hunger Project, an organization with the goal of ending world hunger.

"Once we started talking about doing some kind of festival we thought, if you can get a good community atmosphere going, then another thing with folk music is humanitarian efforts and volunteering,” says Johns. In addition to his album's support of the Hunger Project, Miami Folk will host informational booths from organizations like HOPE and Debris Free Oceans.

“[Songwriting] is trying to add a service to the world. And you can be in sticky territory. As a musician, I can get a little bit depressed because I'm not out there saving lives. But you have to believe that you're on some kind of front lines.”

Echoing the title of his album he adds, “If you feel grateful, you should try to find a way to instill that feeling in someone else. Try to give it back.” - Miami New Times


Discography

Maps & Plans - EP (2014)

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Bio

           Miami, Florida-based folk artist Keith Johns wasn’t always a folk artist. All throughout his formative years, science and music had raged an internal war for first place of his attention. After earning a degree in Applied Physics and taking a job running particle accelerators at a carbon-dating laboratory, it seemed that the former had won out and his charming folk songwriting was destined to be only a dear hobby, occasionally performed for friends around a living room.

            And yet, the music persisted, and the universe contrived to change things. In a chance meeting through mutual friends, Keith met Shawn Sutta and Adam Robl who together make Audiocastle, an emerging recording studio in Miami. They eventually got around to talking music and Keith performed a few of his songs, and in that moment, the tides of battle turned.

            In April 2014, after a year of working at the lab by day, recording in the studio by night, shows on the weekend and very little sleep, 'Maps & Plans', Keith's debut EP, was completed. With the support of his friends and family, the money saved from his days as a lab technician and 'Maps & Plans' in his hand, Keith quit his day job and took the leap as a full-on musician, hoping he would land softly.

            And, to his joyous surprise, he has. 'Maps & Plans', released as a free download on Noisetrade.com, became featured on the site’s front page and went on to be one of the top ten downloads in the country, as well as being featured on various national music sharing sites.

            The year following the release of the debut EP was one of playing shows and gaining allies all around the country, and has left him with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It was with this feeling in mind that he wrote a new full album of songs, entitling it 'Grateful Fool', and together they headed back into the studio. ‘Grateful Fool’ is set to be released coming Fall 2016.

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