“It’s like every day is different, every day is so spontaneous and you’re always going to see something new,” Johnnie Mikel says of being in Los Angeles. The rising pop artist who speaks with a subtle Southern twang and a slight city accent, recently left Nashville for a quick trip to the West Coast to promote his new EP, Night of Your Life.
The lead single off the album, “Come With Me,” has already been a huge milestone for the young singer/songwriter. All before the age of 21, Johnnie has seen his song hit the top 40 charts and has had the opportunity to work with some of pop music’s top wordsmiths.
Now, the small town boy with big city dreams has set his sights on Los Angeles. Over the phone, he tells AXS about his hopes to keep evolving as a musician and the idea of where the future might take him.
AXS: Let’s start from the beginning. Tell me a little bit about what growing up was like for you?
Johnnie Mikel: Originally, I’m from a small town in Kentucky. I love the South, I loved growing up there. I’m really close to my family and I think that it gave me a really good foundation. When I was 11, I moved to New York and that was such a culture shock. I was exposed to so much creativity; art and food and fashion and all that stuff. That’s when I got into music. I had been writing my whole life, just writing poems and stories and stuff like that as a kid. When I got to New York, shortly after that, I picked up a guitar for the first time and that’s when I started writing songs.
AXS: Let’s jump into your new EP, Night of Your Life. I want to hear about what went into making that?
JM: I did all of it in L.A. I came out here last year and I knew that I wanted to make this project, so we set up some meetings with different producers and writers and I just quickly got the vibe of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do this super high-energy, pop, dance, kind of EP. I worked with a lot of amazing people on it, like Damon Sharpe, who is a producer for people like Ariana Grande and Pitbull, and other incredible songwriters. Lindy Robbins wrote two of the tracks with me. She did ‘Want To Want Me’ by Jason Derulo and ‘Skyscraper’ by Demi Lovato. So, it was such an honor getting to work with people like that on the project. I’m proud of the way it turned out. It’s a fun EP, and it’s also personal to me. I was super involved with the creative process and writing it as well.
AXS: What makes the single ‘Come With Me’ so special?
JM: That’s one of my favorite tracks on the whole thing. It’s definitely the most ‘dance-y’ out of all of them, so I wanted to put it out first. I think that it’s just universal. It’s got such a good vibe to it; a go out and have fun kind of vibe. It’s kind of representative of what the whole project is about.
AXS: How was it making the video?
JM: The video was surreal; like a dream come true. We actually shot it in Nashville and it was really, really cool. I met with the director, who I’ve known for a while, and we just kind of vibed on a bunch of ideas. I really wanted something that was super fashion-forward, kind of edgy, and had this universal vibe to it. So, we created this really interesting club scene. I was involved with the overall concept of it; the whole dream sequence and the Polaroid pictures, all of that was a lot of fun. It’s something that I am really, really proud of.
AXS: So, how would you describe your music to people who are just getting to know you?
JM: I think with my music, there’s something for everybody. It’s definitely got an upbeat, positive, pop vibe to it. Something that is really important to me is including everyone and just putting out a positive message with everything. I think that’s what separates me from most other pop guys out there right now. The message that I want to spread is about kindness, being really inclusive and encouraging people to be themselves. That’s what I think it’s all about.
AXS: Could you see yourself pushing the boundaries, maybe blending more genres together?
JM: Yeah, that’s something that I’m so inspired by. I like where the industry is at right now and how artists are experimenting with so many sounds. One of my favorite records in recent years is Kesha’s album that came out last year. I think it’s so cool how she did that not really country, but Americana-vibe, mixed with the pop stuff. I definitely want to play around with that, come up with some pop stuff that’s organic and add some more instruments in. I think what’s so great about the industry right now is that there are no rules to creativity at all.
AXS: So, if you could pick any artist from any other genre to collaborate with, who would it be?
JM: Any other genre? That’s interesting. You know, I really love Cardi B right now. I’m definitely not in the rap and hip hop world but I think that she’s on fire right now and she’s hilarious, so I’d love to do a track with her at some point.
You can hear more from Johnnie Mikel next month, when he releases his next single, “Friday Night.” He also shared with AXS that a tour is in the works. “That’s actually my favorite part of the process,” Johnnie says. “I love songwriting and singing in the studio, but I’m dying to get back on the road.”