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Johnny Gillespie: “Find a way to make you happy”

My idea is simple: find a way to make you happy. It could be by giving to others, helping others achieve their goals and dreams, or just being part of something. Change the collective consciousness from thinking in terms of negativity and shift it to being at one with everyone and everything. There is not […]

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My idea is simple: find a way to make you happy. It could be by giving to others, helping others achieve their goals and dreams, or just being part of something. Change the collective consciousness from thinking in terms of negativity and shift it to being at one with everyone and everything. There is not a limited supply there is an unlimited supply for everyone.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Johnny Gillespie.

Johnny Gillespie is a California native whose music seamlessly blends the lines between alternative pop, country, and rock. He draws inspiration from all genres and from influences such as Sublime’s Bradley Nowell and Marshal Mathers. Gillespie strives to maintain a sense of uniqueness in everything he creates. “I don’t want to sound like anyone other than me,” says Gillespie. Throughout the span of his career, Gillespie has worked with Ronnie King (Gillespie’s mentor) a record producer known for his work with legends like Tupac and Mariah Carey. Gillespie has also worked with Casey Sullivan (from Seedless) and collaborated with producer Bradley Denniston (G-Eazy, Gotye). After rediscovering himself and his mission in music when he became sober, Gillespie decided to make art that reflected the inspiration he needed in his darkest days. The singer dealt with health issues as a child and found music as a way of connecting with people. His music maintains a sense of uplifting motivation through lyrics and sound. “If life ain’t fair get a new perspective,” sings Gillespie in his single “Day by Day.”


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Orange CA, as a sick kid always stuck inside due to asthma. I remember always wanting to play with kids and go outside and participate in outdoor activities but couldn’t because of Asthma. However, I did find music to be my saving grace. I remember spending hours listening to Sublime and Eminem and practicing those songs till I could sing and rap exactly like them. It wasn’t till later I realized by singing it had built up my lungs and eventually outgrew my asthma.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I recall not really having a voice in life, I was a shy kid growing up but when I sang — to my surprise — people would listen to me. I thought I was on to something and continued on this path for almost 15 years. It was as if I found my calling.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I remember breaking up with my first band, Back To Square One, and starting my journey as Johnny G when I was about 20 years old. I started to tour with Mickey Avalon and about 2 years later found myself in the Psych Ward and in Rehab for Bipolar disorder and Drug addiction. I couldn’t hang with the party scene. I thought my world was ending. So I started my journey on the path to recovery and going to school for sound engineering, Music Business, and now working on my MBA. I thought I’d never get back into music but the Universe has a bigger plan.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I love it when you think you have made it but come to find out it was just the beginning of the journey. I was in my band Back to Square One getting signed to a sub label of ADA Warner when I was 19 and thinking to myself “this is it! We’re here boys!”….. Come to find out the band got shelved.

The lesson I learned was to read the fine print in a contract and that just because you have money backing you doesn’t mean you’re going to make it as an artist. You have to let the music speak for itself. I’ve learned so many lessons but the best one is if you force anything it usually doesn’t work.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’ve literally spent the last 2 years making over 50 songs. I got the opportunity to mix and master 30 plus of those tracks and am starting to release music that is dear to my heart. I got my first solo album as Johnny Gillespie coming out this year in October, Co- Produced by my teacher Jin Wooh from recording school. As well as a few tracks that were Mixed and Mastered from Radium Media.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I can’t say I know much about diversity when it comes to film and television because I don’t watch T.V., but I could tell you why it’s important in music. Reason number one is because everyone one influences each other and it could potentially be a good influence or bad one. I feel like what we as artists sing about can affect our future children and how they communicate with others. Music can uplift someone or justify why it’s okay to be mad or sad. To me, being diverse means to be unique and being unique means being true to who you are, beliefs and all. Stand strong and proud of who you are and how far you’ve come and make a difference by simply being you. Never be afraid to be you. Best lesson I’ve learned. There are people that will not embrace your uniqueness and that’s okay because there are people out there that will and that is why it’s important to keep the faith.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Stay the course, what you believe, you will achieve
  2. Life ain’t easy but it is what you make it to be
  3. Be true to you, build confidence in your artistry
  4. Do it for you, do it because it makes you happy
  5. Don’t be afraid to make Mistakes because all it is is a Mis-take. Try again — Persevere
  6. The Bonus- be thankful for what gifts and talents you have

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Some days you’re gonna be great and some days you’re gonna be off. No matter what, stay focused and practice. Giving up too soon could make you miss out on the best that is yet to come. If you love what you do, find time for it. Even if it doesn’t pay you monetarily, the reason you should do anything is because it brings you joy and happiness. That’s the ultimate goal. To be happy.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My idea is simple: find a way to make you happy. It could be by giving to others, helping others achieve their goals and dreams, or just being part of something. Change the collective consciousness from thinking in terms of negativity and shift it to being at one with everyone and everything. There is not a limited supply there is an unlimited supply for everyone.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have a few mentors that I’d like to thank that helped me along the way. First and foremost, my higher power for giving me strength and courage when I needed it the most.

A.A.

Ronnie King for being there for me and showing me the ropes of finding the music from within. Not just showing me to be anyone other than me.

Jin Wooh for challenging me to be better at my craft and being a great music mentor.

Bradley Denniston at Radium for pushing me to make my dream a reality

Dawn at Pressed PR for going above and beyond her duties on PR.

John and Miki Ford for helping guide me and directing me to pursue my dreams again and being there for me in my darkest hours. Standing by me no matter what.

Jeremy Hannah from Sullen Clothing for putting clothes on my back since I was 18 and when I couldn’t afford them.

My Barber Rick at the Barberhood for keeping me looking fresh and inspired

My Wife Cait for being my back bone and the voice of reason when I need help. Thank you for always believing in me and loving me for who I am.

My Father for introducing me to music when I was little and helping fund the experience along the way.

I have too many stories for all these people who have helped me along the way but I believe if you surround yourself with the right people magical things can happen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When I was 5 my mother always told me happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life” — John Lennon

In my life dealing with Bipolar or Asthma I found that no matter what cards I dealt with, my goal should always be to do what makes me happy. So that I can live life to its fullest and not feel sorry for myself.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Eminem because I wanna know his secret to writing. I wanna know his madness and method to his Artistry.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow me on IG: @johnnygmusic

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