Interview with fast-rising pop/rock singer-songwriter Johnna Day

Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective. As I told ‘The Tennessean’ in 2008, “since moving to Nashville twenty-five years ago, I have met people whose lives do not remotely reflect the caricature of what many outside our city presume to be a ‘Nashvillian’ or the Nashville experience.” “Underground Nashville” thus explores the soul of the city, not its surface—offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew


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Interview with fast-rising pop/rock singer/songwriter Johnna Day

by Dave Carew

On February 24, I kindly and graciously gave myself a great birthday present: I attended the MTSU Showcase at the Bluebird Café. I had been invited by my friend Ryan Hayden, an MTSU student and singer/songwriter, who had been asked to perform original songs “in-the-round” that night at the world-famous club. Performing with Ryan was fellow MTSU student and singer/songwriter Johnna Day. Ryan and Johnna were selected by MTSU to appear at the Bluebird after each had submitted songs deemed of particularly outstanding quality.

Over the years, I’ve attended scores of writers-in-the-round events, but none as memorable as this one. Listening to Johnna and Ryan, I was reminded of the famous Dave Marsh quote from the ‘70s, which went something like: “I’ve seen the future of rock & roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” While Johnna or Ryan may never flat-out revolutionize pop/rock or country music, I have absolutely no doubt each will make a significant mark. They’re simply too talented and driven for it not to come to that.

After the showcase, Underground Nashville requested interviews from both Johnna Day and Ryan Hayden. The interview with Johnna immediately follows; the one with Ryan will appear soon.

NASHVILLE: How would you describe your music? Which artists have been your primary influences?

JOHNNA DAY: My music is very versatile. It tends to touch country-pop sometimes, but mainly stays in the area of rock and pop. Lately, rock has been my main source of songwriting. Jewel is an artist I have always admired. She has been an inspiration for me to write, ever since I was a little girl. Her lyrics capture your imagination, and the musicality and gentle angelic timbre of her voice is enrapturing. Muse is a band I’ve recently been influenced by, because of their hint of 80s-rock-style. Matthew Bellamy has such great talent and style. It really is amazing, especially if you see him in concert!

UN: What is your musical vision?

JD: My musical vision is very ambitious. I come from a small town in Owensboro, Kentucky. I worked at a grocery store there for four years in high school, and as I neared my graduation many people asked me what my plans were for college. When I would respond that I was going to Nashville to become a Songwriting major, I wasn’t taken too seriously. Yeah, this might have hurt my feelings, but more than anything, it lifted my spirits and made me encourage myself to prove them all wrong.

UN: If your musical dreams were to unfold perfectly over the next five to ten years, what would happen?

JD: I would be ecstatic. My plans are to create as many albums as possible, with various styles of music on them. I don’t like to stick to a particular “sound” or “genre.” If your music sounds good as a rocker AND an acoustic-style singer, then go for it. I have a background in composing classically. I hope to write more of a variety of music as I grow in my career and learn from the pros surrounding me.

UN: What is your ultimate “dream” for your music? How do you hope it will affect people?

JD: I would like people to know that my music has an overall uplifting message to convey to everyone. In one of my songs I recently wrote here at school, I talk about how I need “something to hold” because everything seems to be slipping away or is already too far away to grasp. With my music and this song in particular, I just want people to realize they aren’t the only ones who feel alone. We can connect with each other during the low times of our lives as well as the high. Just last night, I was reminded by my friend Raymond of The Beatles’ motto that it’s important to “get by with a little help from our friends.”

Johnna Day will release her debut EP Breakfree on April 13, 2010. For more information and to hear Johnna’s music, visit

David M. (Dave) Carew is editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance publicist and copywriter.

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