Morgan Johnston is one of my favorite up-and-coming artists in Nashville, but she maintains a healthy perspective on a career in the music industry. I consider it a treat every time I see Morgan performing in Music City, because Johnston has been on Undiscovered Nashville’s radar since 2019. So, I was excited to talk with the Massachusetts native about her life, music, and Nashville experience. Please keep reading to learn more about Morgan Johnston
From Sandwich to Nashville
Morgan Johnston grew up in a small town on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and that small-town life is still a part of her. However, after visiting Nashville, she was hooked. Johnston said, “I am originally from a town called Sandwich in Massachusetts. I grew up on a small farm about ten minutes from the beach. People are always making jokes about us having the Sandwich police.”
Morgan’s love for music was sparked when she was young, but interestingly her parents were not musical. The singer/songwriter continued, “My parents were both dog trainers. My dad was heavily into the entertainment industry with all animals. He was also a professional jouster. I would travel around with them, singing the national anthem, making me want to sing more and write songs. So, I began performing in my hometown. But, while I loved singing, I didn’t see how I could do it for a living. So, in the beginning, I sang as a hobby.”
Nashville without Morgan Johnston seems unthinkable, but it was almost a reality. Johnston said, “I went to college to train horses on a scholarship, but I dropped out of college after I visited Nashville. While visiting, I played Whiskey Jam and got the idea of how this industry worked. That experience lit a fire inside of me. I came to Nashville on a visit in August 2016 and moved here in November 2016.”
How has Nashville Changed?
The music industry landscape is constantly changing, and you must adapt or be left behind. But, while some things change, others stay the same. Johnston said, “When I first moved to Nashville, there was a core of things you learn: be good to people, network, be the best you can at your craft, and be authentic. Those things haven’t changed.”
So what has changed? Social Media has become an essential part of an artist’s career. So much is numbers-driven now. The singer/songwriter said, “When I first moved to town, it was more of a boots-on-the-ground adventure. It felt important to be in Nashville and to play shows in town. It seemed more talent-driven when I got to town. However, today, independent artists have more power due to social media like Tik Tok, which has skyrocketed people to success. Navigating social media is tricky. Deciding what to share and how much to share is a challenge. I expected things to be difficult and knew it would be a huge commitment. But, I always wanted to be involved in the business side of my career.”
Morgan Johnston on Songwriting
Songwriting, in the beginning, for so many, is an outlet for their feelings. Morgan said it was “probably heartache’ that caused her to write songs. While I had always considered Morgan Johnston a sad song queen, that may not be the best way to describe the singer/songwriter. Johnston said, “People say I am a sad song queen, and it’s true, but I also love a fun, witty song. I enjoy making people feel things through my music. I would write and play songs on my bedroom walls. But, to make people feel something they couldn’t say themselves is amazing. Music is a powerful way of escaping.”
The majority of songwriters have not ever co-written before moving to Nashville. Johnston said, “My first co-write in Nashville was with Noah Needleman, my project’s producer, whom I met through Brett Young. He gave me a lot of pointers, so this first co-write was good. I had only written by myself before moving to town, and I somewhat hated co-writing the first few times. It wasn’t easy for me to say what I wanted and allow someone else their creative space. Now, I don’t want to go back to writing alone.”
The Most Rewarding and Challenging Parts of a Music Career
A career as an independent artist is full of rewards and challenges. Johnston shared her thoughts, “The most rewarding part of all this is reactions from people. For example, I wrote a song called “Heaven Knows” about a man who was like my second father, who I lost last October. I played the song at a show recently. Someone approached me, held my hand, and said, “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that song.” They had just lost their father. Sometimes we walk around as strangers, but music pulls down our walls. Human connection is important to me, so that feeling will never get old.”
The singer/songwriter also discussed the most challenging aspect of her music career. Johnston said, “The hardest part is separating my job from who I am. I recognize that those things are intertwined, but I’ve had to learn I may never write a hit song or hear my music on the radio, but I am still a worthy, good person. That may sound silly, but you can get wrapped up in this career. There are more important things if life to be happy about. When I am struggling, I always get thrown a bone when I need it.”
Morgan Johnston Release “The End”
Morgan Johnston released “The End” on May 20th, 2022. Johnston co-wrote the song with Lydia Dall and Chase McDaniel. Johnston said, “This is the first love song I have released. We talked about that feeling when you meet someone, and you think they could be the one. But, there is a reality and nervousness that this could be the end of dating and heartbreak.”
“The End” puts a clever twist on a love song, providing a fresh take on what finding the one means. The lyrics are relatable yet hopeful. The mid-tempo groove gets you bobbing your head and snapping along. If you have not listened to the song, go to Apple Music and Spotify to check it out. “The End” is the first single off an EP to be released later this year. Johnston’s next single, “After Me,” will come out on July 1st. So please be looking for that one. In the meantime, Johnston has some great music on all streaming platforms.
Morgan Johnston is an undeniable talent, but in my experience, also an incredible person. Undiscovered Nashville is excited to hear Morgan’s upcoming releases; we believe the sky is the limit for Johnston. Morgan is definitely on the rise. So be sure to catch Johnston performing if she comes to your town and tell her Undiscovered Nashville sent you.