Canyon City is the artistic moniker of Nashville-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Paul Johnson. By blending sparkling indie folk and rich pop hooks with lyrics that shoot straight to the heart, he creates a timeless brand of music that, although low-key and soothing, packs a poignant, emotionally powerful punch.
Johnson excels in penning tracks that are both genuine and heartwarming, and his sophomore album Constellation, released on October 6, overflows with the vivid songwriting and brilliant melodies that have come to define his career under his new moniker. "I really try to approach songwriting as an exercise of inspiration and faith that there's something out there to be uncovered, which for me means that some days I go on a hike, grab coffee with a friend or listen through my favorite records as an active part of the 'work,'" he told Musical Notes Global. "There's definitely a time to sit down and just pluck away at the instrument too, but ultimately I'm trying to get to that place where the pretense is shed off and I can give way to resigned honesty. Ideally I see strengthening that connection to the honest moment as the job, and the songs as the side-effect."
Constellation continues Johnson's transition from creating music for TV shows and movie trailers to creating music for himself, allowing him to share his own unique musical identity with listeners. As on his debut album Midnight Waves, he acted as both writer and producer, as well as sole performer, on its follow up, and constructed all 10 of its tracks in his home studio. And it's an album that's loaded with meaning. "Constellation snapshots a few different pictures to me," he said, "one being the expansion and deepening of the Canyon City sound, and the other being kind of an emotional documentation of this season of life. I tried to be really candid in the storytelling while also testing the edges of the instrumentation that supports the warmth and authenticity at the core of the music. It's also a frame of life experience - home in the midst of uncertainty, seeing where you want to go but unsure of where you are, and gratitude for all the beauty and heartbreak along the way." Indeed, the album is a reassuring breath of fresh air that encourages us to find peace in both what was and what is yet to come. "I guess in a nutshell if the first record, Midnight Waves, was the sendoff, Constellation is seeing the starting point get smaller behind you and the horizon wider ahead, and the excitement and vulnerabilities of that."
The album's title isn't just a title but a metaphor that is carried throughout the work. It's a metaphor that's laced between a bigger message: ..."in hindsight I think it was a search for beauty in the chaos, that sometimes it’s the chaos itself that becomes a venue for the beauty. I think there’s a lot of wrestling with the 'just outside of reach' in this album too. That’s where a lot of the constellation metaphor comes in - finding peace where you are but with the intention of staying in motion, and faith that it’s all going somewhere, connects in some way that may have as much to do with your interpretation as it does with the tangible."
This week, Johnson released the music video for Constellation's opening track "Our Way." The song glows with his signature vocal and lyrical warmth while the video follows the story of a real-life family from Little Compton, Rhode Island and showcases the joys that can be found in day-to-day life. It challenges the idea of home as a physical place and demonstrates that home can be anywhere that the feeling of comfort and belonging exists.
Tomorrow Canyon City wraps up a series of shows with a set in Los Angeles at the Hotel Cafe. Look out for more dates to come in 2018.
Constellation is now available to stream and download on digital music platforms. In light of recent tragedies and disasters, Johnson has been donating 10% of his October album sales and streaming income to the Red Cross.
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