STUDIO DIARY: Behind The Scenes Of James Johnston's New Single, 'Small Town'

19 November 2021 | 12:32 pm | Staff Writer

To celebrate his new single, 'Small Town', dropping today, Aussie singer-songwriter James Johnston gives us an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at its creation and his process.

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“Find people that share the same passion as you do and grow together.”

That line was told to me once by a hit songwriter in Nashville and the recording day for Small Town was exactly that, the culmination of a friendship through a shared passion for music that has seen three mates grow together over the past few years.

The man behind the lens is my co-writer and good friend Nolan Wynn, he and I met around five years ago and have since penned over 40 songs together. We both started off a little clueless when it came to writing but we shared one thing in common, an absolute desire to chase that feeling of creating a song and a lyric that just makes you feel something.


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I first met Gav, when he reached out to me a few years back asking if I would like to track vocals on some unreleased songs he had penned. Being a little cash strapped at the time the opportunity to make a little money for singing some songs sounded right up my alley. Little did I know that this first interaction would kick of a great friendship. Gav is the Senior Lecturer at QUT! He has a huge amount of experience and knowledge but at his core, just like Nolan and I, he just has a passion for creating great music. When tracking vocals, I always feel it’s important to find someone that you feel totally at home with, as well as someone that really knows how to get the best out of you. Gav is that man for me!


I feel incredibly lucky that I get to be on this journey of making music with my family. It’s always so important that they are there, if that is side of stage at a festival or in the studio, I love just knowing my greatest supporters (my son, Koda, and my wife, Talia) are there with me. Here Gav is imparting a bit of his knowledge to an eager set of eyes and ears. I foresee a little producer in the near future.


People talk about getting in the zone before a big performance, well that’s how I feel in the studio. I want to lose myself, forgetting I am in a studio and just sing as if I’m on a big stage with 1000s of people watching. I feel it with every inch of my body and normally by the end of the tracking day I am exhausted.


This moment is when we know we captured it! That take that you say tools down let’s go have a beer and celebrate! This is that moment!


So, over the years of recording together, we have found a bit of a pattern. It goes like this: Spend hours recording verse by verse, chorus by chorus, analysing every little detail. Spend a further few hours comping all of those vocal takes together until we are both really happy. When we say we are done I say let me have one more full run-through, no holding back! Nine times out of 10 this whole take is pretty much what makes it on the record. There is some magic in just letting go and singing like it’s my last chance to give it my all! This image captured that moment and what you hear on the Small Town recording today is that take!