When James Johnston released his debut single, ‘RAISED LIKE THAT’ two years ago, he never could have anticipated the whirlwind that followed. Six #1 airplay hits, 54.5 million global streams and two Golden Guitars later, James is easily Australia’s most exciting Country Music artist. This week the song that started it all has just been certified ARIA platinum.
But there’s more.
The bloke who grew up near the small town of Wingham in New South Wales, and sings of country life with an authenticity that makes a drover cry, a farmer sigh, a young jackaroo spin, a country girl smile and city folk wistful, will this Friday make Australian music history.
His album RAISED LIKE THAT (The Album) releases on Friday and will be Australia’s largest debut Country album ever, a body of work featuring 20 extraordinary tracks and a heartfelt celebration of country living. His sound is modern and unique with driving guitars, pounding drums and his gravelly vocal centre stage. He works his boots off.
The stunning debut contains moments that revel in joy and nostalgia, yet dares to dwell on the real hardship and adversity that faces so many people living in the country and on the land.
There’s anthems that will fill dancefloors and raise hands in the air, and quiet stories of empowerment, hardship and love that will bring tears to knowing eyes. His words are lived-in and he sings with incredible heart because he was raised like that and he did grow up there.
What’s more, James is a helluva live performer, having spent the past two years touring and performing on stages from Mount Isa to Melbourne, and all stops in between; he’s as at home in a studio as he is on the back of a semi-trailer in Deniliquin (where he happens to be this weekend).
“I wanted to share songs about the good but also the often less talked about side of country life. When it’s all said and done, I hope this album makes you feel proud of where you call home,” said James. “Music has forever been the way I can express myself in the most honest way possible,” admits the singer-songwriter. “I’ve always loved albums that allow the listener to truly get to know an artist. RAISED LIKE THAT, is that for me.”
James called on his mates and longtime collaborators to realise his epic vision for RAISED LIKE THAT. Nashville-based hit-maker, Justin Wantz, racks up production credits on a mammoth 17 tracks, alongside Australia’s Gavin Carfoot and Liam Quinn, while Ilya Toshinskiy steps in to produce the rousing, ‘WE GREW UP ON’.
While nine of the debut’s tracks were penned by Johnston alone, he shares songwriting duties with the other 11with long-time collaborator, Nolan Wynn, producers Michael DeLorenzis and Michael Paynter and fellow artists Kaylee Bell, Jared Porter, Melanie Dyer, and Zac and George, among others. The empowering, ‘A COUNTRY GIRL CAN’, even credits Johnston’s wife, Taliarose Johnston.
Songs like ‘I STILL CALL IT HOME’ and ‘GOOD TO BE BACK’ celebrate small town values, while the more intimate, ‘THIS LAND IS KILLING ME’ highlights the trials and tribulations of life on the land. Songs like ‘GOT IT GOOD’ and ‘SEEING YOU SOON’ (featuring James’ eldest son, Koda) allow listeners to have a more personal look into James’ life, in which he shares the love and admiration he has for his wife and two boys but also the struggles of being away on the road.
Life on the road has been rigorous for Johnston, having just completed a national tour with Australian heavyweight, Morgan Evans. The star has appeared at countless festivals – CMC Rocks, Berry’s Big Country, Gympie Music Muster, Meatstock, Tamworth Country Music Festival – you name it! He’s soon slated to light up stages at the rowdy, Deni Ute Muster and Far North QLDs, Savannah in The Round.
Since releasing his debut single, Johnston has amassed a jaw-dropping 54.5 million global streams. Not only that, but his six #1 airplay hits have earned him a run of 110 consecutive weeks in the Top 20 of the Country Hot 50 National airplay chart. He’s been nominated for a QMA Award, an APRA Music Award and was a 2023 Rolling Stone Australia Award nominee for Best New Talent. But all his hard work was rewarded in January when he received two Golden Guitar Awards – New Talent of The Year and Vocal Collaboration of the Year.