There isn’t much to do right now for country musician Johnny McGuire besides sitting out by his fire pit or playing his recently unearthed Xbox. However, when he’s sitting by the fire pit, he’s usually writing new music. The Nashville-based “I Can’t Even” singer is quarantined like the rest of the country and is sharing a home base with his girlfriend and roommate, who both happen to be songwriters! McGuire phoned Music Choice recently to talk about how his current arrangement has affected his creativity and how he’s working on reaching new fans, even if he can’t leave his home. We also chatted about his early years as a musician, his love of Legos, and how he hits high notes when doing karaoke.
Read on and get to know Johnny McGuire!
Music Choice: You’re calling up from Nashville. What’s your daily life there like now?
Johnny McGuire: Pacing the house a bit. I got a cool firepit in the backyard so been writing music out there. I even pulled out my old Xbox 360 to play some college football. Haven’t done that in forever.
MC: You mentioned writing by the fire pit. Do you feel what you’ve been writing has been different? In the content or maybe more emotionally charged?
JM: The funny thing is I think I’m more inclined to write a happy song because of all of this. You get that cabin fever being stuck inside all day so when I get outside, I know it’s the best part of my day. We wrote a song yesterday where the premise was “we should do this wrong before we do it right.” To take advantage of being young.
MC: Who is the “we” you’re writing with?
JM: My girlfriend is a songwriter and she’s quarantined with me and my roommate, who is also a songwriter. It’s convenient because we can still work. So, you’re always writing and different people bring different influences. I’m an optimist so that’s my vibe.
MC: What type of things related to your career are you missing out on right now?
JM: Well I released “I Can’t Even” at the end of March and we just have no idea how radio will respond. I like to think there is hope for it. I know people are still listening to music, but I can’t lie to you, I’m anxious about it.
MC: So doing an Instagram live show is that the kind of thing you’ll be doing to make sure as many people can hear this song or any of your music?
JM: I think it’s great to be real with people and show them your life. Like, I just got an air fryer maybe I’ll get on there and air fry up a twinkie! But social interaction is going to be key. I hope to play more request type stuff and newer songs people haven’t heard. It’s a scary time. I want to make people feel optimistic and keep themselves safe.
MC: How did your first Instagram live session go?
JM: My Internet is not great at home, so everything froze as we started. Luckily my girlfriend had it up on her phone, so we were able to switch over. All the comments were saying “you’re frozen!” Got it started back up and we made it through. The next time I do it I want to get on the phone or computer after and just hang out with people.
MC: Being able to interact with any human is so huge right now. It’s especially cool to be able to chat with a musician you like.
JM: That type of stuff does turn fans into loyal ones. I respond in comments as much as I can. Even if it’s just saying “thank you.” Fans are the real secret to this freaking game. It’s important to be able to look them in the eyes right now. Maybe there will be a day when I have too many fans and can’t respond to everyone. That’d be a good problem to have.
MC: Speaking of not having many fans, tell me about the first show you played.
JM: When I was seven, I got to open for this honky-tonk band in Branson, Missouri. I played some John Prine songs and I guess they were surprised. I wanted to keep playing from that moment on. Played battle of the bands type things through high school then drank for four years in college and realized I wanted to be a musician.
MC: What was the first song you wrote?
JM: When I was 10, I had been playing the guitar for five years already. I would write these little half songs and my dad told me if I wrote a full one, he’d take me out to get Legos. I wrote one, a Christian song called “My Side.” He was very surprised and had to stop using that bribe after buying several Lego sets.
MC: Now might be the time to get back into Legos.
JM: Give me a box on a rainy day and I’ll be just fine.
MC: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
JM: “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. That falsetto! I’ve had a couple of drinks before and my friends told me I sang the harmony on the song.
MC: Do you need to be in that state to sing that song?
JM: I think probably so.
MC: You’re probably not worried about your voice then!
JM: Some Rumple Minze and you’re good to go. That sounds like a rough night!