First Avenue: What is your musical history? Is this the kind of music that you grew up with?
Johnny Solomon: I grew up outside outside Kansas City so most of the music I grew up to was what I could get on the radio out there. Mostly it was an oldies station so I spent my childhood listening to the Beach Boys, Paul Simon and Johnny Cash. I never really got past that. Brian Wilson’s songs connected with that weird kid in Missouri…
FA: Your name is borrowed from a Neutral Milk Hotel song–what has your reaction been to the rumors of a new double-album? Positive? Nervous?
JS: If the Beach Boys were my childhood, Neutral Milk Hotel was my 20’s, I’m interested to see how it affects me now. I wonder if I’ll hear the same things in his music as I did a few years ago. Either way, I don’t really try to put that stuff on a songwriter. If its good, that’s great, if it doesn’t hit me the same, that’s not really on him.
FA: During Neutral Milk Hotel’s 2014 reunion tour you played in the Entry during night one of their two-night stop in Minneapolis. What did that mean to you? Were you able to catch their show the other night?
JS: I saw the show that night actually, I set it up so we ended up starting after they finished because of the staggered Entry/Mainroom shows. It was my secret plan to get us all in to the sold out show and it worked perfectly. Surprisingly it was hard to hear it, it was perfectly done, and so it brought me right back to those nights staying up listening to that record over and over.
FA: Paste Magazine says your new album is “mixed with the quiet resolve of someone determined not to lose himself again,” and in other interviews it does seem like you’re resolved towards recovery. I realize this is a big question, but what does recovery mean to you?
JS: Recovery is a lifestyle, whether you can rack up a lot of time clean or you relapse, its just a way of living, (I try to live by some rules, about 12 of them… I get help from some people who do the same). It just becomes a way of living that helps me get through each day going against my nature of being a drug addict. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my earlier life. Now its just a matter of trying to be a good person so I can be happy. Along with that, I struggle with mental health things that make it harder to tour, I think I chose an uphill battle to be a musician and be the way I am but its been alright with the help of Molly, the band, and some people that understand how it is.
Blog by Emily Hoar