Like so many famous musicians from his home state (Chuck Berry, Sheryl Crow, Eminem, Sara Evens, and Nelly to name a few) Johnny Collier, began performing at a very early age at Church and community gatherings in the small town of Holcomb, Missouri where he grew up. In his teens, Johnny toured the local honky-tonks with a popular 3 piece country band and although he wasn’t yet old enough to get in, club owners made an exception because Johnny’s voice and talent were packing the dance floors!
At 19, Johnny took his guitar and his talent East towards Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There, he was offered a position with the Hank Williams, JR. band as the frontman while Hank recouped from touring. Then, forming his own band with musicians such as Roger Clark, Drummer from The Steve Miller Band and The Grateful Dead, Johnny started to write and record his own material. He found himself working with some of country music greats such as T. Graham Brown, Mark Herndon, Daryl Singletary, Marty Raybon, Stella Parton, Terri Gibbs, and Two Time Musician of the Year-Kirk Johnson as well as doing sessions at the well known Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL.
Johnny’s first album, “Take You To The Country”, recorded on the Jasmine Records label, earned him a spot on the Worldwide Top 100 Singles chart at #33 with “Honey for Hire”. Another single from that album, “Love Let Her”, earned Johnny an Artist of the Year title by remaining in the Top 5 for 28 consecutive weeks.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Johnny for a little one-on-one about his career and his latest album “Love Me For Who I Am”.
So tell us about Johnny Collier…Who you are and where do you get your inspiration.
(He laughs) I don’t do that well… I usually leave that up to my wife. I’m just a country boy who loves country music. I like performing and I don’t think there’s anything better than when someone whose been listening to me all night comes up, shakes my hand and tells me that they really enjoyed that. That’s inspiring. That makes me want to get up on that stage the next night and do it again!
You’ve got one of the busiest calendars we’ve seen! What’s it like on the road?
It’s a lot of work! (he chuckles) But it’s also really fulfilling. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I hope I’m still playing and singing when I’m old and grey! I love traveling and sharing my music with people all across the country. And they seem to like it too!
Who is your audience? Who are you writing songs for?
That’s one of the best things about what I do… my music seems to hit everybody right at home. I am blessed that the people who come to hear me are of all ages and from all walks of life. I get cattle ranchers and farmworkers in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s at my shows and they’ll be sitting right next to Corporate Executives, Doctors and Lawyers. And I’m writing songs for all of them. Lyrics like “It’s where my first taste of heaven lead me astray… I learned a lot about life, in this ol’ driveway”… that applies to everyone!
You get so much sound out of your guitar. Where did you learn to play?
I was taught by the best (he laughs). Where I grew up, we’d have “Dances” on a Saturday night or a Sunday after church. Everyone would bring something to eat, or something to drink and the men would sit around in a circle pickin’. The better pickers sat near the center… that was your goal! They saw that I was interested and that I had talent and so they’d let me play a bit. When I was 11, my Grandma bought me a guitar and I brought it with me everywhere there was music. One of the men would say “you know a ‘C’ chord?” and if I didn’t, he would show me. And as long as I had that chord down at the next dance, someone would show me another. Now, I kind of play lead and rhythm at the same time… It’s kind of my trademark and it’s how I’m able to get so much from my music.
You had a serious scare that everyone thought would end your career. What happened?
Yeah, I did. In April of 2018, I got sick. We thought I had a bad case of the flu. My wife took me to the emergency room and the short version is that they found I had suffered a Cerebral Aneurysm and Subarachnoid Hemorrhage with Bleed – basically a ruptured brain aneurysm. And it was about the worst-case scenario. The aneurysm was about 4 times the average size and pretty much unreachable by normal surgery methods. The aneurysm also caused a stroke. I spent almost 4 weeks in the Neurosurgical ICU at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama where they performed 3 brain surgeries using a microcatheter through the groin… Coiling, then carotid angioplasty and then they installed a metal sleeve blocking the rupture site. I was very, very lucky and received the most amazing care. The doctors and specialists told us that most don’t survive, especial when it’s this severe. My wife says that the good Lord saved me because he has something in store for me. She says she can hardly wait to find out what it is.
You are an independent artist preferring to do things your way. How do you get it all done and what’s next for you?
Well, I have a great team. My wife, Dallas, handles a lot of the business end of things… marketing, promotions, booking, management. That frees me up to focus on the creative side of things… my music, the band, the show. We also have some amazing resources and support back home that we couldn’t do this without. My good friend, Billy Lawson, owner of Wishbone Studio’s in Muscle Shoals, has been hugely instrumental in finishing my album, “Love Me For Who I Am”. And as far as what’s next… We plan to sell some records and continue playing for anyone who wants to listen!
To learn more about Johnny Collier and his music, visit his website at www.JohnnyCollier.com.