Video Premiere: Nicholas Johnson “Middle of Nowhere, Ohio”

Nicholas Johnson takes us on a visually charming, animated tour of Ohio in his latest single.  The video, created by Katie Ann Marks is colourful and brilliantly put together but Johnsons’ words are a stark contrast, a darker story of places forgotten and hopeless: “Tall, green grass // In the concrete cracks // In the faded, white lines // Of the parking lot // Lord it went down // When the jobs left town // And the bones of the building // They left to rot // Ghosts of the past // Busted glass // In the homes and the places // That we forgot.”  It’s a powerful and authentic narrative and that need to escape feels very real.  Musically, the songs features an absorbing shuffling rhythm and it all bursts into life at the chorus.  The sound is full, a great platform for Patrick Himes’ guitar solo to ring out.  Over it all, Johnson supplies a vocal performance that is full of heart and character.  There’s definitely a little something of Springsteen and Petty in the sound and impact.

Johnson told AUK about the song: “‘Middle of Nowhere, Ohio’ is a song about desperation and restlessness in the heart of a crumbling America. It was born from the daily drive by the sad visuals of acres and acres of vacant factory buildings and parking lots – and the economic, social, and psychological impact left in the wake of all these huge manufacturers leaving rust belt communities. I entrusted the supremely talented Ohio Artist Katie Ann Marks to create a unique visual to a story that’s being told over and over again in the Midwest (and the rest of the country).”

This absorbing song is the first single from the forthcoming ‘Shady Pines Vol. 2’ and an example of Nicholas Johnson’s excellent songcraft.  The record is a follow-up to ‘Shady Pines Vol. 1’, which was released back in 2017; it was a project that was always planned to come in two parts and he recorded with producer Patrick Himes once again.  Kentucky-born and now based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Johnson’s journey to this point has been an interesting one.  He explains: “I got kicked out of Italy in the early fall of 2016. Seriously. For context, I had an opportunity to move to Milan earlier in the year. Sold the car, the house, put most of my things in storage, packed up the dogs and moved into a tiny apartment in the center of the city. I loved it.  However, there were huge errors with the filing of my visa – so on my birthday I was getting ready to fly to Munich for Oktoberfest and I got the call, ‘Happy Birthday, you can’t go to Germany for Oktoberfest and you need to leave the country immediately while this is being resolved.’ I was told it could take anywhere from three weeks to three months.  As I mentioned, the house and car were sold. I had to rent a car and crash at my friends – I split time between couches and spare rooms in Dayton and Louisville. I had these songs I wrote that were just hanging out that I played for friends and they really dug them. They were the ones who referred me to Patrick and his studio in Dayton – Reel Love Studios. Come to find out he had worked with Ethan Johns and was the engineer on one of my favorite albums, Ryan Adams’ classic ‘Heartbreaker’. Patrick had moved out of Nashville and started his own studio dedicated to recording and producing Ohio music. It was a match made in heaven. I loved working with him, but it was brief because by the time we got to work in the studio it was nearly time for me to go back to Italy. We knocked out five songs in a couple days [which would become 2017’s Shady Pines Vol. 1]. After that, I really wanted to come back and work with him again. Volume 2 was that opportunity.”

‘Vol. 1’ came quickly, recorded in just a few days.  However, Johnson and Himes took their time over this second part.  Johnson notes: “The beginnings of ‘Volume 2’ started all the way back in 2018 – flying back from Italy to Dayton to work with Patrick. So we’ve had quite a bit of time to refine things and take our time crafting the sound and style.  It genre hops a bit but it’s essentially Americana with an edge: peppered with rock and a little punk.”  

Look out for the new album on 3rd March 2023.  This is quality Americana and roots rock and well worth checking out.  Enjoy.


About Andrew Frolish 1437 Articles
From up north but now hiding in rural Suffolk. An insomniac music-lover. Love discovering new music to get lost in - country, singer-songwriters, Americana, rock...whatever. Currently enjoying Nils Lofgren, Ferris & Sylvester, Tommy Prine, Jarrod Dickenson, William Prince, Frank Turner, Our Man in the Field...
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