Jaren Johnston talks about the challenges of getting played on country radio, how he writes songs for specific artists, and the time he met Meat Loaf in an elevator as Chris Shiflett’s guest on Walking the Floor. The Cadillac Three singer-guitarist wrote a few songs with Shiflett prior to taping the podcast and he jokes that the Foo Fighters guitarist witnessed the basic secrets of Nashville songwriting firsthand. “I could see your mind going, ‘So, this is what these assholes do,'” Johnston laughs.
In a remarkable bit of behind-the-song technique, Johnston dissects his Number One hit for Tim McGraw “Southern Girl” with Shiflett. He illustrates how certain lines are written to grab a male listener’s attention, while others are used to pull in his girlfriend.
Johnston also touches on the Cadillac Three’s growing involvement in social issues. In June, he and his bandmates— lap-steel player Kelby Ray and drummer Neil Mason — pledged one week’s proceeds from the group’s online merch sales to the NAACP. Johnston says they lost some fans for speaking out; he personally lost 400 followers online.
“For people getting upset with something I say, it’s my opinion, man. If you don’t like the fact that we’re gonna give proceeds to NAACP for this week’s merch sales, don’t buy a shirt. Do I really need that asshole at my show anyways if we get to play again?” he says. “We make music to try to give people a release and a let-go from the world’s problems. I’m not sitting here trying to be Rage Against the Machine. I don’t think I could do that if I wanted to. I’m not well informed. I just know what I feel. And times feel really fucked up right now.”
The Cadillac Three released a heavier, “fuzzier” version of their song “Hard Out Here for a Country Boy” last week, which originally appeared as a collaboration with Travis Tritt and Chris Janson on the trio’s latest album Country Fuzz. In August, they launched their new livestream series, Country Fuzz Presents, with a portion of the proceeds raising money for Nashville’s Second Harvest Food Bank.