Mixing his indie-folk roots with pop hooks and sparse, airy production, Nashville-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Paul Johnson shoots for the stars with Constellation, his second LP as Canyon City. The album, released October 6, 2017, is now available on all digital platforms including Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Google Play. Johnson donated 10% of his October album sales and streaming income to the Red Cross, in light of recent tragedies and disasters.
The record arrives one year after Canyon City's debut, Midnight Waves, a viral hit whose soft-spoken songwriting has racked up a substantial Spotify audience. Currently, with tracks from both albums, Canyon City has an audience of over 1.1 million monthly Spotify listeners and nearly 30 million streams. Tracks from Constellation were recently added to major Spotify playlists including "Autumn Acoustic" and "Fresh Folk." The streaming service also created "This Is: Canyon City," a playlist specifically for the artist with his most popular tunes.
Just as he did on that career-launching record, Johnson wrote, performed and produced Constellation himself, working alone in his home studio. You can hear that sense of intimacy throughout the album's ten songs, whose lyrics spin stories of love, struggle, and personal journeys. Rooted in the quiet strum of Johnson's acoustic guitar and the hushed croon of his voice, Constellation shines bright during moments like "Midnight Flight" — a quiet anthem about seizing the moment, while fully acknowledging the moment is fleeting — and "Find You," a warm, woozy travel song. It's a personal album whose tracks were created in isolation, but Constellation still speaks to something universal, creating the soundtrack for a generation of lovers and listeners who are looking not only to find their partners, but to find themselves, as well.
Appropriately, it is Canyon City — Johnson's most individualized project to date — that gave its creator the chance to find his true musical identity. Years earlier, Johnson found himself focusing on a different sound, creating music for TV shows, movie trailers and other multimedia opportunities. He was good at it, too, landing songs in the preview for the Gerard Butler film "The Family Man" as well as the Hallmark program Chesapeake Shores. Even so, Johnson wasn't happy. He wasn't writing music for himself, after all, and he was letting the promise of a paycheck get in the way of pure, honest art. Things changed once he began funneling his profits into his home studio, creating a place where he could spend his days and evenings working on music that moved him. "Canyon City is the project I quit my old job to pursue," he explains, "and coincidentally, it's the project that wound up opening so many doors for me. It's allowed me to do what I want to do."
It's fitting, then, that the name of Johnson's one-man band conjures up a hidden town nestled between surrounding mountains. There, with no one else in sight, a person can feel free to pursue their own passions and interests. Canyon City is a safe haven, in other words, and it suits Johnson both sonically and personally. NPR agrees, adding Canyon City to The Austin 100 in 2017, their popular annual list of 100 must-see acts during SXSW. “Paul Johnson’s warm, bright folk-pop songs feel like letters from a friend,” the outlet wrote.
Constellation offers up timeless, classic music for a modern world. It's 21st century folk music, lightly layered with piano, keyboards, waves of ringing reverb, and the occasional percussion groove. At the heart of every song is a message, a mellow melody, and the voice of a singer/songwriter who knows how to pack a punch without breaking a sweat. Like the star patterns that give the album its name, Constellation traces the shape of something impressive: a career that's on the rise, one minimalist song at a time.