Remember that kid in high school? Not the one who made fun of your no-name sneakers, but the one who was always nice to everyone. Both athletics and academics always seemed to be effortless for him. His Ferris Bueller like charm would get him out of serious trouble with a wink and a smile. And when his name came up in conversation, your girlfriend’s eyes would get that dreamy far away look they used to get when she looked at you. Man you hated that kid, but mostly because he wasn’t you.
Maybe that’s why Wade Johnston hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves from the ukulele blogosphere – it just looks so damn easy for him! But this is no fly-by-night strummer clicking record and crapping out covers. His multi-track videos are more fun and better produced than most of the stuff put out by corporation backed professionals, and his original songs display a disarmingly mature sense of harmony, structure and inventive playfulness.
Donnie Bubbles: What was it that brought you to the ukulele, and what keeps you playing it?
Wade Johnston: The summer before I moved to college, my dad informed me that I wasn't allowed to take his guitar with me to school, (yeah, I wasn't happy about it, haha) so I decided to shop for one of my own. As I was searching for one on craigslist, I found a guy who had a nice Takamine and he happened to have an Ovation Applause Soprano Uke as well. I've always been interested in learning new instruments, so I bought it for about $50 bucks. I started learning it and quickly fell in love with it's playability and unique sound. In just a few months, it's become my go-to instrument when I'm bored at school because it just sits on my desk...begging to be played. :)
DB: YouTube has been very, very good for you. Your participation in the UkeTube Live event put you onstage with “name-brand” acts, and online in front of an audience of more people than most of us will even meet in a lifetime. Could you have imagined this level of success just a year ago when you joined up?
WJ: Never in my wildest dreams--it still doesn't even seem real to me. I was a little embarrassed to start posting videos, and I actually didn't tell any of my friends until after I passed the 100 mark of subscribers. As you can see from my "Julia Nunes, I Love You" video, when I realized she acknowledge my presence, I freaked. As I'm sure you can imagine, when I found out I was going to San Francisco, I nearly died.
DB: I have talked to several young musicians who scoff at the new media route for aspiring artists. Can you see any legitimate long term downside to self publishing and self marketing for this generation of performers? Could these dangers possibly outweigh the benefits?
WJ: The only problem that I've ever encountered with that is in the songwriting process. As a song writer, it's easy to grow tired of a song and change it up, months after you thought it was previously finished. Sometimes I'm apprehensive to post videos of originals, because if I change it in the studio, perhaps the fans won't like the professional version as much as the low-key video version. But overall, I think YouTube is a fantastic way to market yourself as an artist, and the benefits easily outweigh the dangers. It gives me a tangible medium to critique myself both as a singer/songwriter and a performer, and attract a worldwide fan base in the process. An besides, where else can you have unlimited takes at performing live for millions of people? :)
DB: You have been less than shy about announcing your love and respect for Julia Nunes. When is she going to come to her senses and just marry you already? She has to admit, Julia Johnston does roll off the tongue quite easily….
WJ: Julia and I plan to get married in the spring of next year...and all of YouTube is invited! (hahaha) But really, Julia was a fantastic person to meet, and she was better than I could have ever dreamt her to be. She's everything she is on YouTube--and then some. I was truly privileged to have met, performed and become friends with her--it's a fairytale story worth telling to my grandkids when I'm 90 years old.
DB: Your very good (even if it is light on ukulele) EP has just been released. What other projects do you have in store for us this year?
WJ: Well, next on my to-do list is to get a full length album out. God knows how long that will take--I've got a full plate with school, performing, and other endeavors. I'd also love to put together some tour dates across the country, but I'll have to leave that to luck (and YouTube). In the mean time, I'll just keep posting videos, I guess! :)