“I love songs that make you feel something viscerally,” says Johanna Samuels, the LA-based songwriter who releases brand new EP ‘Have A Good One’ this Spring on Basin Rock (Julie Byrne, Nadia Reid, Jim Ghedi), and it’s a sentiment that echoes right through the heart of the five stirring songs that make up her latest work.
Born in New York City and named after Dylan’s Vision of Johanna, Samuels subsequently moved to LA and grew up on the classic songwriters of yesteryear (Young, Petty, Morrison) before finding her way to Elliott Smith and Jon Brion, both of whom had a huge impact on her writing. Samuels then spent the best part of a decade honing her craft, carefully peeling away the layers until she found herself here; a stark, absorbing, and, yes, visceral new collection that is her strongest and most honest work to-date.
Finding a way to balance bright pop melodies with a drifting sense of melancholy that can’t be placed, Samuels made the most of a bad year, writing the EP as a reaction to her longterm relationship falling apart. “So much of the record is about loss of love – really the loss of myself,” she explains. “I really lost a grasp on who I was and it truly broke me. Exploring the idea of identity in relationship was important to me. The songs also come out of me figuring out how to exist within a new-found strength instead of grasping for love or the idea of it.”
More than just skin-and-bone, the songs here are comprised of lap steel, clarinet, Juno analog synthesisers, and more, and this rich instrumentation provides a swaying and elegant back-drop which helps bring Samuel’s stories beautifully to life. Recorded with musical partner, and upcoming producer, Sean O’Brien (who helped engineer The National’s Sleep Well Beast LP) the new EP was created in his studio, which became something of a haven for Samuels.
First single is a country-like balladry ‘Rush Of Wheels’, written quickly in the dead hours of night, it presents a poignant quest for answers, aching under the weight of its emotional turmoil; sad and oh so beautiful.
Accompanying ‘Rush Of Wheels’ is a video that Samuel’s made with best friend (and Sundance Grand Jury prizewinner) Anu Valia. Inspired by the hour at which the song was written, the stunning film was shot with just the two of them, alone on a beach at sunrise, before the rest of the world had woken up. A stunning counterpart to the song itself, the film is a testament to art and music as a shared experience; to friendship and growth; to this special new chapter in the life and times of Johanna Samuels.