James Johnston, a singer-songwriter from Wingham, NSW/Biripi country, released his debut single, ‘Raised Like That’, in July; it has gone over to become the fastest-streamed single by an Australian country music artist ever, and has now amassed over 5 million streams. It was an impressive and extraordinary start that also raised the stakes for his second single, ‘Small Town’.
Says Johnston of the song, ‘I wrote “Small Town” on the drive back home to my hometown of Wingham. I had been spending quite some time in the city and I was just so excited to get back to my family farm. I wanted to capture that feeling of excitement and anticipation in the song – that build-up as I was on that drive to get back home.
The song is about the freedom of open spaces and also appreciating what you have – ‘I think so often when you grow up in a small town you think there is something so much bigger and better out there. Only until you step away you realise the magic of a small town and a close community,’ says Johnston. But while the title of the song may contain the adjective ‘small’ it is clear that Johnston’s sound, and presence in the track, are anything but. While Johnston may be an artist with only two singles released, his sound is stadium sized. His voice is strong and commanding – the sort that seems to belong on a big stage – while also feeling like it warmly encompasses the listener. That kind of sound always comes from the intention of the artist to connect with their audience, and Johnston has certainly perfected the art of making a listener feel like he’s singing direct to them. No doubt part of that comes from the personal nature of the song; a bigger part of it can be ascribed to his talent and his skill in using it. So now the stakes get higher again … but it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Johnston will be able to rise to the occasion each time.