They say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This seems to be the maxim, recording artist Johnta Austin has been following for years. Born and bred in Atlanta, Georgia, Johnta has a long history in the music industry, stemming back to the mid-90s when the R&B singer signed to RCA Records at the tender age of 13. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was cut short a year later when he was dropped from the label, being replaced by another up-and-coming young singer from Watts, L.A. â Tyrese Gibson.
While one door was shut for the teenage singer, another opened for the young writer. Johnta turned his penchant for words into a career that has spanned over a decade of hits â his first coincidentally being the 1998 top 10 hit “Sweet Lady,” sung by Gibson. Since, Johnta has penned songs for some the biggest entertainers in the industry, scoring two Grammy awards for songs with Mariah Carey (“We Belong Together”) and Mary J. Blige (“Be Without You”). Other artists he’s blessed with his pen include, the late great Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Tamia, Janet Jackson and many more.
14 years since his initial record deal with RCA, it’s now time for Austin to show off his vocal talent to go with his writing chops. Signed to his frequent collaborator Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Recordings and with a new uptempo single, “What a Feeling” produced by Dupri and Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox, from his upcoming Love mixtape, the southern singer is ready to resuscitate the state of R&B.
Learn more about the singer-songwriter below, as he discussed with Singersroom the pressure to succumb to making pop music, his writing process, hobbies and more.
Singersroom: Do you feel any pressure to release music based on the current pop trends?
Johnta: No pressure, I try not to worry or do music, or release music based on pressure. I kind of do it and stay true to myself and cross my fingers that people recognize something that I think they will like.
Singersroom: As a hit songwriter for others, does it become complicated when trying to be creative for your own project?
Johnta: Yes. Well, yes and no. No, from the standpoint of as far as doing music has never really being complicated, thankfully. But yes from a standpoint of just crafting something that speaks to a truth of who you’re working with. With artists that you know, the majority of the work is done by just being around them and remembering that your there to help them and assist them with their visions. We’re just kind of conduits to help them speak their truth. Where as writing for myself, I’m trying to figure out how to best speak what I’m feeling and get it out and make it in a way that the people will enjoy.
Singersroom: What would you say are some of the biggest differences in writing for yourself and for other artists?
Johnta: Not over thinking. I think when we’re writing for ourselves, especially songwriters who are artists as well, you sometimes try to set the bar or put something out there that’s like, ‘Oh I want to do it this way, or I want to do something completely different then what I’ve done.’ As opposed to just being true to who you are as a creator and not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think sometimes that’s my biggest challenge. I hear a record and I’m like, ‘Oh man this is great, but I want to do something different for myself,’ but luckily I have great people around me that will tell me, ‘no this record is great, you should do it.’
Singersroom: Describe your writing process?
Johnta: I try to come up with a concept first, like the title or the theme, or just a word; something that can kind of jump start it. Then from there, I like to put the melody and the actual flow of the song together. Lastly, I put the lyrics together, that’s usually the process.
Singersroom: Where do you draw inspirations from in terms of your writing and the type of music you want to produce?
Johnta: People, my own personal experiences, like my friends, what I read about, what I see on television, those are the biggest sources of inspiration and material. People are kind of all connected by certain emotions, love, jealously, lust, whatever it is that we as human beings kind of all experience; a multitude of emotions that connects us and makes us humans. When I speak to people and when I live my own life, that’s where I really draw the most inspiration from.
Singersroom: The first song off your upcoming Love mixtape, “What a Feeling” was recently released. Can you describe the song in three words?
Johnta: Damn, that’s a good question, you got me on that one [laughs]. Three words. New R&B I guess. Uh, good music, I would say that. Feel good music. Three words. Feel good music.
Singersroom: More on the Love mixtape, why should people give it a listen?
Johnta: Love is the biggest part of our lives or it should be a huge part. The records on there kind of give my take, as I see it on the subject. Love’s a positive subject, but it’s dealing with being in love, being broken up from someone, so I think there’s music in there that everyone can identify with. It makes you feel good about yourself; it makes you reflect. There’s nothing degrading nor upsetting on there. It’s love.
Singersroom: What’s the biggest difference between the new music that you’ll be coming out with and your older material?
Johnta: I’ve lived a little bit, well I’ve lived a lot. I have gone through a lot so there’s a lot of personal reflection in the lyrics and then the songs. I would definitely say it’s more truthful, more honest, and more open. I really put a lot of thought, and love, and heart into it so that would definitely be some of the major differences.
Singersroom: Okay so naturally people will compare you to other R&B singers, what would you say sets you apart from the rest? What makes you unique?
Johnta: I think the music. R&B is kind of lame right now. I mean you have people who may do a little R&B here, but it’s R&B/hip hop or R&B/pop. I think the void for just talent in R&B music needs to be filled. I would say that’s what sets me apart.
Singersroom: Cool, so what artist(s) are you heavily listening to in your iPod right now?
Johnta: Goyte, I like Miguel and what he’s doing. I’m still listening to the Adele album, and I’m a huge Jay-Z fan so whether it’s new or old, I’m always playing something from HOV.
Singersroom: So outside of music-related things, what are some of your hobbies?
Johnta: I go to the movies a lot. Skydiving, motorcycle riding, I’m kind of a lightweight action junkie. Aside from those things I really like being at home and spending time with my kids.
Singersroom: I’m guessing there is a special someone in your life right now that is inspiring the Love mixtape?
Johnta: Yes, [laughs] yes, definitely.
Love is due in December 2012.