Hobo Johnson woke up one morning and found himself famous. Placing a live recording of his song ‘Peach Scone’ on Facebook, he literally left it and went to bed; when he rose the next day, it had been watched by 100,000 people.
Since then, his life has gone into over drive. Debut album ‘The Rise Of Hobo Johnson’ is aptly named – recorded at his base in Sacramento, it’s the tale of someone in a nowhere town making it good, purely on their own talent.
“There are moments...” he tells Clash, his voice drifting off into the surf. “Yesterday we went to the beach in San Diego and it was like, shit… this is my life! We get to play shows for people and then go to the beach! It’s weird.”
“It was more than just a hobby,” he continues. “It took me a few years to realise that I could do it. You have to think that it will happen, you have to believe in yourself – if you don’t, you just won’t put in that extra 10%. I always hoped. On the other hand, it’s completely unbelievable… like a fairytale.”
Few modern fairytales are this raw, however, this ragged. ‘The Rise Of Hobo Johnson’ sits somewhere between confessional songwriting and rap delivery, with the Sacramento songwriter name-checking everyone from Conor Oberst to 2pac during our conversation.
It’s his outsider status, however, which seems to appeal the most. Hobo Johnson’s music resonates because he’s from Sacramento, a place that doesn’t have the potent mythology of Los Angeles, say, or San Francisco.
“There’s not much of a scene,” he admits. “Living in Sacramento is really tough because no one else gives a fuck about it. It’s sad because it’s so close to LA, but you could be the biggest band in Sac and then not pull anything in LA, or in San Francisco. It’s definitely hard.”
“I hope that we can change that, and I think we’re showing people in Sacramento that you can do it… even though it’s due to the power of the internet.”
Thrust out on to centre stage, Hobo Johnson has literally gone from a bedroom-bound songwriter to a star attraction, and it’s something he’s been forced to transition into. “I’m trying to get a bit more confident with it,” he says. “I’m naturally not the most confident person. I’m working with some people who I am a huge fan of, so in that situation I don’t think I’ll ever be that confident – more just starstruck.”
The ‘The Rise’ swiftly behind him, Clash can’t help but ask what next. “‘The Rise...’ is so foreshadowing,” he chuckles. “But it has been quite the rise. Now we’re just going to fall off the face of the Earth, so maybe I won’t call it the fall! The second rise, maybe. The way bigger and funner rise!”
It’s only just beginning for Hobo Johnson – 2019 brings new challenges, including a full UK tour. “We’re working on costumes!” laughs the songwriter. “We should have had costumes, but we didn’t have the time. The songs just call for some weird stuff.”
“I really want to write a musical – I have this idea, and one of the songs that we play is a condensed version of the music. So with that we need costumes, we need some backdrops. We’ll see if we have them in London.”
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