INTRO BY MADDEN LEVIN
INTERVIEW BY CAMI LIBERTY
The Night Game: a-maybe-not-so-familiar name for a pretty familiar face. Martin Johnson, that of the incredible Boys Like Girls, has branched off in need of an equally fascinating solo project under the new name. The Night Game has already had a ride of sorts, being that he has had the help of talented directors and creators to bring his dream to life, especially for “The Outfield” and “Bad Girls Don’t Cry,” two of The Night Game’s amazing singles. Recently, we caught up with him to discuss this new endeavor and where he hopes to go with the name and music. Below is our exclusive interview, but don’t forget to check out The Night Game on iTunes and in a city near you on tour!
When did the idea of creating a solo project first come to mind?
MARTIN: “I was doing a bunch of songs for other people and it started to feel like a job, you know? It started to feel more like – I don’t know, like I love making music for other people and kind of playing a character or whatever it might be, but for me it was like okay… you know, when I was a kid and looking in the mirror with a guitar around my neck and wanted to play, wanted to sing. That was kind of the point and so I didn’t know if I had fallen out of grace with music entirely or if it was like I had nothing left to say… I just knew that I missed playing a lot. So I was like okay, so I stepped into the studio and I was like I’m just gonna write to write, I’m gonna write alone. You know, I cancelled everything on my schedule and just started fussing around, and three years later there was an album.”
What does the name ‘The Night Game’ mean to you?
MARTIN: “Boy… you know, I’m a big Paul Simon fan. It started [off the] Paul Simon song… I think – it’s kind of like, you know, I’m also a huge sports fan. So when the pressure’s on, when the lights come on… this is a Philly publication, right?”
MARTIN: “I’m walking into town with my tail between my legs… I’m from Boston and I was at the Super Bowl this year. So it’s going to be a sad day, holding onto my pride in Philly this trip.”
What do you find is the biggest difference between this project and Boys Like Girls?
MARTIN: “I’m not with my best friends from high school and stuff like that, it feels a little more lonely. But you know, it’s like… it’s a different thing. I’m a little bit older and… when I was in Boys Like Girls I knew everything. Like now I know nothing. When we were doing those records I was so convinced that, ah everything is just right, every decision or choice I make is like… I know with Boys Like Girls it was like the first time doing everything, everything felt so, I don’t know, you felt intimate, unbreakable. It’s a little bit different this time around, it feels a little bit… scarier. But at the end of the day, I started writing these songs with Night Game to be like… have it be just really like an outlet for me to write great songs and play great songs and not worry too much about all the other bullshit. So the more I get sucked into kind of that, you know… it’s tough to play.”
What was your reaction when John Mayer reached out to you last year to open for him on his tour?
MARTIN: “I mean it’s pretty cool, like I sort of listened to John Mayer when I was younger a lot. I remember driving around Taunton, Massachusetts just blasting Heavier Things. It was king of like… there was one song out and I got to play like two shows for The Night Game, and we got this email like, ‘Hey, John heard the song, he wants to bring you out.’ At the time, it was [just] the song, I didn’t have a record deal or anything like that. I don’t know, it restored my faith a little bit in the music industry that people still listen to music and care and everything is still on a metric. So when you’re picking the opener you’re looking at ticket sales, and Spotify streams and YouTube, followers… it’s just based on numbers, like it’s literally crunching numbers to the point where the music’s becoming really diluted and I think that, you know, John obviously doesn’t care about that one bit. He just wanted something he liked and I thought that was massively humbling. It was just really, really great.”
Your latest song “Bad Girls Don’t Cry” is out now – can you tell us a little about the song and the inspiration behind it?
MARTIN: “Sure – I wrote this little blurb on my Instagram about it and the time that I wrote it I was really struggling to finish the record and really blocked, just playing a ton of poker, I hadn’t drank in a really long time so at the time I was just filling the void by playing poker and smoking a bunch of cigarettes and… I went to Vegas and the trip kind of turned from two nights into four nights, into six nights, and kinda just hiding; looking for answers in the cards. I met this girl in Vegas who maybe had a past she was a little bit ashamed of and a job she didn’t really like to talk about. You know, she wasn’t scared of anything and I just had an interesting night hanging out with her, and she told me… I asked her about her past, and she said, ‘Bad girls don’t cry,’ to me. I was like… major light on moment, when the light above your head blinks on. I was like alright, that’s enough for me to get in the car and go home and work on some tunes. So I kind of got inspired by that and went home and finished the record.”
On March 17th you started your headline tour in Seattle. What are you most looking forward to from this tour?
MARTIN: “I love playing. I love playing, I love singing. It’s been really, really great, we’ve done a few shows so far, hopefully got some of the kinks out. It’s pretty ambitious to do the tour without the album out yet, but it’s fun and I’m just like… I don’t really feel – I came of age in a band in a bus, so I don’t really feel super comfortable being at home, like it’s not what really speaks to me. Being at home doesn’t really feel comfortable, what feels comfortable to me is being in a new city every night and playing the show. It gives me a major feeling of purpose and I thrive in exhaustion because my brain will think too much if I have too much rest. So it works for me good, being back in the van.”
Are there any cities that you’re really looking forward to performing in?
MARTIN: “Yeah, I’m psyched for the LA show, the New York show, the Philly show, maybe Chicago, back home in Boston. And then we’re heading over to Germany after which should be fun.”
Are you also excited about the upcoming festivals you’re performing at?
MARTIN: “Yeah, I mean I don’t think we’ve done a festival yet with The Night Game, and it’s always fun playing at the big stage. Some of these songs are bold in nature and I think they feel a little more natural to me on a larger stage, and so I’m excited to get into full form.”
What makes a festival gig different from a regular gig for you?
MARTIN: “I think it can be a little more stressful, like pushing the gear, and a bunch of other bands, and you wanna look cool in front of the other bands, and make sure you play good and in front of the people. Regular gig, it’s your show. You run the show. It’s like, if you wanna go on 20 minutes late, you go on 20 minutes late. You get a soundcheck, the whole thing. [At festivals], there’s an added stress, but I also like the energy, you feed off the energy of the other people that are playing and if you can disconnect from the fear of messing up or not sounding cool or having bad sound, it’s like great, you get to see a lot of really hot bands play.”
We heard that you are releasing your debut album later this year. What can we expect from the record?
MARTIN: “I mean hopefully some honesty. You know, hopefully some honesty. I’m just excited to be able to tell stories again… telling a couple stories on there, and hopefully something fun that you can relate to and turn on when you’re feeling sad or feeling happy. If you’re taking a long drive or when you’re with your buddies.”
Any final words for your fans and our readers?
MARTIN: “I’m really excited for what’s to come and I’m super excited for the shows coming up and… thanks for paying attention.”