Andy Johnson – Help Yourself
Release date: April 2, 2021
All songs written by Andy Johnson, with the exception of “Pony Boy,” written by Forrest Richard Betts (c/o Unichappell Music, Inc.)
01 – Pony Boy
02 – 500 Pesos to Oz
03 – Holy Alamo
04 – Help Yourself
05 – Wisteria Bloom
06 – Tennesee Fiddle Daddy
07 – Ready or Not
08 – Giant Steps
09 – Wrong Before
10 – Grudge
– Andy Johnson – vocals, guitars, bow bass on track 10, electric bass on track 6
– Daniel NeSmith – vocals, mandolin, banjo (unless noted otherwise), acoustic guitar on track 5, electric bass on tracks 3, 5, 9, and 10.
– Jess Darby – banjo on tracks 1, 7 and 9; guitar solo on track 9
– Rusty Bridgers – electric bass on track 2, upright bass on track 4
– Sterling Waite – fiddle
– James Lengel – washboard on track 7, brushes, tambourine
– Norris Hilliard – accordion
– Kenneth Robinson – washboard on track 2
– Kenny Walters – electric bass on track 1
– Jesse Herrin – electric bass on tracks 8 and 10
– Joseph Palmer – organ
This shift or phase in my music began in 2018, with the realization that my band Royal Johnson was ending. Founding member Chance Royal left the band in August of 2018, and suddenly passed away the following March. And then band would play its final shows in May of 2019.
The spring of 2019 was a successful and fun time on the road but was also very stressful. The band was unraveling and so were my nerves, but I was pleasantly distracted when I took on a big painting job on a historic house in southeast Georgia. While working on this home in stints over the rest of 2019, I would camp on the Satilla river and reflect in the evenings.
Immediately the solitude of working all day alone in meditation and then the evenings there by the river provided me with some perspective about the rollercoaster of a year I had just lived. It finally gave me an opportunity to process the death of a brother (Chance Royal), and also the death of a family (the band). I also needed that time to reassure myself, after the associated fallout with friends and fans that had been emotionally invested after supporting us for 5-plus years.
Losing the band was a tough transition for me, but very welcome. I was enjoying being at home, having more time on the river. I kept asking myself, “why do you want to play music? What is in it for me? For others? Who am I trying to impress?” I wanted to drop all of the reasons I’d developed over the years and get back to the root cause. I wanted to start all the way over. I re-evaluated myself, my goals, my standards. I began to reorganize and restrategize my life. And finally, after what seemed like months of playing damage control, I realized that I was ready to focus on my next move.
By late July I was committed to a recovery of my happiness. While traveling back and forth that year to the job on the Satilla, I was very happy to be making progress within myself and in my relationships. My joy was even further supported by the discovery that my wife and I had a child on the way.
Preparing for our future and reflecting on what I’d experienced in the last year, the songs for Help Yourself came out easily. The writing process was a cathartic period of self-help and self-health. Self-focus. I felt that many of the things that I had been seeking were false and shallow. I wrote the song “Help Yourself” late in the year and felt like I’d turned a corner. It was the last song I wrote for the album.
We’ve all lost someone without being able to tell them what they meant to us. We’ve all said and done things that we are not proud of. We’ve all looked for approval from places we didn’t need approval from. We’ve all, at some point, wanted to be accepted and be a part of something that we didn’t need to be a part of. Instead of looking to others to support you or approve, reach to yourself. Help yourself. Take responsibility for your own health. Look within. I started trying to help myself and everything else started falling into place.
On Dec 31, 2019 I wrote: My attitude towards music and many other aspects of my life, are now met with this filter frequently: a Duane Trucks quote, from when he was asked about Col Bruce – “He taught me to think about the why I want to play music. To reflect on my intention towards playing and to respect it – understand its healing power and the connectivity it provides us to others and to honor that and be grateful.”
I began recording this album on 1/2/20, excited to share this positive message of self-help and self-hope. But then 2020 happened, and now everybody is emotionally challenged. A year like this, everyone being cut off from loved ones, from favorite places, from being able to express yourself of hug your friends, has done a terrible deal of damage to our collective mental health. Some of us moreso, on several personal levels.
So recording this “self-help” album and constantly hearing these songs this passed year has been a constant reminder about spending time to focus on my own health and my own self.