Growing up in Standish, Maine, LA-based singer-songwriter Joh was raised in an artistic household full of creativity. Her family moved to North Carolina in 2004 and, although she took classical guitar lessons and wrote poetry, she also found herself drawn to basketball. When she did not make her school’s basketball team, she fueled her moody, teenage angst into song and realized she was really good at singing and writing music. For her, music felt good, right, and healing, and she realized music, not basketball, was the right path for her. She later moved with family to California where she finished high school and then studied musical arts and songwriting at California Institute of the Arts. She currently lives with her brother, music producer Sam J Garfield, in Echo Park in LA, with whom she co-created the band Lexington Kills. The duo released their debut EP in 2018, with Joh then branching out with her solo career. She released her untitled first EP in 2019, followed by some singles and a collaborative EP with her brother entitled Sam and Joh Come Out To Play. For Joh, branching out to do music as a solo artist was a monumental move for her, as she says she used to hide a lot behind others, but in her vulnerability of releasing music as Joh, there was nowhere for her to hide, giving her a newly found sense of confidence in herself. In April of this year, she released her single “Rainy Daze” ahead of her debut album Hiatus, which was released in May and is a series of journal entries and poems, sensationally based and universally relatable, turned music. Joh has been featured in GroundSounds, KIMU, Sinusoidal Music, RGM Press, The Wild Is Calling and has played at world renowned venues including The Mint, Viper Room, Boarders, El Cid and just about every venue up and down Sunset Blvd. With plans for a comeback for Lexington Kills and to work on her second solo album, make sure to connect with Joh via the following links to stay up-to-date with all upcoming music and news!
You were born and raised in Standish, Maine and have said that you grew up with the idea that you would be an Allstar WNBA point guard. What can you tell me about your childhood in Maine and how you came to realize that music was your life source and true passion?
My entire family is made up of artists, at the end of the day, and we were all raised immersed in that creative state of mind. In Maine, we grew up on 11 acres of woods; it was a very quaint old civil war house with a big red barn and three little sheds, surrounded by humble New England farmland. Aside from the arts, outdoor activity and sports were always something I enjoyed. It wasn’t until my parents, my brother and I moved to North Carolina in 2004 where I really got into basketball; joining the team at school and really wanting to pursue sports. Outside of school I was taking classical guitar classes and writing short stories and poems aside from practices and running around. Looking back on that, I truly believe that part of me would always have been an important space for me throughout my life whether it was to end up as my career or not. Long story short, I didn’t make the basketball team in 2009 and in moody-teenager grief, I picked up my guitar and wrote a song and ended up being really good. I was never supposed to play sports professionally, but it was a cute idea for little Joh. Ha! It was in that moment where something switched over inside of me; it felt good, it felt right, it felt healing.
You now live in LA and you studied musical arts and songwriting at California Institute of the Arts. What was the experience like for you of moving from Maine to LA, as well as your time in school? What do you love and find inspiring about living in LA what has it been like for you finding your place in the LA music scene and industry in general?
So it was from North Carolina where I ended up following my family members to Southern California. I finished off my high school in Santa Ana at OCSA and from there went to CALARTS in Valencia, living around Los Angeles ever since, bringing me to currently living with my brother in Echo Park. I love LA to the bone. As any city does, it has its flaws and obviously no matter where you go there will always be annoying people, but there’s nothing like Los Angeles. I like it’s vibrations. I like the vibrations it stimulates out from within me. I don’t think I would have found myself and the artist I am today if I was anywhere else in this time in my life.
Early on in LA, you formed the band Lexington Kills with your brother Sam J Garfield. What can you tell me about the band, as well as what it’s been like to write, record, and perform together? I imagine it’s nice having that support system in each other!
My brother and I always enjoyed playing music together and when I really started pursuing songwriting, we would send songs back and forth to each other. Lexington Kills really came into fruition once Sam and I started living together in Echo Park. He was finally diving into the world of music production and would do a lot of the work there in his bedroom on his computer. He had the idea, and we started having fun with fusing our indie folk tones with a new experimental electronic sound. It started off as a passion project that honestly turned into something with so much potential. After some years, it’s evolved to now just Sam, Ash (drummer) and myself. Working together is an awesome experience. There’s a connection that occurs that you can’t find anywhere else except in the studio or on stage with individuals that you trust and in such a very vulnerable creative form.
What can you tell me about the artists you’ve worked with, such as Taylor XO, as well as other opportunities you have had since moving to LA, that have helped you to expand your repertoire and get your name out there as an artist?
There is so much that is gained by collaborating with other artists. I’ve found even if nothing even comes out of doing a project, it doesn’t make it a waste of time. In the opportunities I’ve had to write and even perform with the artists in my community, there has been so much to learn and absorb.
Although you have been involved in various musical projects/opportunities with other artists over the years, you recently have also branched out to release solo material. In what ways has that provided an outlet for you on a personal level and how has it helped you to grow as a person and an artist?
Branching out to do my solo project was a monumental move for me as an artist. It’s a vulnerable experience, writing and performing specifically for Joh, as Joh. I learned I definitely used to hide a lot behind others, and when I decided to release material I created from nothing but what was raw and genuine and honest, there was nowhere to hide anymore. It’s kind of scary! But I’ve found a confidence develop in me that maybe wouldn’t have otherwise. I’m excited to see what this project pulls out of me as an artist. It will be interesting at the very least.
You have talked about how there is a formula and equation to making music, such as with making a bop or composing a ballad, and that it can be easy to become stuck on that to the point that you lose your individualism as an artist. As an artist who does not confine themselves to one genre, but rather explores many, was that something that came naturally to you or did you have to work at it?
Honestly, I think that is something that truly came naturally to me. But, as any artist, I do have to work hard at not being confined. Discipline and structure, formulas and equations are all so important in learning and growing in your skills and artistry, but it can be easy to let it become your art rather than just being the support to the process. I don’t ever want to miss out on something beautiful simply because I couldn’t stretch myself beyond the walls of the box I unintentionally built around myself.
In April of this year, you released your first single “Rainy Daze” from your recently released debut solo album Hiatus. What inspired the song, the creative process of which was different from your instinctual approach? What can you tell me about much of the creative process happening in the studio rather than being done beforehand?
The song was ultimately inspired by a romantic pursuit, haha. It really was a different approach as far as writing goes. I generally write a lot with poetry and metaphors, but I wrote ‘Rainy Daze’ with more narrative and close to the actual events that occurred during that time. So I would say lyrically is where I tried a different approach.
On May 20th, you released your debut solo album Hiatus, the songs of which are a collection of journal entries and simple poems pieced together and put to melodies. What was the process like of creating and recording the album and what message do you hope it conveys? You have said that you are currently working on your next album! Are you approaching it in a similar way or will the creative process be different?
This process was interesting for me. For the most part I tend to write melodies and lyrics simultaneously, so allowing myself to focus on them separately was very rewarding. I’m not quite sure of the message, or if there even was one. This album was a lot more for myself rather than for the listener. Much of what was expressed in this album, had most likely been festering within for quite some time. After releasing a lot of it with these songs, I did feel a significant weight lifted. Almost as if I could now move into the next chapter of what was to come, and that is an extremely exciting sensation to feel, in being so ready to be alive.
What inspired the album artwork and what can you tell me about meeting and working with Hannah Perez on the art?
The idea behind the artwork was to take reality and fuse it with Hannah’s art. I liked how it created this tone of making the intimacies of what goes on in our thoughts almost tangible to an outside perspective. We met years back when we both worked at Grand Central Market, and were friends ever since. I’ve always admired her art, and everyone can get a better idea of her work on her social (@keekihanu). The thought sort of came to me one day while I was going through the tracks, and I couldn’t think of anyone better to help translate the essence of my album into a visual form. She gives the wistfulness of daydreaming and the longings and emotions that come with self reflection. Truly a beautiful soul.
What do you enjoy doing for fun outside of music? Any favorite spots in LA? How do you look after your mental health?
Oh, I like to do all sorts of things. I’m usually that person that’s always down for anything. I enjoy reading and writing and being quiet, taking long runs with no destination, celebrating for no apparent reason because why the not, playing Mario Kart. Living in East LA is one of the best spots; it has a great night life, but also a wide variety of quiet trails and parks to sit and read a book.
What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward?
Lexington Kills is actually on its way to making a comeback VERY soon. There’s been a lot of work going into that project right now, and by the new year we are hoping to have some great content to share with all of you. Simultaneously, I have started to compile my next solo album for Joh, which will also be quite a different sound from Hiatus, and I’m excited to see what comes out of me in that process. The best part of being an artist is that the process never ends. For as long as you want it-there will always be something else to discover and something new to create.