By Keiana Smith-McDowell, Contributor, DC Music Live
The Nashville bred husband and wife duo Josh and Nicole Johnson, known together as Elenowen, have had plenty of success on their music journey. You may have heard their songs on popular shows such as One Tree Hill and World of Jenks, or maybe you remember them from season one of NBC’s hit show The Voice.
Now they’re ready to take the nation’s capital on a journey through their soft, eloquent, yet haunting harmonies as they gear up to perform at The Hamilton on May 5th for the Drifting Closer Tour.
DCML got the chance to catch up with them and find out what to look forward to with their upcoming show.
So you know I have to jump right in and ask… What’s it like being married AND in a group together?
Nicole: It’s similar to what it would be like if you worked with your spouse except it’s the music industry — you have to be a team and agree on things, its has its challenges, we are similar in a lot of areas, but we are different artists and we write different music. For me it has strengthened our marriage in the last four years.
Josh: We definitely had to learn to clearly communicate.
Nicole, when did you start singing and when did you know that you really wanted to be an artist?
N: I’ve been singing my whole life; I grew up singing in my church and youth groups. When I met Josh we were in high school and he was already pursuing a career and had an album out.
I never had the confidence to be an artist on my own, I didn’t think I had what it takes but when we got married, I wanted to do an album or demo of the songs I recorded over the years. And before we decided to go in the studio and do this for me, we got some good advice from a friend and was told not pursue our careers separately. Once we did that and recorded our first album that’s when I knew I found something I could do for the rest of my life with Josh, and it was my life
Josh, same question.
J: The first time I saw the movie ‘That Thing You Do,” and they had the band. At the time I was taking drum lessons, I thought Spartacus was the coolest guy. I ended up asking for an acoustic guitar in 2002 and in middle school I wasn’t really that passionate about it. In 2003 when I met Nicole and when I started writing songs and knew that this was what I really wanted to do.
How did you two decide that you were going to form a duo, what was the conversation like?
J: After we had the conversation with our friends to give our marriage the best shot, but we didn’t know how to do it – we were driving through Nashville and we were listening Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raising Sand,” and they were different artists with different sounds, and we thought well we can kind of do something like this. And from there we sat down and tried to write a song and wrote “The Storm,” and kind of just made the record and went from there.
Is there ever a time when one of you wants to experiment musically, and the other is apprehensive?
N: Yes, a lot. Pretty much anytime we sit down together. We are very different artists and have different ideas, and I think that’s what makes us a little more unique. We didn’t create this duo because we thought we would sound good together how most groups are formed. We happened to be two people who fell in love and love music.
J: At the end of the day it’s a little of both of our backgrounds and when we meet in the middle it ends up being something great. It’s typically the songwriting process where there’s the most rub (laughs).
What was the experience like being on the very first season of The Voice?
J: It was a great experience. We were kind of the guinea pig. It was a lot of hurry up and wait, but it was pretty much the launching pad for our careers, we were able to quit our jobs and do the music full time from there. It was good it wasn’t this laverish lifestyle people would think, were in a hotel for like four months!
How would you define your music and your sound?
J: As far as the stuff we’ve done in the past… We are evolving. The recorded music has a pop sensibility, with some folk and rock. Currently, it’s mainly folk with some rock sampled in. We try to keep things really simple as far as song writing- try to write catchy beautiful melodies that stem from life experience.
What three words describe the way you want people to feel when they hear your songs?
N: Um… the first word that comes to mind is inspired. For me personally when I go see an artists the scale in which I judge how much I got from it is, “do I feel inspired?” I know it’s a good artist when I want to go home and write a song or tell my family I love them more, and it inspires me to live life.
J: All the lyrics are incredibly honest, so it’s about the struggles we go through, so another word is connected. And when we write about our struggles we are really vulnerable so we want them to feel connected when they leave. We want people to be entertained too and have a fun time; we try to have a pretty dynamic show in that regard.
What musicians inspire your music?
J: Oh man, we listen to all kinds of stuff. The reason I started playing acoustic is because of Dave Matthews. We are inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the haunting element they have. We are huge Ryan Adams fans, Neil Young, Coldplay. Nicole really likes Patty Griffin, she has incredible simple folk songs and a beautiful voice and you can hear some of that in her [Nicole]. There are so many artists and so many friends of ours that make amazing music, so I would say Nashville in general. Nashville pushes us to do better and refine our craft.
You’ve had a lot of success with your music. You have songs that were No. 1 and 2 on the iTunes charts, your music has been featured on some very popular television shows, how does all of that feel and where do you plan to go from here?
J: It feels amazing! It’s such an honor and a privilege and a blessing to write music and perform for a living, to have songs on TV is great and to pair it with another form of entertainment, it’s just great.
J: But from there we can continue to have success in that regard. We plan to record a full-length record and release it next year and tour and do things on a bigger scale.
What can people expect on the Drifting Closer Tour?
N: They can expect a lot of new songs, old favorites. And some cover songs.
J: To have fun to be inspired and…
N: We want people to feel like they are coming to hang out with us for an hour.
J: I hope people at our shows feel like they get to know us a little better and get to know us as people, and have it be a fun intimate hang out music night!
You can find Elenowen’s music here on iTunes.
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