When I first heard Johnathan Pushkar's album Compositions, it reminded me of the best of the Beatles, and the best of Paul McCartney and Wings. It's also power pop, very Beach Boys-like and very good. I would get hip to him, if I were you.
And he was kind enough to answer a few questions, too.
Andrea Weiss For people who don't know you, could you give a bit of your history?
Johnathan Pushkar I’m a 25-year-old retro rock singer/songwriter from Nashville, TN, but I was born and raised in western Pennsylvania (near Greensburg, PA, the town famous for putting Tommy James on the map!) I collect Rickenbacker guitars, and when I’m not writing songs, you can find me hunting for toys at antique stores, at trivia nights with friends, or creating daily LEGO content for my brand, MiniSuperHeroesToday (Instagram, TikTok, YouTube).
AW: Who are your influences?
JP: My biggest influences are The Beatles, The Beach Boys (particularly pre-Pet Sounds) and Fountains of Wayne. I grew up on Sun Records/Rockabilly, and I am a huge fan of the first wave of American rock ’n’ rollers like Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Elvis, and Carl Perkins.
AW: I get the feeling you're influenced by Paul McCartney, as you do write like him, which is great. Is that the case?
JP: That is a very kind compliment, thank you! Yes, as a writer, Paul is/was my favorite Beatle. “The Night Before,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Here, There, and Everywhere…” all classics!
AW: How did the cover of "Junior's Farm," one of my favorite Wing songs, come about?
JP“Junior’s Farm” came about after I befriended Wings’ drummer, Geoff Britton, in the summer of 2019. He was back in Tennessee celebrating the 45th anniversary of Wings’ six-week stay in Lebanon, TN, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with him while he was here. In 1974, Wings stayed on a farm about an hour outside of Nashville, owned by “Junior” Putman (writer of “Green, Green Grass of Home”) - hence the song, “Junior’s Farm,” which was recorded in Nashville by Ernie Winfrey. It’s always been a favorite of mine, and to hear Geoff tell those stories of being there for the creation of the song is something I’ll cherish forever.
AW: How did Geoff Britton, the drummer from Wings, come to guest on several tracks?
JP: When Geoff was in Nashville in 2019, I gave him my songs from my first album, Straighten Up. He told me he loved the album, and the only thing he didn’t like was that he didn’t get to play on it! I told him I’d take him up on that offer for my next record, and he was as excited as I was. We planned to record that album together in 2020, but needless to say, we weren’t able to be in a room together to do so. Thanks to being able to record and send files digitally, Geoff was able to play on tracks from afar. Knowing I had Geoff for the record, I asked if we could do a fresh take on “Junior’s Farm,” and to my delight, he said YES! He’s only recorded it with two different artists: Paul McCartney and ME! Talk about a huge honor…
AW: "Junior's Farm" and "Love Will Save The Day" have political lyrics. Did you put them together to make a statement, and if so, what is that statement?
JP: Neither of these songs strike me as “political,” per se. Sure, there are elements, but the intent behind both songs don’t strike me as political. “Junior’s Farm,” to me, has always represented escapism; “Let’s go down to Junior’s Farm where I wanna lay low.” Who doesn’t love that idea? And “Love Will Save The Day,” from my intent, was to comment on the unnecessary strife we’ve allowed to come between us on a day to day basis. Loving one another, turning away from the negativity that comes from our screens, and helping build one another up is the answer to stopping the built up tension between us. Is that political? I don’t think so - “Love Will Save the Day” is a call for society to go back to our roots and seek the value of understanding and human connection.
AW: I like that your music is so poppy and melodic. Do melodies come easily to you?
JP: Thank you, that is very kind. Melodies tend to come easier than lyrics, but once I have a story in mind, I can run wild and usually finish a song in one or two sittings. “Making Plans” was written over the course of a week, “Any Second Now” was written in an afternoon, and “Red Eye” was written over a weekend. It’s fun giving ideas life!
AW: What advice would you give someone just starting out in music?
JP: Find a unique sound that resonates with you, something that gets you excited to pick up your instrument and get to work. Continue to hone your craft, block out the haters, and focus on becoming the best version of yourself every time you pick up your pen to write a new song. Sharing music is great, but remember that the reason we all start is to express something deeper inside; never lose sight of that, and in my book, you’ll have already found success.