Small particulars make for big stories. Much like talking to a buddy over a frosty brew on a Friday night with nowhere to go, Rayne Johnson spares no details in his music. People and places practically come alive within the songs as he navigates love, life, and everything in between. The Fairfield, OH singer/songwriter amplifies traditional country tales through soulful vocals bolstered by rock energy and a twist of R&B flavor. Generating over 24 million streams independently and receiving acclaim from CMT and Taste of Country who crowned him “a smooth operator,” he introduces a singular sound and story on his self-titled 2020 EP.
“I want you to actually hear the story,” he explains.
“Country’s my favorite genre, but I love R&B too. I’m trying to bring some of that style to country storytelling. I’m translating who I am through the lyrics and the music. Hopefully, you can relate.”
His own story certainly remains relatable through and through.
Growing up in Fairfield, music surrounded him. Mom spun classics by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley around the house. Meanwhile, dad played George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard in his fuel truck as a young Rayne accompanied him on local delivery hauls. Along the way, the budding artist also developed a passion for R&B, discovering Boyz II Men, Babyface, and Brian McKnight. “I thought it was awesome how those guys could do runs, so I mimicked them,” he recalls. He often soloed in choir at church and even periodically dueted with his mother on stage.
Post-high school, he took a job as a railroad mechanic – one he still maintains today - between performing anywhere and everywhere with a stage. Proving his work ethic is unparalleled, Rayne hustled for more than a decade thriving in his fulltime career while pursuing his passion for music. He actually learned guitar from an older co-worker during their downtime and gleamed the basics on a used Celebrity Ovation.
“When I was out there working on the railroad and had any downtime waiting on the trains, my co-worker would teach me basic chords on the guitar and I just ran with it from there.”
And his musical experience has also been varied. After logging time as part of a regional Christian rock group, he launched Country rock band Pistol Holler, opening for the likes of Hunter Hayes, Kelly Pickler, Riley Green, and Randy Houser, to name a few. At one gig in Kentucky with the band, he even met his wife of seven years, Arika. After the group amicably parted ways, he received a call from producer Mark Liggett [Blessid Union of Souls, Robin Gibb, NKOTB] to sing some song demos for a new writer he’d signed. Following just one session, they unlocked a fervent creative chemistry in the studio alongside songwriter Joe Jordan who wrote or co-wrote 8 of 9 tracks on the new EP.
In 2018, Rayne’s first single “Laid Back” gained traction at country radio and stoked excitement for more to come. However, he delivered tenfold on the promise of his debut with the 2019 anthem “Front Seat.” A Boston station initially championed “Front Seat” before it caught on like wildfire across airwaves, peaking in the Top 40. It eventually gathered 8.4 million Spotify streams,3.2 million YouTube views and another 7 million plays on Apple Music. (All the while, he held down the railroad gig nine-to-five as well as being a full-time dad!)
Now, he paves the way for his debut EP with the single “Real Dang Good.” On the track written by Joe Jordan, bluesy guitar bends into a simmering groove as he sets the scene of “Trying to drink that whole week off of me” before getting a tap on the shoulder…
“Imagine you’ve finished out a bad week, and you’re chilling alone and thinking about your issues,” he elaborates. “All of a sudden, a girl comes up to you and says, ‘You don’t look like you’re having any fun. Why don’t you dance with me, hang out, and let’s have a good night?’ What could be better?” he laughs. “By the end of the song, they’re running off to Vegas!”
Co-written by Rayne alongside Walt Aldridge [Travis Tritt] on a trip to Muscle Shoals, AL, another track on the EP “Bring It Back” stomps along on a hummable riff before a chantable chorus takes hold as he urges, “Like Jack and Diane all over again, let’s bring it back.”
“Nowadays, nobody connects in real life,” he sighs. “It’s all on social media and apps. We wanted to get back to the old school way of finding a girl, manning up, and walking over to her no matter how scared you are and asking, ‘Do you want to go out on a date?’ It’s the sort of love you hear about from your grandma and grandpa. We tried to encompass that.”
Chart-topping Country artist Jimmie Allen, GRAMMY-nominated songwriters Sam Sumser and Sean Small [Lizzo] and Australian artist Quinn Lewis also have a writing credit on the project with “A Little Goes a Long Way.”
In the end, Rayne’s story is about to take even more incredible twists and turns as he gears up for his first album in 2021.
“It’s very exciting to get the real me out in this music,” he adds. “Whether it’s a ballad or an upbeat tune, I’m giving you everything I’ve got. I encourage people to have a good time. I just hope to connect with a message of my own. Between that and the man bun, I’m doing something a little different for sure.”