Producer Crosstalk: KK Johnson

Nashville-based artist, engineer and producer KK Johnson was introduced to music early—perhaps even before she could read. Her grandmother taught Johnson and her siblings to play piano around that time. Later she bought herself a blue violin (which she named “Suede”) and brought it to her first big gig at the age of nine: a week-long engagement at Dollywood. At 15, she moved to Nashville, taught herself GarageBand and graduated ultimately to Logic Pro. The importance of songwriting soon became apparent to both Johnson and her brother, and they also realized that they could get into better rooms if they added production to their repertoire. She has since worked with artists such as Ty Dolla $ign and rising country talents Tyler Rich and Kylie Morgan. 

Although the role of women in audio has expanded in recent years, it remains a field still largely overseen by men. “The business is predominantly male and that comes with a unique set of challenges,” Johnson observes. “As a female producer, you’re in the minority and feel a lot of pressure. My brother also produces and people often presume that he’s the one who does things. I feel that I have to prove myself a little more. I’ve also learned that confrontation and standing up for myself is not always a negative thing. Those challenges have made me a better producer and engineer.”

As a writer, it’s not always easy to know when a lyric or, indeed, a song works. For Johnson, there can be a nearly palpable sense of when she has tapped into something special. “Occasionally you get the feeling that a piece you’ve created is incredible,” she says. “But over the years you get burned by that a few times, so you never know. Sometimes a song you write on a random day and don’t think you’re going to get anything—those can turn out to work. There can be magic in the room and you feel something.” 

One of the biggest challenges Johnson has ever faced was when she produced a French version of “Thinkin’ We’re in Love” for Tyler Rich. This wouldn’t have posed as much of an obstacle if she actually spoke French, which she didn’t. “I’ve never comped vocals where I had no idea what they meant,” Johnson explains. “I tried to do a lot of the work in the studio that day because I had Marie-Mai there and she does speak French. That was a definite technical challenge.”

KK Johnson and her siblings work together in their band Track45 and are signed to Stoney Creek Records/BBR Music Group. A Johnson-produced single is targeted for sometime in the New Year with more to follow. She’s also working with emerging pop artist Zoe Clark on songs and a cluster of releases is expected soon. Her studio is virtually across the street from Nashville’s legendary Blackbird Studio and often she gets to work alongside power producer Nathan Chapman, which is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Recently Johnson signed a joint venture deal with Warner Chappell Music and Amped Entertainment.

Contact – Instagram @kkjohnson7, @track45, track45.com