Aesthetically Speaking: Branden Johnson

Please welcome Branden Johsnon to Aesthetically Speaking. He’s a renaissance man of the arts, playing music and writing many things. I’ve seen These Guys These Guys perform, and they do a great live show of moody, Peter-Gabriel-era-Genesis-type instrumental music. They have a show on Friday, October 14 so check them out. Thanks for sharing, Branden!

What is your name and city of residence?
Branden Johnson – Resident of Oak Forest, IL, a suburb of Chicago

What medium do you work in?
I’m primarily a writer and a musician. It really does fall about 50/50. I write novels and short stories, as well as screenplays (specifically for a web series called Kole’s Law), and I play piano and guitar in post-rock band These Guys These Guys.

How often do you work on your art–is it a full-time endeavor or something you work on in your spare time?
As much as I would love to be creative full-time, I’m a wage slave like most everyone else. My passion for working on my art comes and goes in waves. When I’m not working on music to prepare for a gig, I’m writing alone at my desk or collaborating on a screenplay.

How does art fit into your life, in general? Is it something you think about and talk about every day, or every week, or only in certain situations, etc.?
My creative work is incredibly important to me. Sometimes I forget that. Those are the times I find myself the most down. When I remember the joy I get from creating, it’s like getting a second wind in a big race, and I can’t wait to get off work so I can get home and create some more.

Branden Johnson

on keys

When you start on a piece, what kind of end result do you have in mind? Does it get performed or published, put in a permanent form or is it more temporary?
It varies, really. I’ve had a few short stories published in some journals, which felt great at the time. And when the band plays a gig, we get the satisfaction of interacting with the crowd, which is immediate feedback.

What goals do you set in relation to your art, both short- and long-term? Is it something you hope to make money doing, or is it something you want to keep uncommercialized? Does the term “sell-out” hold meaning for you or do you see the art/commerce relationship as a necessary one?
The term “sell-out” to me is far from a bad word. It really depends on the artist’s intention. If my goal is to write a novel and get it published, then certainly I’d like it to sell. If it’s not selling, why did I work to get it published? But if I create an intensely personal piece, I may only want to share it with some close friends or family. In the long term, I want to create for a living. And I’m at a place where the term “create” has a bit of flexibility. If my band scored a big recording contract — great! If a novel I write is published — awesome! If one of my web series is discovered and appreciated by a Hollywood big-wig — terrific! I so enjoy the various projects I’m involved in that any one of them could become a career for me and I would be perfectly happy.

What role does collaboration with others play in your art, if any?
Our collaboration in the band is incredibly important. We write together. We make all our decisions together. If a compromise has to be reached, we reach it. My solo writing, of course, is primarily just me — but even then, writers’ groups (like online group have provided me with valuable feedback that has helped me grow as a writer.

How conscious are you of your artistic influences? Who are your artistic influences?
I’ve been influenced by a number of writers. One of the major writers would be Neil Gaiman. I never read his comics, but his novels, and particularly his short fiction, have really spoken to me. Musically, I grew up listening to video game scores (being then, as now, a huge nerd), and have taken a great deal of inspiration from Japanese composers such as Yasunori Mitsuda and Nobuo Uematsu.

Branden Johnson

the glasses mean "writer"

Since this is a travel blog, how does travel relate to or affect your art? (Themes in what you produce, road trips to perform your music, thoughts on what happens to your painting when you ship it across the country to a customer, etc.)
I don’t want to only write what I know. I want to learn more, grow more. Staying put doesn’t do much to help with that. My experiences in other places have helped me extend my perspective, which can only benefit my writing. As far as my music goes, well… We haven’t really toured yet. But that could happen soon!

And finally, a right-brain question: If your art was a map, what would it be a map of?
It would be a map of the Midwest as drawn by a maniacal 4th grader.

If you’d like, share your website/Facebook page and any upcoming gigs/plans you’d like readers to know about.
Twitter: @brandenjohnson
These Guys These Guys:
TGTG on Facebook:

Kole’s Law:
Kole’s Law on Facebook:

Upcoming Show Details:
El Mamey
Friday, October 14
2645 W. North Ave, Chicago, IL
With: Mountains For Clouds & I Know Everything

Photo 1 credit Keith Kosmal. Photo 2 credit Jenny Schuler.