by Joanna Orland & Isla MC
Johnathan Rice is a young singer-songwriter who released his debut album ‘’Trouble Is Real’’ this year, and considers among his mentors artists such as Martha and Rufus Wainwright. Born in Virginia in the US, Rice spent his childhood being shuffled between there and Glasgow. He is currently based in LA, but spent four years in New York. This is where he began his musical career, busking on the streets.
”My parents gave me a deadline to go to college. I had a year to make it, or go back to school. Fortunately by the end of the year, even though I was exhausted and twenty pounds thinner, I had a record deal”. What would he be doing if not music? ”I would have done politics at college and gone on to do relief work in Central or South America. Instead I’ve chosen to be a performing musician which is probably the most selfish line of work available.”
Considering the music scene is currently experiencing an influx of young ‘singer-songwriters’, is Rice worried about being pigeonholed? ”I think it’s up to everyone else to put me where they want. I make the records, write the songs, play the shows and aside from that I don’t really trouble myself with it. I am a singer-songwriter but it’s a pretty broad category. There’s all sorts of things you can do. The thing I like about it is that you can defy classification. I can come on stage alone, or I can bring out my band and make a big racket. It’s all under my name.”
Rice appears as Roy Orbison in the forthcoming Johnny Cash biopic, ‘Walk The Line’, with Joaquin Phoenix (phwoar!). How did he get involved in this having had no prior acting experience (apart from playing Jesus in the school play)? ”I think it started when I was touring with The Cardigans. Some people who were involved with casting the film were on a night out, they saw me and for some reason they thought it might work to have me in the film. The director wanted real musicians to play the musicians in the film.”
Is acting something he would like to pursue in the future? ”No, it isn’t. I’ve had offers left and right, for teen dramas, my own reality show, but I don’t think it’s in my best interests to pursue these. I wouldn’t have done ‘Walk The Line’ had it not been about music. It chronicles the music I grew up listening to.” Rice hopes that if that film is a success, it will turn on a generation of young people to the music of Cash, Orbison et al, and he will have been instrumental in that.
Rice claims to have hundreds of musical influences, but grew up in a house full of sixties and seventies music. ”The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Gram Parsons, Neil Young. That’s what is closest to me, what I listen to the most. Because my parents were kind of cool it was difficult to find things to listen to that would piss them off, but I found my way towards the Pixies, Nirvana, punk rock. As a musician you want to know what other musicians listen to. I liked Bob Dylan and wanted to find out who he liked. He liked Woody Guthrie, Woody Guthrie liked Hank Williams and so on. I like to do my research.”
Some random facts about Rice include his penchant for being an IT boy with the IN crowd. He’s partied with the Wainwrights, he’s donned a fish costume to dance with The Flaming Lips, and the most random of them all, he’s worn a blue robe and sang / danced with The Polyphonic Spree.
So what’s next for Rice? He is heading back to California to rehearse a backing band for the forthcoming European tour he is putting on with Martha Wainwright, a woman who he describes as ”A force of nature. She has been very kind to me.” And if there were one word to sum him up?
Fab dahling. Fab.