It was a first on NBC’s smash competition series The Voice. Four celebrity coaches sat with their backs turned to hopefuls, listening to and hand-picking voices they thought could take their teams to the end of the season. But when Nashville’s husband and wife duo, Josh and Nicole Johnson, took the stage the judges were shocked to hear two voices expertly harmonizing their selected song. It was Blake Shelton who added the duo, known as Elenowen, to his inaugural team in the show’s first season.
Since then, Elenowen have released their debut full length album Pulling Back the Veil, toured the country, signed two record deals, had a baby and then considered trading their perfectly matched voices for something different. On the release of their sophomore album, released by Ready Set Records, Josh and Nicole share more with Chris about what brought them back to their music, what keeps them going and how For The Taking — out today — came together.
Q&A with Elenowen
Chris: You appeared on the first season of The Voice joining the inaugural ‘Team Blake’. What was that experience like for you and how — if at all — did it change your direction in music. What was one take-away from your time on that series?
Josh: Overall, the experience was a great launching pad for pursuing a full time music career. Because of the exposure, we were able to quit our day jobs to focus more on touring, writing, & recording. The show didn’t really change the direction we were going, just sped it up really. One take away from the show was a new sense of respect for the TV world. The amount of time, planning and patience that goes in to pulling off an hour-long episode is astounding.
Chris: After the release of your first full length Pulling Back the Veil, you took a break from music to have your first child together and consider the next steps. Was it ever considered to leave music behind? If so, what brought you back?
Josh: Honestly, we did consider leaving it behind. We got pregnant in the middle of the longest tour we had ever been on and had a lot of conversations and questions about how we were going to make it work with a baby. At the time, we also lived in a basement apartment with zero room for a baby. In the midst of all the questioning, there was a time where it seemed like the most logical step was to lay it down & pursue other options. Once our son was born and we had a little break, we were able to ease back into music with a new mindset. Our career looks quite different, but we are learning how to navigate it all as we go.
Chris: Your new record has a heavy influence of 70’s folk rock, but has a definitive country sounds as well. How would YOU both describe your sound on this new record?
Josh: It’s funny how the overall sound of the record evolved during the recording process. What started out as a simple, mellow sound morphed into more of an energetic, full band sound. Our love for layered harmonies, warm drums and gritty guitars kept making its way into the songs, giving it more of a 70s throwback sound. Between that and our love for simple acoustic music made for a folk/rock/country sound overall.
Chris: You have been quoted saying, “we’re basically starting from scratch” with this record. What did you mean by that? Was there a feeling of losing who you were on your first full length? Or was that in reference to leaving your previous label (Dualtone) behind and doing a Kickstarter to raise the funds for this project?
Josh: It was more in reference to being in a completely new place with a completely different mindset/approach to our career. Not using our previous label and raising the money on Kickstarter definitely played a part in feeling like we’re starting from scratch, but it has more to do with approaching things in a new and different way as parents & a duo with five years under our belt. We also had the privilege of partnering with Ready Set Records for the release, which has been such a great and natural process that feels new, but familiar at the same time.
Chris: Did your appearance on The Voice contribute to the success of your Kickstarter campaign?
Josh: We think so. It’s hard to measure how much exactly, but because of how massive the show is, more people are bound to hear about us through it. We had some Kickstarter backers from places like Singapore, Norway and Germany – all of which would probably not have supported us had they not discovered us through The Voice.
Chris: The lead single “Half a Mile” debuted late last year on ABC’s Nashville. Are you fans of the show? If yes and being from Music City, do you feel it accurately reflects the music industry/scene in Nashville?
Josh: We are fans of the show! As far as accurately reflecting the music industry in Nashville – it’s a TV drama, so things are definitely over-dramatized & fabricated for TV, but that’s what makes it entertaining.
Chris: How has parenthood changed your music or songwriting, if at all?
Josh: So far it hasn’t changed much, other than having less free time to write!
Chris: Following you early on in your career, you have always managed to accurately reflect your sound in the fashion choices you make. Do you think fashion inspires your sound or vice versa? How would you describe your style?
Josh: We have never really intentionally dressed the way we wanted to sound, we just wear what we feel good in. With the new record having more of a throwback sound, Nicole has fun wearing big hats, flowy/Bohemian styled clothing and vintage cowboy boots. I tend to lean more towards simple colors, denim and a solid pair of boots as well.
Chris: Living in Nashville, which is growing rapidly everyday, you’ve seen a lot of new shops and restaurants open (and close) in the last year or two. What are some of your favorite spots to go in town to shop, eat, hang out, etc.?
Josh: 8th & Roast, Silly Goose, Mitchell’s Deli, Fido, Edley’s, Drifter’s, Patterson House, Taco Mamacita, Smiling Elephant, Free People, Imogene + Willie
Chris: It’s a new year. You’ve got a new album and tour coming up. What are you most excited about for 2015?
Josh: We’re really excited to have this record out and to play shows with a full band. Other than what’s right around the corner, we’re honestly most excited for the down time we’ll have just the three of us. Any free time we have has taken on new meaning as parents.
Chris: Your album is called For The Taking. If you were going to a deserted island and could only bring one thing with you when you go, what would you take? Why?
Josh: An iPhone with a lighter and Leatherman built in.
Nicole: The Bible because I need to actually read it way more!