They met at a Taco Tuesday party and it all fell into place. Our own Kirsten Spruch sat down with The Saint Johns Louis Johnson and Jordan Meredith for an extended conversation about their history playing with each other, their approach to songwriting, and their wonderful new album, Dead Of Night.
Jordan Meredith and Louis Johnson of The Saint Johns have the ingredient every special duo needs: chemistry.?Theirs is the kind of relationship where neither finishes a sentence because the other already gets it in just a few words. Its the kind of relationship that starts at a friends Taco Tuesday party in St. Augustine, Florida, in 2008. And its a relationship everyone assumes is romantic. But this meet-cute has an unusual ending it doesnt end in marriage, but a beautiful partnership nevertheless that has yielded The Saint Johns debut album Dead of Night.
I met Jordan at a party and she happened to have a guitar, Johnson said. All of our friends were either hooking up or drunk or sleeping and we just stayed up playing shitty covers of Jack Johnson songs until our ears were bleeding. We were definitely impressed by each other. Not long after, Meredith landed a gig at a local bar and invited Johnson to help fill a few long sets. Seven years later as they prepare to release their major-label debut, Meredith and Johnson believe theyve put in their 10,000 hours and have arrived at something pretty special.
I think weve always understood that we create music together that we would never be able to create on our own, Meredith said. We have this sort of weird yin-and-yang thing.
They moved to New York to make it big We ended up just being broke. Johnson said ?but nevertheless used the time to write and play together every day. They moved to Nashville?to regroup and The Saint Johns named for the river that flows through the heart of their native Florida began to truly come into focus. They played shows anywhere and everywhere?relentlessly some good, some bad, some empty and released a well-received EP, Open Water, that got the duo immediate support from the critics and the industry and helped land its first television appearance, Late Show with David Letterman.
That EP captured the sweet Americana soul of the bands early sound. Recorded with a full band, Dead of Night is something more more mature, more confident, more ambitious. The album, which comes out in early 2016 on Kemosabe Records, producer Dr. Lukes partnership with Sony Music, began with demo recordings Johnson made. The two took them to David Kahne, a Grammy Award-winning producer and record label executive whos worked with Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, The Strokes, Lana Del Rey, Fishbone and many others.
His process is just insane, Johnson said. David knows what he wants all the time. So he overhauled a lot of what we had and it all ended up with the same feel, but elevated.
So much bigger, Meredith echoed.
I guess I was always afraid to put big kick drums in there and really have the groove be at?he forefront. Johnson continued. But David is so good at making sure the grooves are?right, that they push through and punch you in the face. Thats something he brought to the record so beautifully that I dont think we would ever have gotten there on our own.
A group of songs began to stand out in the studio. The deeply personal Shadowplay will be the first song to radio, an unofficial release that captures the duos close harmony and exposed feelings in a way that reminds you of Lows measured sense of drama. Meredith and Johnson wrote the song with friend Jake Etheridge, a Nashville singer-songwriter with a large following in Europe.
I had a lyric and a melody started and the boys were kind of making fun of me because it was so emotional, Meredith said. But the further we got into it and the more the song developed, I realized how therapeutic the song was for me. Shadowplay talks about pulling a loved one out of darkness, out of depression. I think it was what I needed to hear at that time in my life.
The track was the first overwhelmingly successful co-write outside the core duo and encouraged them to do many more. We tried to add Jake to our band, but hes basically a pop star in Holland, so thats never going to happen, Meredith said.
So they turned to Vince Schumerman for assistance on first single Lost the Feeling a song, like most of their co-writes, that was written in the bands dining room. The running-through-the-night vibe of the song is the duos nod to Fleetwood Mac and their shared love for Rumours.
Its a grooving song about heartbreak, Meredith said. We have a hard time not writing depressing songs. It was nice to have someone to pull us out of our dark corner. Although, lyrically the song is still depressing.
Another dining-room diamond is Dead of Night, the albums title track, written with Merediths husband, JT Daly. Its a '90s rocker with telecaster in your face: It sounds happy until you listen to the lyrics and find out that its a desperate plea from one person to another, Johnson said.
I think the theme we found running through the album is the really beautiful juxtaposition between dark and light, so that title just seemed so fitting for the album, Meredith said. The song itself can speak for the entire album in a way. Its a special song.