The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Starting a career with a lie, finding success


How one gym-class fib set folk musician Brian Johannesen on the path to his future career.

By Isaac Hamlet

[email protected]

Many people get into music because of a lifelong passion. Some know they want to play music all of their lives, some realize it along the way.

In the case of Brian Johannesen, he got into music because of a lie.

In his freshman year of high school, one of his classmates must have thought Johannesen had the demeanor of a bass player, because, in gym class one day, the classmate asked if he played the instrument.

“I lied and said, ‘Yes,’ ” Johannesen recounted. “Then he asked me to join his band and if I could play a gig three days later, and I said, ‘Totally.’ ”

Getting home that night, Johannesen begged his dad for a loan and a ride to Guitar Center.

“He must have seen the desperation in my eyes,” he said. “[After getting the guitar] I fumbled through learning how to play 10 or so pop-punk songs, and the rest was history.”

All these years — and a few more practice sessions — later, Johannesen will appear at The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., on Saturday for a 9 p.m. performance. What’s made him stick with music is that he enjoys it.

“[Having a career in music] can be a struggle if you let it, but I have a much more laid-back approach to it,” Johannesen said. “I lived in Nashville for four years and saw people tearing their hair out over the silliest things, and I decided not to let it bother me. Playing music is fun, and if you’re playing with people who think it’s fun as well, there’s nothing to complain about.”

The music Johannesen writes and performs tends to hover in the realms of folk and country. He feels capable of a wide range of sounds but has nonetheless developed a method to the way he composes and plays.

“The voice has got to fit right in the middle, kind of like it’s lying in a big bed of music, and the sounds envelop and highlight the voice,” he said. “It’s not about wailing away on your instrument — and these guys can and will do that — but rather about helping tell the story with their sounds.”

The performers include Jonathan Timm and the Bernemann Brothers Band. A member of the latter group, Ryan Bernemann, will play bass for Johannesen.

“I just want everyone to have a great time and hopefully come away moved by something,” he said. “The whole game is connection with other humans, and if our music can help me connect with other people or help connect other people with each other, then we did our job.”

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