We had the good fortune of connecting with Chad Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chad, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
This is something with which I struggled a lot for a long time. For the past 20 years, save for three years in the middle, I’ve worked from home and made my own schedule. And in just about all of that time, there was always as much work as I wanted to do. Therefore, there was always this nagging notion that “I could be making more money.” Even though I would regularly put in more than a 40-hour work week at times, I often felt guilty when I would take time to do something I enjoy. It was always in the back of my mind: “We could get more of the things we want, take more trips, save more money,” etc. if I just work more. The result was that I always felt heavy with guilt and found it difficult to just relax and be present — in the moment. Having children definitely helped changed that mindset. I would watch my children be completely in the moment — with no thought or care of responsibility or burden. They would just devote their entire self to their play. Of course, this time doesn’t last forever, and we do eventually have to start handling our share of responsibilities. But the experience of watching them grow up made me realize that I was missing a lot of life by always thinking about what “could be” or what “should be” instead of “what is.” It was a real wake-up call to me and helped shift my thinking toward becoming more aware and grateful for what I have instead of what I could have. These days, for the most part, I clock out at the end of the day (even though I’ve worked at home all day) and leave the work in my office. It feels a lot better!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a musician and author who writes predominantly music instructional material for Hal Leonard Corporation. My main instrument is guitar, but I also sing and play some bass, keyboards, ukulele, mandolin, and drums. While studying music at UNT, I got a job through a friend at a company called iSong.com, which produced instructional CD-ROMS for guitar. Eventually, Hal Leonard became the distributor of that company, and when iSong.com crashed with all the other “dot coms” at the turn of the century, I reached out to a contact I’d made at Hal Leonard. The began a now 20-year freelance relationship, in which I’ve edited, arranged, and written books, along with providing audio and video recording/performance services. At the moment, I have almost 90 publications to my name with Hal Leonard. Music certainly didn’t come easily to me. I was not one of those kids who could sing well right away, and I did not naturally have a good ear. But I was determined, and I enjoyed playing so much that practicing never felt like work in the beginning. By the time I got to UNT, I had progressed a good bit, but I was nowhere near the skill level of most of the students there. The school drew students from all over the country, and it was a very eye-opening experience for me — simply how good some of these 18-year old kids were. That encouraged me even more to step up my game, and my dedication to my craft increased noticeably. However, it also taught me another valuable lesson: that each person had their own story to tell through music. Each person brought their own unique take on the music we were all learning and performing; no one sounded exactly the same. This helped me understand that, although ostensibly it could be be perceived as such at the university level, music is not a competition. It’s art; it’s a language. And those things are subjective. Good music to me is like beautiful math. It’s like an incredibly elegant solution to a complex equation. To me, that’s even more powerful than considering it a magical or mystical thing. It’s not magical, in my opinion; it’s physics. But it’s incredibly beautiful physics that seems like magic to many of us because we currently lack most of the vocabulary necessary to adequately define it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
We would need to check out a recital or two at UNT, assuming school was in session. This is an absolute awesome feature of Denton: the ability to go hear wonderful musicians for free many times a month. Whether it’s an a capella choir, a jazz combo or big band, or a larger classical ensemble, the music is always top notch. We’d need to eat breakfast at Old West Cafe, pizza at Mellow Mushroom, and dinner at Cartwright’s Ranch House. (Unfortunately, we’ve missed THE best kept secret in Denton, which was The Flying Tomato pizzeria. It burned down in 2007, after a Houston-based developer had bought the property, along with several others on the “Fry Street corner,” with plans to turn it into an upscale business center.) There’s a great record shop on the square called Mad World Records, along with the historic Recycled Book and Records, in which you can spend a whole afternoon scouring the endless racks for hidden gems. And we’d need to stop by Beth Marie’s ice cream parlor, also on the square (there’s another location in the city as well).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The first shoutout goes to my beautiful family: my wife, Alli, my son, Lennon, and my daughter, Leherie. Not only are they a constant source of joy in my life, but they’re my biggest cheerleaders and are continually encouraging me in all my endeavors. I’d also like to thank the University of North Texas for helping me become the musician I am today. I entered the school as just a young punk guitarist and left a fairly mature, well-rounded musician with the skills to continually improve over the course of my life.