Mississippi Pub, an eastside bar and pizza spot, often features local musicians in their warm and welcoming restaurant; last Sunday, on Nov. 15, they hosted locals Chris Carrera and Josie Johnson.
Although their performance was a success, Johnson and Carrera have found it challenging to perform and get recognized in Portland.
“There are so many musicians,” Johnson said. “Portland is a very popular city right now. It’s a lot easier other places; here it’s hard. It’s hard to get your foot in the door.”
The struggle has been especially challenging for the musicians because they value creating music for their audience, as a way to make connections with their listeners.
“I think, especially when I was younger, I used it to connect with people because I was kinda shy, quiet, and I tended to struggle with communicating in a normal way,” Carrera said. “I think when I would write music, it was a way [for] me to reach out to people in a safer way. Maybe because I could control what I was singing and saying and it was a safe place for me.”
When Johnson creates her music, she focuses on exploring the universal human experience: the truth in relationships that are applicable to anyone. As a result, Johnson writes and sings about the de-personalization in today’s generations.
“If you were born and grew up, this applies to you,” Johnson said. “The human experience in general.”
In addition to focusing on a personal theme in her music, Johnson puts a lot of effort into choosing the words for her lyrics.
“I think I’m very succinct in my songwriting,” Johnson said. “That’s probably what the people who know me know me for: my clarity and editing. I’m not a woman of many words.”
Carrera and Johnson value spirit and quality in their artwork. They would rather play for venues that value art and honesty over revenue.
“Quality over quantity. I like being in a room of people I can talk to—seeing faces, as opposed to performing in a room where you can’t pick out anybody,” Johnson said. “I like personal connections.”
Although a deeper artistic connection is preferred, the musicians are happy for the opportunity to play anywhere.
“If people want to just kinda catch me somewhere, there’s a place called the Corkscrew in the Sellwood area,” Carrera said. “And on Mondays there’s an open mic. I like to go there because I get to hear local artists. I always find it stimulating to go and find out what other people are thinking and writing.”
Find Carrera’s music through his personal website or maybe run into him at Corkscrew Wine Bar; also check out Johnson’s music online with her band, Happy Otherwise.