ABAC’s skies turned dark as Clint Johnson, also known as Rvshvd, and I walked towards the secret door to the left of the staircase entrance to Place 200. The big white and orange stones rolled our ankles with each step, then gave way to the light crunch of gravel under our feet.
The door slammed into its frame behind us as our eyes adjusted to the yellow walls and lights and Clint talked about local rappers. After a short walk down the hall, we ended up in his dorm; the living room, empty.
“Tyrie always says ‘it looks like nobody lives here’ and it’s true,” Clint chuckled. But a quick turn showed me the scene Clint made for himself amid nothing: on the top shelf from left to right, a Super Saiyan Goku, Marilyn Monroe and Rey Mysterio mask stared back. On the desk was his setup: a laptop with editing software on the screen, textbooks, notes and wires connecting the laptop to a stand-up mic. The walls had acoustic panels where the walls were thinnest.
Earlier, the Willacoochee native told me about his beginnings: “I started music when I was 13, and I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was 18, right when I was about to graduate high school.”
There are troubles to every come-up story, and Clint’s is no exception.
“When I first started, I was recording on an MP3 player; I feel like my music was decent,” he laughed, “but nobody was listening to it because I didn’t have good quality. That’s when I went and invested in a mic, and then I had to get a Blue Snowball because the quality on the original mic wasn’t good either.”
To Clint, it all starts with the quality, and if your quality isn’t there, then nobody will listen.
After backtracking for a few moments, Clint said, “Somebody not taking it seriously is treating it like a hobby. Somebody taking it seriously, they will actually try to make something out of this, try to make a job out of this.”
However, not everyone willing to take it seriously can put forth the funds for this, and this was just the circumstance that Clint found himself in.
“I was broke and I didn’t have a way to record,” he continued, “These days, nobody’s going to give you anything for free, and on top of that, I was moving a lot of the time, so I didn’t really have a stable place to record at.”
Although he eventually found the money to get together a decent and relatively mobile setup, other trials still stood in the way of a young Clint.
“The biggest part of it was just being local, altogether. Nobody wants to take a chance on listening to a local artist,” Clint remembered.
This stands true; through Clint’s personal experiences, artists like Bernard Jabs, a Tifton local, remains with a stigma over his head because of the fact that people recognize him. In Clint’s studying of the art, however, fame favors and follows when you finally fashion a pathway.
“A lot of local artists blow up or gain a fan base when they leave their hometown. I have a fan base in Willacoochee now, but when I left, that’s when people started to listen,” said Clint. This is a massive step to overcome, and even if the move is done, one still has to solidify themselves as a serious artist in the latter city. This, combined with the financial risks required for a nomadic lifestyle, weeds out those unfortunate enough to not have sufficient resources and Clint doesn’t think it should come to this.
“At one point, your favorite artist was a local artist. Somebody took a chance on listening to them and that’s how they got where they are,” Clint said, “I also feel like people don’t want to listen to local artists because they know you.”
Much like in Bernard Jab’s case, “I guess they just don’t want to believe that somebody they know could be doing something like that,” Clint said.
As for attempting to mend the unfortunate act of having to move away, Clint has one place in mind, and he already credits his move to ABAC as a big step for his credibility and numbers.
“The crazy thing about Nashville is whether or not you’re country, Nashville is not country at all. Everybody does music there, it’s just a good music scene.”
For Clint, even more, obstacles stand in the way because of his tendency to flow along the spectrum of music. He also feels like this contradicts what keeps the audience of a growing artist at bay and interested. Labels don’t want to take chances on someone who doesn’t fill a certain archetype.
Clint said, “I listen to everything, I like to keep influence from every genre… I’ll listen to Papa Roach, and I’ll try a rock song, I listened to Kane Brown’s album “Experiment” and it pushed me to try country,” and the list continued, with names as polarizing as Bhad Bunnie and Charlie Puth, but Clint really made his point clear. “I don’t want there to be anything in music that I can’t do.”
This is why Clint feels labels should take a chance on someone who doesn’t want to stay to one genre. “They want you to stick to one thing and I’m trying to find that ground where I can just have my own lane.” He said you have to keep switching it up to keep fans tuned in.
With so many disincentives standing in the way of true validation in the music scene, one must wonder why Clint has chosen this path. For him, it’s actually really simple: “I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. This degree, in writing and communication, that’s the closest I can get to doing music. One day, I hope to be a music journalist.”
As I fixed the settings on my camera, the conversation eventually died away to the low hum of the lights, the hum of music, the hum of the thin walls and the clicks from my camera as Clint posed and moved stuff around on his tracks. Behind him stood what he had creatively made for his image from the nothing he was given.
Clint ‘Rvshvd’ Johnson’s music can be found in its entirety on Apple Music and Spotify, including his most recent single “Rules of a Breakup.” Rvshvd will also be performing at the Midterm Concert at Espresso 41 on Sep. 27 starting at 5 p.m.